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Conference Programme and Abstracts

Accounting for Creativity - British Producers, British Screens: Reassessing the Creative Role of the Producer
19th – 20th April 2011, Arnolfini, Bristol

Organised by Andrew Spicer and Anthony McKenna, University of the West of England

Day One
10.00 - 11.00 Registration and Coffee
11.00 - 11.15 Introduction: Andrew Spicer
11.15 - 12.15 Keynote: Vincent Porter, Emeritus Professor, University of Westminster
12.15 - 13.00 Lunch
13.00 - 14.15 Panel One (Chair: Anthony McKenna)

John Wyver, University of Westminster
Dallas Bower: A Producer for Television’s Early Years, 1936-39
Having worked in the film industry as a sound technician and then director, Dallas Bower (1907-99) was appointed in 1936 as one of two senior producers at the start of the BBC Television service. Over the next three years Bower produced as well as directed many ground-breaking live programmes, including the opening-day broadcast on 2 November 1936; the BBC Television Demonstration Film, 1937 (his only surviving pre-war production); a modern-dress Julius Caesar, 1938, in Nazi uniforms; Act II of Tristan and Isolde, 1938; Patrick Hamilton’s play Rope, 1939, utilising long developing camera-shots; numerous ballets, among them Checkmate, 1938; and ambitious outside broadcasts from the film studios at Denham and Pinewood.

Developing the working practices of producing for the theatre, film industry and radio, Bower was a key figure in defining the role of the creative television producer at the start of the medium. Among his innovations, according to his unpublished autobiographical fragment Playback (written 1995), was the introduction of a drawn studio plan for the four cameras employed in all live broadcasts from Alexandra Palace.

This paper uses Bower’s writings (among them his 1936 book Plan for Cinema), his BECTU oral history interview, the BBC Written Archives and contemporary industry coverage to reconstruct the early development of the role of staff television producer and to consider the questions of autonomy, agency and institutional constraints at the BBC in the pre-war years

Robert Shail, University of Wales
The Creative Producer? A Case Study of Tony Richardson
Between 1959 and 1968 Tony Richardson was involved in the creation of eleven feature films on which he took key roles as either writer/director or producer/executive, and frequently both. In addition all of these films were made for Woodfall, the production company which he established in partnership with the playwright John Osborne and the Canadian-born producer Harry Saltzman. The work included major international commercial successes like
Tom Jones (1963) and critically praised work such as A Taste of Honey (1961), alongside films like Mademoiselle (1967) which divided critics and bypassed most audiences. He also worked in widely divergent production contexts across Britain, America and continental Europe.

Throughout this work Richardson was driven by a desire to combine artistic freedom and creativity with the development of the necessary production framework to make this viable, whilst still reaching as wide an audience as possible. Combining such varied roles behind the camera was and is fairly unusual for a film-maker but enabled Richardson to test his notions about film art and commerce. This paper will offer an examination of his films in this period paying particular attention to the way in which he successfully, and sometimes unsuccessfully, sought to reconcile the roles of pragmatic producer and innovative director in a way which could accommodate both commercial and creative concerns.

Brian Hoyle, University of Dundee
The Producer as Auteur: the Composed Films of Don Boyd
As a producer, Don Boyd has always prided himself on giving his directors total creative freedom. However, one can still find a number of preoccupations in the films he has produced. Not least of these is his interest in music and opera in particular. The paper will argue that as a producer, Boyd has attempted to build on the experiments of British filmmakers such as Michael Powell and Ken Russell by producing a series of "composed films": films shot to pre-existing music scores. The paper will pay specific attention to Boyd's portmanteau film,
Aria, in which several filmmakers were asked to dramatise a single operatic aria, and to Derek Jarman's War Requiem, a rare example of a full-length composed film, based on Bejamin Britten's oratorio. The paper will also pay attention to films such as Paul Mayersberg's Captive, which is although not a composed film, makes extensive use of the music and plots of several Puccini operas. Finally, the paper will examine Boyd's own attempt at a composed film, Lucia (1998). The paper will make use of primary material from the Don Boyd papers held at the Bill Douglas centre.
14.15 - 14.30 Coffee
14.30 - 15.45 Panel Two (Chair: Vincent Porter)

