Could U.S. Trade War Could Jeopardise Hollywood's Film Deal With China?

For anyone who’s been closely following the news, it comes as no surprise that President Trump’s determination to drastically reduce America’s trade deficit has led him to turn his attention to China. In a bid to restore the balance between the two economic superpowers, President Trump recently approved $60 billion worth of trade sanctions against the Middle Kingdom. It’s believed that imposing such tough sanctions will help to level the playing field for U.S. manufacturing companies who have been struggling to compete with their international rivals. The Chinese response has so far has been relatively most with just $3 billion of tariffs imposed on U.S. goods, most of which come from the agricultural sector. However, should the trade war intensify then one unexpected casualty could be Hollywood.

China is the most heavily regulated and controlled film market in the world. Currently only 34 foreign films are permitted to be imported into China each year and are distributed on a revenue-sharing basis. In most cases the films are distributed by either China Film Co. or Huaxia Distribution, both state-owned companies. Each film is entitled to 25% of the gross revenues, with the Chinese firms covering all P&A costs plus local taxes. An additional 30 to 40 films are permitted under a flat-fee basis, in which Chinese companies provide a license fee but the studios do not receive a cut of the box office. Understandably competition is fierce for each of these slots as they present a significant windfall of cash and crucially allows Hollywood access to what is fast becoming the world’s largest film territory. Since 2011, China’s box office has grown from just over $2 billion to a staggering $8.6 billion at the end of last year. The explosive growth has been fuelled by the urbanisation of China and growing middle class who are keen to pursue their newfound wealth with an array of leisure activities. This growth shows little sign of abating in the near future and could pivotally help Hollywood offset a declining domestic box office.

So, the question remains, how does President Trump’s trade sanctions affect Hollywood?

Negotiations between U.S. and Chinese trade officials have been taking place since early 2017 in an attempt to increase both the number of foreign films permitted under the revenue-sharing basis and the share of gross revenue available. Hollywood was initially optimistic that a new deal would bolster the number of revenue-sharing films jump from 34 to almost 50 titles. There is also talk that such a deal may lead to the abolition of “blackout” periods in China. A practice where only Chinese-made films may be screened in cinemas during set periods of the year. Most notably around key holiday and festive periods. In turn, this could lead to the Hollywood studios having a greater involvement in when their films are released in China. Currently, they only receive four to six weeks’ notice before their films are given a release slot and little say in when that slot is dated.

The negotiations are now at risk of becoming a high-profile casualty of the looming trade war. If the Chinese regulators decide to delay the negotiations, or even cancel them, then it would represent a major setback for Hollywood. Whilst Hollywood would be able to continue releasing films through the current agreement, it would deny the studios a much-needed source of new revenue and access to an increasingly significant market at a time where Chinese companies are heavily investing in entertainment companies across the globe. Such a situation could ultimately jeopardise Hollywood’s claim as the entertainment capital of the world.


How To Fund Your Short Film

Following on from last weeks article on talent schemes, I had a number of emails asking about how to attract funding for short films. Sadly, there's no guaranteed route or golden egg which has left a lot of filmmakers resorting to crowdfunding to bring their film to life. To try and make things a little easier, I've listed a number of the main short film schemes in the UK below. Like with the talent schemes, I'll be building a more comprehensive database over the coming months, so if you think I've forgotten any let me know and I'll happily add them to the list.

Organisation: BFI Network
Scheme: NETWORK Shorts
Budget: £10,000

  • Must have an account on the BFI Network website.
  • Have not yet made a feature film.
  • Have not previously received public funding.
  • Be a UK resident aged 18+.


Organisation: Channel 4
Scheme: Random Acts
Budget: £4,000

  • Must be aged 16 to 24.
  • Must be no longer than 4 mins.
  • Emphasis on non-narrative work.


Organisation: Creative England
Scheme: ShortFLIX
Budget: £10,000

  • Must not be in full-time education, employment or training.


Organisation: Ffilm Cymru Wales
Scheme: Beacons
Budget: £5,000 - 15,000

  • Must have made 1 previous screen based piece of work
  • Be a Welsh resident aged 18+


Organisation: Film London
Scheme: London Calling
Budget: £4,000

  • Be based in London
  • Must be aged 18+


Organisation: Film London
Scheme: London Calling Plus
Budget: £15,000

  • Be based in London.
  • Aimed at BAME filmmakers.
  • Must be aged 18+.


