In this interview, we talk to Angus Finney and Haley Edwards who are both experts in their field at the helm of our upcoming Accelerate: Film & TV Creative Enterprise programme. We find out more about the programme contents as well as tapping into why it’s so important for the film and TV industry. We explore what participants can expect to take from the experience and the main benefits for the cohort who get a place on the programme – including evergreen connections and invaluable wider knowledge.
First of all, can you tell us about your professional background?
Angus: My professional background started as a journalist where I wrote for all the national newspapers and Screen International. I then wrote a couple of books about the international film business, including The Egos Have Landed: The Rise and Fall of Palace Pictures. I moved on to start consulting and then moved to Renaissance Films as an executive after raising £24.5 million from the private market for an independent film company. As joint Managing Director, I ran the company for about six years, learning how to sell films internationally and spent a lot of time in Hollywood putting films together.
The company had to close in 2005 so I went away to lick my wounds in Denmark, where I worked for the National Film & TV school. I eventually got called back to the UK to become the manager of Film London’s Production Finance Market. I also worked at Cass Business School, City University London, for the Film Business Academy and completed a PhD in 2014 on cognitive bias and project management – which, in normal terms, is how people lie to themselves in the film industry!
Over the last 10-15 years, I’ve worked in South Africa, training writers, producers and directors about the business and the industry. I’ve worked in New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, France, and of course the UK – but most importantly, working a lot with Creative England, mentoring both talent and small companies.
Haley: I’ve been with Creative England for over 10 years in a Project Manager capacity, primarily working with producers and talent across the film and TV sector. My role has evolved in those 10 years, moving from talent development to much more working with the companies and their company development. In the last four years, primarily, that has really shifted from working just with film and TV companies to now managing the Creative Enterprise Programme, which is our business development programme for companies working in moving image storytelling. What we do is now very blended in terms of the screens sector and so my role has evolved with that too.
What does your role within the programme involve?
Angus: As Director of the programme, my job is basically to organise a series of very practical workshops. What participants will get from me is six four-hour workshops, which will be delivered remotely online, and three one-hour business coaching mentoring sessions.
The idea is to be able to give participants a really good cross-section, drilling down into things like underlying rights, IP, copyright and development strategy. It will also include how to put a project package together, including working with synopsis, treatments, bibles for long-running series, pictures and images, showreels, and proof of concepts. Plus, crucially in packaging, is how you actually pitch and present online, or if you’re pitching in person, how you present your material to best effect. We then look very carefully at negotiation – the art of putting deals together and drilling into financing. We’ll look a lot of that not just from a traditional independent market point of view, but in a way that includes the streamers.
We will also look very closely at market and audiences and how people are gravitating away from certain times or types of sites, and gravitating towards other types of models and online experiences. We’ll touch a little bit on the future of cinema and how they’re going to come back from COVID and why the cinema is still an important linchpin in the independent film industry. We’ll also look at business planning where I break down business plans in detail, business strategies, business models and how to put a document together that is meaningful for potential investors and also, crucially, as a roadmap for any participants trying to navigate the next two or three years of their own existence.
Haley: I’m Programme Manager for Creative Enterprise – the umbrella programme under which Accelerate: Film & TV sits. My role on the accelerator is to help curate, develop and manage the programme, but also to get to know the companies that are participating so I can be aware of what their challenges are. I also want to really get under the skin of what else they might need to help them to grow in terms of what our other offers are across the programme and plugging them into that support. I also help facilitate introductions and connections and building that relationship that we have with the companies participating in the programme.
Why is Accelerate: Film & TV needed for the film and TV industry?
Angus: The accelerator programme is really important for emerging talent, including producers, but also writers, directors and innovators in the media enterprise space. It’s important for them to be able to really understand the market, which is changing so quickly at the moment. It’s also important for them to understand audiences and the way that users behave, which is also changing dynamically on a regular basis. Taking a really careful look at the value chains around film and TV in-depth, but also the potential spin-offs and areas which are tangential to film and TV is really important for emerging talent, to be able to build SMEs and to be able to grow.
