1. How does the ownership in the film industry affect how films are produced?

Points that can be made:

Independent companies such as Rook Films and particularly other smaller British independent production companies, which are not linked to an American conglomerate as a subsidiary company, have to rely on money from the BFI (British Film Institute) and the National Lottery which funded many British films such as Philomena.

Because independent companies are often low-budget and particularly in Britain on genre-based films, because they do not have the funds for CGI and 3D technology and be shot digitally.

Conglomerates that have vertically (when an institution owns shares or each part of the production, marketing, distribution and exhibition processes) and horizontally integrated  ownership (owns many different types of media across many industry) will have better production, marketing, distribution and exhibition of films, especially blockbuster films (a film with a high production budget of at least $100 million).

A conglomerate that has vertical integration enables them to control all aspects of the film from the beginning of the production to the end of the exhibition of the film, so they can ensure the film is to a high quality and therefore become a critically and financially successful film. Also, they will be able to save money by controlling all stages of the making of the film and you will be able to keep all the profit, rather than sharing the profit with the distribution company and others.

Also, having horizontal integration means conglomerates can promote and advertise the film across a wider range of media platforms from radio to television channels and so they are to reach a wider range of audiences from the young to the elderly and to a much more mass audience. They have a huge marketing budget that enables them to advertise the film across a wide range of media.

Major production companies can make big budget films because they are a part of a bigger conglomerate and therefore have more money available to make huge blockbuster films. Hence, their films are more focused on aesthetically pleasing special effects and impressively realistic set designs to give the film that ‘wow’ factor that will attract a larger audience.

Case Studies – Application

*Case studies: A Field In England (Independent), Carol (Independent), How I Live Now (Independent), Frozen (Conglomerate) & Star Wars: Force Awakens (Conglomerate)

The British historical psychological horror film, ‘A Field In England’ had a  budget of £316,879, with a £112,000 Print & Advertising budget, including £56,701 from the BFI.  Rook Films is not linked to American conglomerates as a subsidiary company, so they were  fully financed by Film4 and the BFI Distribution New Models. Because of the £316,879 budget they aren’t able to create same level of impressive visual effects as conglomerates which usually a combination of CGI, SFX & VFX.

Digital cameras have become cheaper and more accessible for independent, and Ben Wheatley, director of ‘A Field In England’,

Kevin McDonald’s film ‘How I Live Now’ was produced by Charles Steel and Alasdair Flind of Cowboy Films, and John Battsek and Andrew Ruhemann of Passion Pictures, and was co-developed by Film4 and the UK Film Council (abolished in 2011) and co-financed by Film4 and BFI Film Fund

Carol‘ was developed by Number 9 Films and Film4, and is co-financed by Film4 and Goldcrest Films. It is a Number 9 Films and Killer Films production in association with Larkhark Films Limited. The film’s development of  ‘Carol‘ was co-financed by the British company Film4 Production and its then-chief executive Tessa Ross, as the film had a troubled development period, facing problems with financing, rights, scheduling conflicts, and accessibility.

The highest-grossing film of 2013 ‘Frozen’ was produced by the Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures, which are divisions from the media conglomerate Disney. Disney are a famous and well-respected production company, and as a conglomerate it is also able to have control over all aspects of what it produces. Because ‘Frozen’ It had a massive budget of $150 million, it was able to do various things, which are:

  • It allowed their animators to use simulation-based engineering and created a snow simulator software application called ‘Matterhorn‘, the tool was capable of depicting realistic snow in a virtual environment and was used in at least 43 scenes in the film, including several key sequences.
  • They were able to have 50 effects and lighting artists to work together to create the “one single shot” in which Elsa builds her ice palace.
  • Overall, they were able to incorporate CGI (Computer-generated imagery) effect which was used to create realistic snow within the film and was able to be shot in stereoscopic 3D and lots of SFX effects (Special Effects) were used to help artists complete Frozen’s complicated effects.

The hit blockbuster film ‘Star Wars: Force Awakens’ was produced by Lucasfilm Ltd. (a subsidiary production company of Disney) and Abrams’ production company Bad Robot Productions. It had a gross budget of a whopping $306 million, which could have enabled them to use far more CGI and SFX effects within the franchise film, but J.J. Abrams decided to a different approaches, which included:

  • Using little CGI effects and more practical, traditional special effects. Abrams’ intention in prioritizing practical special effects was to recreate the visual realism and authenticity of the original Star Wars.
  • To that end, the droid BB-8 an actual semi-automated robot was a physical prop that was developed by Disney Research, created by special effects artist Neal Scanlan and operated live on set with the actors. 
  • Another exception was that apart from the usual professional digital cameras, they also used 65mm IMAX cameras for one important sequence, the Millennium Falcon chase through Jakku as seen in the first trailer.
  • In summary, they used real locations and scale models over computer-generated imagery to make it aesthetically similar to the original Star Wars trilogy.







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