Janet Moat, former Head of BFI Special Collections, 1992-2008.
No Ordinary Showmen: A Study of the Contrasting Ways in which Michael Balcon in the 1930s-1950s, and David Puttnam in the 1980s, Confronted the Problems Posed by a British Film Industry.
This paper will examine the careers of two very different men, at different times in British film history, using archives based at the British Film Institute, and ask how far was either man able to forge a national cinema - even if that was an intention. The paper will look at their differing styles of production management and attitudes towards the personnel who worked for them, their strategies for coping with Hollywood, their own creative input, and how each saw the role of producer. It will take into account the state of the industry at the time that each man was working and the degree of success each had in trying to impose their own ideas and methods upon it. There were more similarities between them than one might at first see.

John D. Ayers, The University of Manchester
Balcon’s Britishness: Ealing Studios and the 1951 Festival of Britain
The post-Second World War period saw a significant contribution made to the concept of national self-consciousness in the films of Ealing Studios. Studio head Michael Balcon, more than any other figure during the years immediately following the end of World War Two, attempted, and to a large extent succeeded, in making a national cinema tailored to an indigenous audience. Despite comprehensive studies of Ealing’s output and some valuable musings on the individual role of Balcon as both studio head and film producer by the likes of Charles Barr, the larger significance of Michael Balcon’s role within the British film industry has been left greatly unexplored. This paper, utilising materials and private correspondence from the Michael Balcon Collection at the British Film Institute, will chart the various responsibilities that Balcon took upon himself in the name of the wider British film industry, including his presence at international film festivals, his attempt through the auspices of Ealing to open up Australia as a viable production location for British films and most particularly his (albeit largely symbolic) involvement as a member of the Executive Committee of the Festival of Britain celebrations of 1951, which were intended to set the tone for the nation’s progression through the first full post-war decade.

The paper will conclude by considering the significance of the re-opening of Ealing Studios as a place of production, and how the associations of the name with a certain kind of British film might contextually affect its future cinematic output.

Andrew Croft, University of Leicester
Balcon’s Folly: the Production and Critical Reception of Man of Aran
Produced by Michael Balcon and directed by Robert Flaherty for Gainsborough Pictures, Man of Aran depicts the lives of Irish fisherfolk and peasants. It also represents an unconventional approach to cinema, offering insights into the creative and commercial imperatives of interwar British film culture. Balcon was a commercially-minded producer, who sought to develop a viable British film industry by forging close working arrangements with leading production houses and industry personnel. Flaherty, on the other hand, was a maverick, whose working methods entailed improvisation and immersion in remote communities, and a blatant disregard for cost control.

Moreover, the interpretation of Man of Aran, for its contemporary critics and for researchers of any era, poses problems with respect to representation and identity. The film was presented to audiences as the depiction of contemporary island existence, but what it delivers is a romanticised representation of life as it might have been a century before the film was made.

The methodology represented in this paper privileges primary sources through archival research, but also offers an interdisciplinary openness. Films do not exist in isolation, but may be viewed with regard to a wider cultural context. An understanding of the relations between film art and film industry, production and reception, are viewed here with respect to changing historical conditions.
15 .45 - 16.45 Keynote: Tony Klinger, Film and Television Producer
16 .45 - 18.00 Drinks Reception
18 .00 - 18.15 Introduction to Screening of Gold (1974, d. Peter Hunt, p. Michael Klinger): Andrew Spicer
18 .15 - 20.15 Gold

Day Two
09.45 - 11.30 Panel Three (Chair: Sue Harper)

Victoria Lowe, University of Manchester
Between Stage and Screen - Basil Dean, British Sound Film and Escape (1930)
In this paper I will look at the work of the producer Basil Dean and the relationship between stage and screen production in the period around the coming of sound to British cinema in the late Twenties. The paper will begin by examining how the relationship between the two was impacted specifically by the coming of sound and the cultural anxiety and debates around the film industry and national identity formations that it engendered. I will then consider the place of Basil Dean in this , both in terms of his thoughts on the relationship between stage and screen gleaned from an examination of his personal papers and writings held in the
Basil Dean Archive in Manchester and then with his practical response to the issues; firstly in terms of his formation of a what might be now termed a multi media company to produce both stage and film productions within the same artistic company; secondly, I will look at the making of the talkie version of John Galsworthy’s play Escape , heralded by Dean as a breakthrough production in terms of the future of British cinema. Overall my aim is to provide a more nuanced account of the relationship between stage and screen at this time, one that does not assume a heterogeneity of either stage or screen practice and that ultimately goes beyond histories that have understood the adaptation of stage material to have been a burden from which British talkies had to escape in order to create their own distinctive identity.