Organisation: Jameson
Scheme: Jameson First Shot
Budget: N/A

  • Must be aged 25+.
  • Must be a resident in the UK, USA, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Bulgaria, or Israel.


Organisation: Kevin Spacey Foundation
Scheme: Artist of Choice
Budget: £10,000

  • Must be a UK resident.
  • Must be aged 18+


Organisation: Northern Ireland Screen
Scheme: New Shorts Focus
Budget: N/A

  • New Shorts Focus is aimed exclusively at underrepresented groups including: Females, Females 30+, Disabled, BAME, LGBT filmmakers.
  • Have a writing or directing credit on a previous short film made within the past three years.
  • Be a resident in Northern Ireland.


Organisation: Northern Ireland Screen
Scheme: Shorts to Features
Budget: £20,000

  • The director must have directed 2+ short films that have been financed by public film funds or broadcasters.
  • The producer has produced 3+ short films, or has a strong track record in developing scripted television drama.
  • The writer is developing their first feature project with Northern Ireland Screen.


Organisation: Northern Ireland Screen
Scheme: Short Film Call
Budget: Individual Award - £2,250
              Company Award - £7,500

  • Must be a Northern Ireland resident.
  • Must have 1 previous short film credit.
  • Must be a Northern Ireland resident.
  • Must have 1 previous short film credit.
  • Must be shot in Northern Ireland.


Organisation: Scottish Film Talent Network
Scheme: Scottish Shorts
Budget: £15,000

  • Must be aged 18+.
  • Be based in Scotland.
  • Must not be in full time education.

Writers (Must have at least 1 of the following):

  • An impressive screen-based work, including a drama broadcast on TV or online, commercials, documentaries, self-funded short film, student film or artists film and video.
  • Accomplishment in theatre writing, which may be demonstrable by acclaimed reviews or professional recommendation.
  • Accomplishment in writing for radio.
  • A published novel or collection of short stories or poems.
  • A micro-budget feature film, funded without industry support.


  • An impressive screen-based work, including a drama broadcast on TV or online, commercials, documentaries, self-funded short film, student film or artists film and video.
  • Accomplishment in theatre writing, which may be demonstrable by acclaimed reviews or professional recommendation based work.
  • A micro-budget feature film, funded without industry support.


  • Must have at least one producing or production management, senior coordinating or development credit on any work of fiction.


Organisation: Scottish Film Talent Network
Scheme: Emerging Talent
Budget: £25,000

  • Must be aged 18+.
  • Be based in Scotland.
  • Must not be in full time education.


  • A feature film script that has either been commissioned or optioned by a third party producer or production company.
  • An impressive screen-based work, including a drama broadcast on TV or online, or a funded short film that has been screened at a BAFTA recognised short film festival, has won an award, or has been picked up for theatrical distribution or broadcast television.
  • A professionally produced theatre or radio play/piece, which has received positive attention from the industry and/or public.
  • A published novel or collection of short stories/poems that has received positive attention from industry and/or public.


  • An impressive screen-based work, including a drama broadcast on TV or online, or a funded short film that has been screened at a BAFTA recognised short film festival, has won an award, or has been picked up for theatrical distribution or broadcast television.
  • A micro-budget feature film, which has been self-financed and has received positive attention from industry and/or public.
  • A professionally produced theatre or radio piece, which received positive attention from industry and/or public.


  • An impressive screen-based work, including a drama broadcast on TV or online.
  • A professionally produced radio piece which has received positive attention from industry and/or public.
  • A funded short film that has been screened at a BAFTA recognised film festival, has won an award, or has been picked up for theatrical distribution or broadcast television.



    How To Break Into Film & TV

    One of the most commonly asked questions I hear at events or on social media, is how to break into the industry. All too often I hear cries of “It’s impossible to break into the industry, unless you have the right connections”. Whilst it’s true that having connections certainly helps to open the right doors, especially early on in your career, nowadays the industry is more committed to attracting new talent than ever before. The important trick is knowing where to look for the opportunities. I’ve created a list of talent schemes below in the hope that it’ll be a helpful starting point for anyone looking to get that first break.