Haley: From our knowledge of working with screen-based companies for as long as we have, we know there’s a real gap in terms of tailored support for production companies and those working in the screen sector. In addition to that, the role of producer is so busy – the producer will take on the financing of a project, the development, making sure it’s packaged and making sure production is on track, so there’s rarely time to step back and look at the company to try and develop its growth. What we’ve also got now, due to the pandemic, is audiences consuming content in different ways. There are now more blurred lines within the screen sector and, again, keeping abreast of those trends and what skills you need to get into those competitive markets takes time. So what the programme does, is allow the participants to take that step back, look at the business and get informed about trends and how to tap into them.
What else can businesses expect from the Accelerate: Film & TV programme?
Angus: Accelerate Film & TV is looking very carefully at film and television, mostly from a scripted point of view, but it will allow companies in that space to be able to develop a proper sustainable business plan. It’s a mix of producers who are running SME companies in the specific film space. So that might be short films, feature films and documentary; might even include animation. It would also include any producers looking at drama and scripted material – that might be aimed at broadcasters, streaming companies and platforms etc. We’re trying to make sure that it doesn’t run too wide beyond film and TV because there are other programmes that Creative Enterprise is running specifically for producers in gaming and Virtual/Augmented Reality, for example.
Haley: Participants will get six very tailored workshops that are a real blend of the business insights needed to lay those foundations for growth and the trends that are happening in industry at the moment. We will tailor the content to look at those specific businesses and what they’re working in – what content they’re producing, what the other IP opportunities might be for that content and looking at that slate, looking at what the business strategy is and the market strategy for that content. Participants will also get three mentoring sessions to really tailor their learnings to their business and they get the peer-to-peer support from the cohort itself.
Who are you hoping to work with through the programme?
Angus: I’m hoping that we’re able to bring in some interesting speakers from outside. In particular, people who have managed to make business models work for small and medium enterprises. Often, people who have managed to gravitate away from just film and look at a hybrid model where they’re able to develop documentaries and long-running series or scripted in addition to their film interests – that seems to me really important. I also think it’s important that we hear from core financiers and finance experts and of course, depending on timings, it’s always interesting to hear from European continental international sales companies, bankers and financiers. So a cross-section of producers and financiers and sales companies, and possibly some distributors as well.
In terms of the participants themselves, we’re hoping that the programme attracts some of the most ambitious and passionate and energetic producers. We’re hoping that they’re people who really want to grow their companies. We’re hoping also that they’re not stuck in the old world of expecting large fees, easy financing plans to come to fruition, and not realising just quite how difficult and also challenging the market has become. On the other hand, it’s really interesting, I think, for those participants to look at streaming models, and how to access and pitch to streamers.
So I’m hoping that people are very ambitious and that they’ve got a good slate of at least four or five, if not eight to ten projects and I’m looking for people who’ve got some experience but not so much that they wouldn’t benefit greatly from the programme.
What are the benefits to the businesses who get a place on the programme?
Angus: Participants and companies who take part in the programme are going to be able to refine and define their business strategy. They’re going to get expert advice on business planning and funding and finance. They’re going to gain confidence and insight into deal-making. They’re going to develop a better understanding of changing behaviour from audiences and users, which is important when it comes to understanding where your slate might be heading and where your core audience might exist. They’re going to get a greater understanding of revenue models, profitability and how to monetise IP. They’re going to learn directly and build their network from proven industry leaders and experts. They’re going to hear from financiers and commissioners behind the decision-making and receive one-to-one business coaching throughout the programme.
I’m hoping that by the time a participant has done this programme, they’ll have a really good strong understanding of how the industry is positioned and how it’s changing the opportunities specific to them in terms of their taste, their content, passions and interests, how they actually organise themselves as an SME in terms of a business operation, and of course, how to make the most of projects and project management.
Haley: That’s a really difficult question because there are so many! but I think the answer really, is that actually, the support we’re offering through this programme isn’t in isolation. They get the workshops, which are varied in terms of what we’re delivering but they also get that coupled with the mentoring sessions and the peer network. Those relationships don’t stop when the programme stops – they carry on because we want to continue supporting the businesses on that programme. It’s all about finding the best business strategy for those companies so that they can continue making the content they want to make. It’s a holistic package and participants can choose how to use that going forward.
Applications close on 8th December 2021 at 9am. If you have any questions about your application, please contact Sarah Jones by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org