Robert Murphy, De Montfort University
George and Jerry in Darkest England
In 1890 General Booth was prompted by Stanley’s despatches from the Congo to ask: ‘As there is a darkest Africa is there not also a darkest England?... May we not find a parallel at our own doors, and discover within a stone's throw of our cathedrals and palaces similar horrors to those which Stanley has found existing in the great Equatorial forest?’
The Salvation Army did boldly go into these uncharted territories to offer succour and civilisation. But Britain remained a deeply class-divided society and it was the cinema rather than the church which did most to bridge the huge gulfs and forge a common culture.

Strict censorship discouraged the making of films that explored social issues, but a range of popular melodramas and thrillers did offer occasional glimpses into the lower depths. Most of them have been lost but a number survive in the NFTVA and I am undertaking a project to examine and evaluate them.

For this paper I want to concentrate on two key producers - George King and Jerry Jackson - who adopted different strategies for survival in the murky pool of low budget production in Britain in the 1930s. Jackson (a New York Jewish lawyer) had no ambition to direct and teamed himself with two dynamic and inventive young directors, Michael Powell, and (when Powell moved on) Arthur Woods. By the end of the decade he was production head at Warner Bros’s Teddington studio - but WB were not keen to stay on once war broke out and Jackson’s career (and his life) came to a premature end.

King, born in West Ham, proved more of a survivor, entering the film industry earlier (1922) and continuing to produce films (Lance Comfort’s
Eight O’Clock Walk) into the 50s. He was also aware that for the tight, workmanlike productions he was involved in, his own talent as a director was generally sufficient.

Powell claims that he and Jackson ‘were not interested in talky-talkies or costume dramas; we expected our stories to come from today’s headlines.’ King made similar films though always with a more melodramatic edge, and found his metier later in the decade in the adaptations of 19th century ‘penny dreadfuls’ he made with stage melodrama villain Tod Slaughter including
Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936) and The Ticket of Leave Man (1937).

My paper will concern the problems of survival in a precarious and uncertain period of film production and will focus on the sort of films these acutely commercially aware producers chose to concentrate upon

Billy Smart, University of Reading
Cedric Messina - Producing Classics with a Decorative Aesthetic.
As the producer of
Thursday Theatre (BBC2, 1964-5), Theatre 625 (BBC2, 1964-8), Play of the Month (BBC1 1967-77), Stage 2 (BBC2, 1971-3) and The BBC Television Shakespeare (BBC2, 1978-80), in addition to many further one-off productions, Cedric Messina was responsible for the majority of BBC television adaptations of the stage play for over twenty years. As a larger audience saw these television productions than ever saw these plays in the theatre, this means that a generation’s understanding of the dramaturgy of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Shaw and much of the canon of classical theatre was realized through Messina’s conception of drama. Yet little research has ever been conducted into this significant figure or his work.

This paper examines Messina’s conception of adaptation of the classical play for television by looking at three of his productions made on Outside Broadcast:
The Little Minister (Play of the Month, 1975), As You Like It and Henry VIII (both for The BBC Television Shakespeare, 1978 and 1979). Messina believed that shooting plays in locations such as castles, forests and stately homes could create productions of tremendous visual pleasure for the television viewer, intending the entire television Shakespeare cycle to be made in this way. This ambition was an unrealized one, with only two productions made outside the television studio and Messina was sacked as producer.

My paper considers the role of the television drama producer through the study of a significant and neglected figure, explaining to his production style through close textual analysis.