    I’d love to hear if any feedback on whether this article is helpful. I’d be happy to look into keeping an up-to-date list of training and funding opportunities available.

    Also, if you run a training scheme that I’ve accidentally missed off, let me know and I’d be happy to include it.

    BAME Leadership

    NFTS- backed scheme for future leaders from BAME backgrounds. A six month programme to encourage diverse representation in the film industry, bringing on the next generation of diverse talent working at Executive level in production, commissioning distribution, sales and exhibition. The programme is currently underway, but will be running again with applications open towards the end of the year.


    The BBC offers a variety of entry schemes in television.

    The Production Trainee Scheme, open to both graduates and non-graduates, it is well known for offering paid traineeships in TV and radio with extensive mentoring from senior BBC staff.

    The Production Apprenticeship is aimed at those who don't have qualifications beyond Level 3/A Levels. It offers paid work on a range of TV and radio productions, whilst studying towards a Level 3 Apprenticeship in Creative & Digital Media.

    The BBC also offers several work experience placements across its channels and productions.


    Betty is a well-known factual entertainment company. Throughout the year they offer a variety of internships and trainee roles. They have a partnership with Creative Access which helps to provide internships for candidates from BAME backgrounds.

    Channel 4

    4Talent is the talent development arm of Channel 4. They are passionate supporters of new talent and offer apprenticeships in Business Admin and Creative & Digital Media. They also have a graduate programme where you gain a Creative Media Leadership MA.

    Creative Access

    Creative Access provides opportunities for paid internships in the creative industries for young people of graduate from under-represented BAME backgrounds. They help candidates to secure full time jobs and in the longer term help address the imbalance in the industry.

    Creative Skillset

    Creative Skillset works with the UK's screen based industries to develop skills and talent. Their website offers a great range of careers advice and opportunities for people looking to get into the industry.

    Directors UK

    Directors UK, the professional association for British screen directors, runs several training initiatives to address under-representation among directors. One is a paid training and mentoring opportunity for 2 emerging directors at Lime Pictures and Channel 4. Another is their High End Drama Directors Career Development Programme, with 6 directors selected to receive placements on high end dramas.


    Festival-turned "agency for change" Bird's Eye View focuses on promoting women in the film industry. They have a range of Creative Skillset-backed business courses targeting women and producers led by Oscar-winning producer Mia Bays.


    Hiive was launched following the demise of Ideastap, the UK's leading youth arts charity. Hiive is a platform dedicated to showcasing opportunities for young creatives in the UK. Members can sign up for free and take advantage of a fantastic array of opportunities, jobs and training courses advertised through the site. The creative briefs are offered by a range of illustrious partners including CNN, The Old Vic, Sky and the BFI.

    The Hospital Club - Emerging Creatives Programme

    The Hospital Club is a private members club based in the heart of Covent Gardens. Their membership is predominantly made up of artists, and as such the venue houses a television studio, screening room and a gallery. Their Emerging Creative Programme supports 5 young creatives from different disciplines (Film, Music, Art & Design, Theatre & Performance, and Fashion). The five chosen creatives receive a year’s free membership, industry mentoring and several thousand pounds to support an original project.

    Applicants must have a minimum of 3 years experience in their discipline, be aged 21 to 35 and must not be in full time undergraduate study.


    ITV have several talent schemes and intership programmes.

    For voluntary placements and short-term paid opportunities for new talent aged 18+, check out ITV Insight.

    School/college leavers aged 16+ can get paid to learn with the ITV Apprenticeship Programme.

    For those interested in pursuing a career in journalism, they offer a nine month placement through ITV News Traineeship.

    MAMA Youth

    The MAMA Youth Project provides young people with training to help secure employment. They have a particular focus on those wanting to pursue a career in TV. They work with 18 to 25 year olds, some of whom are NEET (i.e. not in employment, training or education, who may be dealing with challenging circumstances on a daily basis). MYP does accept unemployed graduates as well.

