How does the ownership of a media institution affect its production practices?

There are many ways how the ownership of a media institution affects its production practices. I have been studying two English film companies, the first Film4 an d the second Working Title, they started off differently but were English run companies and both have became beacons for the English film industry but they have changed in different ways. I will be comparing these two with the major film companies in Hollywood. Film4 is a free digital television channel available in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland; it is owned and operated by Channel 4 that screens films. Film4 was originally known as FilmFour and became Channel 4's second channel (after Channel 4 itself) when it launched on 1 November 1998. Meanwhile Working Title was co-founded in 1984 by Tim Bevan and Sarah Radclyffe, (who later left and was replaced by Eric Fellner) Working Title is an English film company that has been hugely successful since the years founded. Both companies have a very different beginning but both are of English origin. Working Title started rose from nowhere, it was founded as a small business that produced British romantic comedies for a British audience. They employed promising actors and directors, this paid off because they didn·t have to overpay for heavily priced actors. They got new actors and directors who had promising talent and were cheap, they helped build up their reputation. Over 26 years Working Title has made 85 films of many genres that have grossed in excess of $4billion. For such a small industry this is a humungous profit, their films would have to be of the highest quality to make such a profit. They have won many prestigious awards for these films a wards these include Six Academy Awards, 26 BAFTA Awards, 4 Oscars and other prizes at the Cannes and Berlin International.Film4 was a branch from the Channel4 companies along with E4 etc. Film4 is known as giving the audience a wide range of films for free , the only problem is that the films shown on the channel are usually old and not up to date. The films shown are usually two years from when they were initially released in the cinema. This is a huge problem because if the channel isn·t showing the films that want to be seen and not just repeats then people are going to put off watching the channel all together. Working Title has since been bought by Universal Studios who now own the majority of shares, but still have Bevan and Fellner as the co -chairpersons. They only have 42 full time staff and have been quoted as being ´The have been listed as the most powerful figures in the British industryµ by the BBC. This company specialised in typically British films for example Billy Elliot and Shaun of the Dead ( produced by Working Title 2, the second team of their company). Working Title veered from the usual British films when they were bought by PolyGram who in turn were bought by Universal Studios. Working

Title·s film suddenly took a sharp turn into the unkno wn. They suddenly had a budget; this was one of the main reasons for selling says Bevan. That they don·t need to concentrate on getting the funding but can now concentrate on the film making itself. Now they have to make at least four films each year, out the 4 movies they produce per year, one of them have to make $200 - $400 million in Box Office revenue which is a cap that has been set by Universal Studios. This may seem like a lot of money but being teamed up with such a huge company has an impact on th e films instead of being small budget films they can now film big blockbusters, for instance ´Pride and Prejudice µ had a budget of $20 million and ´The Interpreterµ had an $80 million budget. These film genres are not the usual British films anymore, they have been made to appeal to a wider audience form many different countries. They can still make the odd one or two British films but the major one has to be a massive special affects more American looking blockbuster. This new way of creating films has had a huge impact on the company·s practices. Instead of filming the movies that they want they have to spend most of their time and money on a film that is far fromtheir pastproductions.

Film4 has never been short on money, as they have been funded by Channel4 for most of their existence. Channel4 found the need to make a film branch as they reali zed that films should be free and you shouldn·t have to pay for a film. They thought that if you wanted to see a film then you are most likely going to only see it once, therefore why should you pay for this? Film4 film and air a lot of British films and US independent films, this shows that they favour the small independent companies. Film4 is always on the look out for new uprising talent that they can use. Directors have been founded and created films, upcoming releases include Richard Ayoade's¶Submarine·, Kevin Macdonald's ¶Eagle Of The Ninth·, Mark Romanek's¶Never Let Me Go·, Peter Mullen's ¶Neds·, Hideo Nakata's·Chatroom· and Mike Leigh's ¶Another Year·. They also like to air cult films, there are many genres that are shown on this channel. The reason for this is that they are trying to appeal to a wider audience; if they just showed English films then they would not get the ratings up. Therefore Film4 show both low and high budget films, low budget such as ¶This is England· and high budget such as ¶In Bruges· both of these films are a Film4 production. Having financial backing of Channel4 has had a massive impact on the films they make. Film4 are able to create a movie that will be the next blockbuster and not worry about any costs. While they are able to make any film they like, use any director and any actors. Usually Film4 i nclude a huge variety of actors, they can afford to have some big names out the front and still use some developing actors who are looking for a job. They can choose from a massive range of talent as their name is well known in Film industry. This puts the m at a massive advantage to smaller independent film companies. Working Title used to have such problems, without the

huge funding of Universal Studios they the small British film company Working Title had to limit staff, the amount of films, special effects etc. In conclusion, the ownership of a media institution has a massive influence on its film practices. If the company is poorly financed then they will produce poor quality and films that will flop. They cannot afford to use big famous actors so inste ad they use promising talented youngsters. This has its own pros as they don·t have to spend large amount of money when they can use their own produce. Large film companies have a massive advantage over small independent companies as they are not limited o n funds. They can spend large amounts of money on effects and other areas. They can afford to do anything, even if this means buying up the smaller companies. Tom Simpson

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