Laura Mayne, University of Portsmouth
Creative Commissioning: Examining Regional Concerns in the work of Channel 4’s First Commissioning Editor for Fiction, David Rose.
As Head of Regional Drama at BBC Pebble Mill from 1971-1981, David Rose was often described by colleagues as being a singular producer who prioritised regional writers and allowed them an unprecedented amount of creative freedom. As such, the work produced under Rose at Pebble Mill was distinctive, and often went against the grain of more traditional southern drama. Rose’s enthusiasm for shooting on location meant that he was able to bring a particular regional aesthetic to many television plays, while he was also one of the first producers to advocate the use of multi-ethnic casts in productions like
Gangsters (Philip Martin, 1975) in order to convey a realistic sense of regional culture.

As head of Channel 4’s feature film strand from 1982, Rose arguably brought his passion for the regions to the role. Many early Channel 4 films were set in provincial locations and dealt with social concerns particular to those areas. This paper will argue that Rose brought a distinctive regional style to many of the early Channel 4 films he commissioned, and will focus on specific examples such as Neil Jordan’s
Angel (1982) Michael Radford’s Another Time, Another Place (1983) and Chris Bernard’s Letter to Brehznev (1985). This paper will also look at role of the Commissioning Editor within Channel 4’s broadcasting environment, and will ultimately seek to make a case for David Rose as an auteur producer.
11.30 - 11.45 Coffee
11.45 - 13.30 Panel Four (Chair: Robert Murphy)

Christopher Meir, University of the West Indies
The “British” Co-Producer: Ismail Merchant, Harry Alan Towers and Post-Imperial Film Networks
The figure of the producer has been conspicuously absent from recent accounts of cinematic transnationalism. Within the overall context of Film Studies, this is perhaps not surprising given the short shrift that the producer has received throughout the history of the discipline. Within transnational film theory and historiography, however, this gap is surprising as this field is explicitly concerned with the industrial networks of production and distribution that underpin the emergence of globalized film cultures, networks that are built and maintained largely by the efforts of producers.

This paper will seek to analyze the roles played by two producers in transnational co-productions involving British production companies: Indian-born Ismail Merchant and British-born Harry Alan Towers. Despite the differences in the oeuvres of the two film-makers - with Merchant specializing in high-brow prestigious productions and Towers specializing in low budget exploitation films - the paper will argue that both producers were able to effectively utilize global industrial networks to build successful careers and enrich British cinema in different ways. Scrutinizing the contours of those networks, the paper will show that both producers made especially effective use of partnerships developed along post-Imperial lines, making for films that in many textual and extratextual ways engaged with the historical ties between Britain and its former colonies, including India, South Africa, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago, amongst others. The paper concludes with an appeal to scholars working in British cinema and cinematic transnationalism to pay closer attention to the role of the producer in developing and maintaining transnational networks of film production and distribution.

David Mann, Independent Scholar
Harry Alan Towers: Independent Radio and Television Entrepreneur and the Producer of Ninety-Five films, died in 2009.
Virally generated biographies focussing upon the colourful aspects of his life litter the internet but what of Tower’s critical legacy? He merits only a mention on Screenonline and there’s nothing from academia. Yet Tower’s odyssey proffers many insights into the latter evolution of the film industry and delineates the course of the independent, international British producer foraging in the margins.
Peripatetic, driven and callously exploitative, Tower’s strategy was honed during his long apprenticeship in other media where he learnt to out-flank the industry giants, whether state-run or commercial. In seeking multiple outlets and sources of finance, Towers both widened his markets and spread financial risk long before the hidebound domestic media hierarchy followed suit.

Equally however, contractual adjuncts to his international deals typically resulted in a loss of cultural or national specificity. His eclectic dependence on cult genres, fleeting trends and ersatz, perfunctory realisations of classic novels, meanwhile, suggest a Spiv-like eye for passing trade.

Worse, if we peer behind the bon vivant façade, we find that Tower’s torturously fetishized, disorienting (s)exploitation films of the Seventies and Eighties (replete with soused or drug-befuddled former stars) articulate an inability to present a coherent narrative and, to our discomfort, even go so far as to replicate a fragmented experience not unlike that of the autistic experience.

The inference is that too good a time was had by all and the films represent a residue, an archaeological record of their milieu and times - mere vestiges of the feast. But is that the limit of their testimony?

