16 November 2007

Script to Screen@SPADA conference

I couldn’t attend the whole conference, but made it to Script to Screen’s lunchtime talk with Scott Meek, Jeremy Nathan and Derek Fox. The specifically New Zealand theme was: Creating a National Cinema and a Unique Voice on the World Stage. Scott Meek, formerly managing director of Zenith in the UK, now living in Australia, made some interesting comments on the subject from the British perspective.

He pointed out that Truffaut said that the words ‘cinema’ and ‘England’ should not be mentioned in the same sentence. Meek pointed out that the UK film industry is a permanent film school for Hollywood. He also compared Robert McKee’s approach to film as laid out in his book Story to L Ron Hubbard’s Scientology teachings, refusing the need for films that meander, films that have no structure. He also said that he prefers making films with few people over a longer period of time than with lots of people very quickly.

Jeremy Nathan, who has been making films in South Africa for almost 2 decades told an instructional story of the Nigerian film industry, which receives no government funding whatsoever and still produces 800 feature films per year for the Africa-wide market. Budgets are in the region of $40k, with one week pre-production, one week shoot and one week post-production. They are generally love stories, voodoo films or historical epics with an average length of 3 hours. Eight years ago there were no Nigerian films on TV, now some of those film makers are being picked up as a reaction to this surge and make - presumably - classier fare for TV. He talked of the uphill struggle of making films in South Africa, with a distribution model of 400 cinemas for 40 million people. The whole of Africa has only 600 screens for 900 million people, so new distribution methods are developing, where mobile phone users can subscribe to 30 minute episodes, or businesses screen DVDs to a paying audience on their TVs. He called it a post-theatrical model of distribution.

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