    MAMA Youth Project works intensively with at least 48 young people every year to provide them with 12 weeks of full-time employment training and 6 months of follow-up career support. They run two intensive programmes a year, each based on professional broadcast media skills. A unique aspect of their training is that each 12 week course puts the participants into a “real-time” work situation during which they have to work in a tight knit production team to create 6 half hour episodes of a magazine TV show called “What’s Up”, which is broadcast on Sky 1.

    Media Trust

    London360 forms part of a youth media network which gives Londoners from a diverse range of backgrounds the opportunity to learn new skills, develop their confidence and reach their potential.

    Modern Tales

    A professional development initiative created by Bushfire Digital and Script Cube for emerging BAME, female and disabled filmmakers. They host eight one-day courses focusing on themes such as Ideas Generation and Research Development.

    NFTS and Channel 4 Bursary

    Another NFTS-backed initiative. Channel 4 offer a bursary scheme for applicants to the NFTS Directing Fiction or Cinematography MA courses that are from diverse backgrounds. It is particularly aimed at people with disabilities, and people from BAME or socially disadvantaged backgrounds to help address under representation within the industry.

    NFTS Directing Workshop

    The NFTS Directing Workshop aims to increase the number of women, BAME and people with disabilities working in screen directing. It's a free course open to professionals who want to take their careers to the next level. Six filmmakers will be invited to take part in a four week course which includes making a short film.

    The Network

    The Edinburgh International Television Festival is one of the most prestigious media festivals in the world. They run two talent schemes: The Network and Ones to Watch.

    The Network is a free intensive introduction to working in the TV industry. Each year 50 applicants are offered a 4 day course that runs alongside the festival. You don’t need any qualifications or prior experience in TV, but do need a genuine passion to work in the industry as competition is fierce.


    Procam offer a unique Training Opportunity for new entrants to the broadcast industry. This is an entry level position for those interested in pursuing a career in the technical side of television, with an interest in video or audio production. Trainees will have the opportunity to work with the latest and most exciting broadcast technology, from the new Arri Amira cameras through to bespoke camera set ups and complex audio requirements.

    Successful applicants will follow a career path which could lead into crew positions:

    • Begin working for Procam as a driver delivering equipment to clients
    • Training in the kit room, where you will begin to familiarise yourself with all equipment and start to go on jobs as runners/assistants/DITS
    • Move into the Procam crew pool, specialise in your chosen field and build up a list of credits
    • Leave Procam as an Industry Professional with a network of contacts and a range of invaluable skills

    Full, clean driving licence required. Applicants can apply with a brief covering letter and CV to:

    Pro Motion

    Pro Motion are a leading broadcast equipment rental company. They offer a range of industry specific and educational short courses that give practical, hangs on training.


    RDF Television runs a prestigious Intern Scheme for people wanting to get into the industry. Interns are offered a six month contract; which can lead to an additional two month contract as a junior researcher or co-ordinator. During the six month internship the interns’ main responsibility is to keep the office running smoothly. There are opportunities for the interns to spend time on productions as a runner. During the internship each intern will also undertake a camera course.

    You can apply directly by emailing a covering letter and CV to:

    Sara Putt Associates

    The Sara Putt Associates Trainee Scheme is a professional development programme for new entrants working in the Camera, Sound, Edit, Art, Production, VFX, Costume, Script Editing and AD departments. Trainees receive training in networking skills, CV writing, social media for work, finance for freelancers and negotiation skills. Previous trainees have also enjoyed masterclasses from editor Eddie Hamilton (X-Men: First Class); sound recordist Simon Clark (Wolf Hall); DoP Giulio Biccari (Luther) and 1st AD Matt Hanson (Sherlock).


    Sky are committed to training the next generation of talent and have set up the Sky Academy, with the goal of training one million young people by 2020. They have a range of initiatives from primary school through to those starting their careers.

    Widening The Lens

    A free, three-month training and development programme from the Encounters Film Festival for new and emerging filmmakers from diverse backgrounds which includes workshops, masterclasses and one-to-one mentoring with industry professionals.

    104 Films

    Founded to change representations of disabled people behind and in front of the camera, 104 Films run over 40 training programmes supported by Creative Skillset, The BFI, Creative England and many other partners.

    The Unsung Hero of the British Creative Industry

    The Creative Tax Credit… Ok. Ok. I can hear you silently cursing me for what seems like a clickbait title, but let me explain.