Alejandro Pardo, University of Navarra
Creative Producers in Europe: The case of David Puttnam
The Eighties marked the resurgence of the film producer at both sides of the Atlantic. In Europe, the production work has been usually more personalized and individualized in the absence of a solid industrial structure. Indeed, it’s not hard to find examples of producers who have revitalized their national cinematographic industries, such as Carlo Ponti and Cecci Gori in Italy; Pierre Braunberger and Claude Berri in France; Dieter Geissler and Bernd Eichinger in Germany; Elías Querejeta and Andrés Vicente Gómez in Spain; or David Puttnam and Jeremy Thomas in the UK.

Among them, David Puttnam occupies a singular place. His best-known films -
Chariots of Fire (1981), The Killing Fields (1984) and The Mission (1986) - left a remarkable wake of quality and prestige. He was one of the protagonists in the renaissance of the British Cinema during the Eighties, propelling the film careers of directors such as Alan Parker, Ridley Scott, Adrian Lyne, Hugh Hudson and Roland Joffé. On top of that, he also ran a Hollywood studio.

Puttnam epitomizes the concept of ‘creative producer’. He is so involved in the making of his movies that leaves a personal imprint or mark on them. Together with this creative approach to film production, he has always considered movies as a powerful means of communication. This paper analyzes the Puttnam’s ‘touch’ and evaluates his contribution to the role of the film producer.

Paul Newland, Aberystwyth University
A Child Went Forth: Gavrik Losey’s Career in the British Film Industry
In this paper I will examine the development of Gavrik Losey’s career in British film production since the 1960s. This is a story which provides useful insights into the development of British cinema during this period. Losey (the son of US director Joseph Losey) was born in New York. He moved to England in 1956, and entered the British film industry in 1959. He trained first as a film editor, then as a cameraman, and finally as an assistant director. By the late 1960s Losey had moved into production management. He was to work on more than twenty films in this capacity, including Peter Yates'
Robbery (1967) and Lindsay Anderson's If…(1968). He also worked on The Beatles’ TV film Magical Mystery Tour (1967). In 1968 he became in-house production supervisor for Woodfall Films, where his projects included Hamlet (1969), Laughter in the Dark (1969), and Ned Kelly (1970), all with director Tony Richardson. During the early 1970s Losey joined David Puttnam and Sandy Lieberson at Goodtimes Films as an associate producer, working on films such as Melody (Waris Hussein, 1971), The Pied Piper (Jacques Demy, 1971), That’ll be The Day (Claude Whatham, 1973), Stardust (Michael Apted, 1974) and Flame (Richard Loncraine, 1975). He has also worked extensively as a freelance producer, on projects such as Stuart Cooper’s Little Malcolm (1974), winner of a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival; J. Lee Thompson’s The Greek Tycoon (1978), and Agatha (1979), a Michael Apted film starring Dustin Hoffman and Vanessa Redgrave. He was the sole producer of Franco Rosso’s 1980 film, Babylon. This film was recently re-released on DVD, to renewed critical acclaim.

13.30 - 14.15 Lunch
14.15 - 16.00 Panel Five (Chair: Justin Smith)

Emily Caston, London College of Communication
From Babies to Monsters: The Role of the Executive Producer in Music Videos
Music videos are almost as denigrated as producers in film studies. However, a report published in 1999 showed that the record industry spent just under £37 million on videos produced in the UK, making them a vital and substantial training ground for new British producers.

In this paper, I present an analysis of the role of an “executive producer” in the British music video industry, based on the author’s experience as executive producer for the London offices of Ridley Scott Associates.

The video for Madonna’s
Frozen, directed by award-winning and maverick UK director Chris Cunningham, will serve as the case study.

The paper will look at the convention of referring to directors as auteurs. In music videos, the concept of authorship is frequently constructed around the artist to whom the “song” is attributed. The producer, therefore, comes third in the pecking order to receive credit as an originator and lead executor of the project.

The executive producer, however, holds an overarching role. Her power lies in talent spotting and development. S/he is the agent responsible for constructing “auteur directors.” She deliberately advances the ideology of her directors as auteurs in order to charge higher prices for client commissions. This is achieved through the poach and coach strategy. Industry parlance is of turning babies into monsters. The executive producer is credited with developing a house style to which clients can reliably turn when seeking a particular look or feel for their commissions.

Life in these production companies consists of a dance in semi-self-aware duplicities about the power structure of control and creation, with directors calling their executives “boss” whilst denigrating their role behind the scenes, and with executives calling their directors “creative geniuses” whilst declaring themselves the true authors of the work in private meetings with clients.

The story of the making of Madonna’s
Frozen video, however, shows where the real power lies.

Tim Tarrant-Wills, University of the West of England
iFeatures - The Rise (again) of the Low Budget British Feature?
iFeatures has pitched itself as a new and innovative film production scheme which will allow fresh film making talent to make unique British narratives. However this paper will place the current iFeatures scheme in a context of low budget film making, stretching back to the Quota Quickies of the 1930s.

One objective of
iFeatures is that it provides a ‘stepping stone’ (Moll, 2010 & Newsinger, 2009) to new talent to demonstrate their skills and also to provide a regional infrastructure of technicians that will survive beyond the initial investment. Ifeatures has been funded by Bristol City Council to market the city to national audiences and export British narratives and culture globally. Of the three ifeatures films (arguably) one has a unique Bristol UK identity whereas the other two could be relocated to other locations without any change of sensibility, cast or script.

The paper will further analyse the difference that digital technology has in stretching the budgets of the
iFeatures projects. Further investigation of the costs of seeking traditional distribution versus new digital DIY techniques will also be investigated.

Jason Scott, Leeds Trinity University College
The Ever Shifting Contexts of the Contemporary British Independent Film Producer: Mark Herbert and Warp Films: A Case Study
Within this paper I will develop the diverse functions and roles of the contemporary British independent film producer - creative, commercial, and logistical, as well as activities that combine each of these dimensions. Focused upon a case study of Mark Herbert, and Warp Films, I will discuss his relationship with Shane Meadows, as “creative enabler and business partner” (Grant, 2007), alongside his production credits with Chris Morris, Paul Fraser and Chris Cunningham, and nurturing of other emerging talent.

Whilst addressing Herbert’s commercial creativity, and Warp’s reputation for “combining creative originality with commercial success” (UK Film Council), I will also outline his creative and entrepreneurial role in “harness[ing] cutting edge digital technology and low budget production methods to make high value movies that can reach cinema audiences across the world” (UK Film Council). Thus, whilst the producer is often distinguished as managing the production whilst the director “manage[s] the film’s artistic concerns” (Konigsberg,
The Complete Film Dictionary: 274), I will argue that this artificial distinction undervalues the contribution of the producer to overseeing the development, production and distribution of each film.

Furthermore, I suggest the importance of the producer in navigating the shifting contexts of contemporary British independent film, in which sources of funding and access to distribution are consistently fluctuating, through innovative and opportunistic approaches, the development of strategic alliances, and self-promotion.

Tom Vincent, Archivist, Aardman Animations
Ensuring Legacy: Archives and Producers in the Digital Age
Traditionally, the acquisition of archive collections by institutions has been relatively straightforward. Usually when an individual dies, or a company goes bust, their collections will hopefully get donated to a body such as a national archive or university. Whilst there will be preservation, cataloguing and disposition issues, the archivist will principally deal with physical materials, such as paper, film and videotape.
In today’s digital age it is not quite so straightforward. To effectively manage digital-born material, the archivist has got to grapple with complicated problems like longevity of media, format obsolescence, and asset management. Whilst there has been movement to deal with this digital issue by institutions such as the British Library and the National Archives, there has been relatively little work in the creative industries. Small film and TV companies are not thinking about long-term archiving: they are concentrating on finishing projects on time and on budget. And at the major studios and national broadcasters, there is no standardisation taking place.

For the past year,
Aardman Animations has been researching the best digital archiving strategies through funding from the South West Regional Development Agency and engaging with external partners. My paper will provide an overview of the issues facing the industry and will present the findings of some of our research, where the producer’s role will become a vital part in the archiving process
16 .00 - 16.15 Coffee
16 .15 - 17.30 Keynote: David Sproxton, Executive Chairman of Aardman Animations. Followed by Q + A and Plenary
Conference closes

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