    As storytellers we all know how hard it is to get our work funded. In fact, most of us have built entire dinner party routines out of the most outlandish requests we’ve had forced upon us by would-be financiers (Mine’s that 70 year old character ought to celebrate his youthful mind-set by becoming a nu-metal singer. Thanks for asking). What many people don’t realise is that in 2007 the UK Film Tax Relief (FTR) was introduced and the revolutionary effect it’s since had on our industry, for better and worse.

    The FTR is a cash rebate paid to companies based on the amount of money spent on productions in the UK. It has been responsible for attracting numerous major Hollywood blockbusters to our shores, whilst also supporting local independent films. In 2016, a record £1.6bn was spent on film production alone as British studios and locations played host to Star Wars Rogue One, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and Dunkirk. The success of the Tax Relief in supporting new investment and talent led to its expansion to also cover High End Television, Animation, Children’s Television and Video Games. All of which have contributed to the UK’s continued reputation as a world leader in the creative industries and allowed us to punch above our weight.

    Quite often when I talk to new filmmakers it becomes quickly apparent that there’s a lot of confusion over how the FTR works and whether it’s applicable to their own work. Let’s be honest being able to claim 25% of 80% of your UK core qualifying expenditure isn’t the most straightforward of descriptions. So let’s break it down into what it actually means.

    In order to claim the Creative Tax Credit, your project has to pass a number of conditions.

    Film Tax Relief:

    • The film must either
      • Pass the BFI’s Cultural Test. To achieve this you must score at least 18 points out of a possible 35. Full details on what this involves can be found here.
      • Qualify as an official co-production.
    •  Be intended for theatrical release.
    • Made by a UK limited company registered for corporation tax.
    • At least 10% of the Core Expenditure must be spent in the UK. This can cover any stage of pre-production, production and post-production, but excludes costs incurred on development, sales, distribution or other non-production activities. (Personally, I believe that development ought be eligible under this as it’s hard to conceive of anything more fundamental to a project than developing the idea, but hey I don’t write the rules.)
    • There’s no cap on the amount that can be claimed. This is why the FTR has proven so popular with Hollywood. The FTR provides a substantial portion of their budgets.

    High-End Television (HETV) Tax Relief:

    • The HETV must either
      • Pass the HETV Cultural Test.
      • Qualify as an official co-production (with treaty partners that allow for television).
    • The programme must be intended for broadcast (this includes the internet)
    • The programme is a drama, comedy or documentary.
    • At least 10% of the core expenditure must take place in the UK.
    • The average qualifying production cost per hour is at least £1m.
    • The programme must have a run time of more than 30 minutes.
    • The production company must be registered for UK corporation tax.

    Animation Tax Relief:

    • It must either
      • Qualify as British by passing the Animation Cultural Test
      • Be an official Co-Production (with treaty partners that allow for television).
    • The programme must be intended for broadcast (this includes the internet).
    • At least 51% of the total core expenditure is on animation.
    • At least 10% of the core expenditure must be UK expenditure.
    • The production company must be registered for UK corporation tax.

    Children’s Tax Relief:

    • It must either
      • Qualify as British by passing the Children's Cultural Test
      • Be an official Co-Production (with treaty partners that allow for television)
    • The programme must be intended for broadcast (this includes the internet)
    • At least 51% of the total core expenditure is on live action.
    • At least 10% of the core expenditure must be UK expenditure.
    • The production company must be registered for UK corporation tax.
    • The target audience is under 15 years old.

    Video Games Tax Relief:

    • It must qualify as British under the Video Games Cultural Test
    • Must be intended for release.
    • At least 25% of the core expenditure must take place in the UK/EEA.
    • The production company is registered for UK corporation tax.

    When the Creative Tax Credit was introduced it was initially intended to help support producers by providing them with a cash rebate once their project was completed. However, the industry quickly realised that since the money never has to be repaid it could effectively be used as part of a films financing, thereby reducing other financiers risk on a project. Whether you agree with this or not, in practice it means that by following these steps any project effectively has almost 20% of its budget already in place. The real challenge is finding someone to cash flow this, and making sure you budget accordingly. HMRC only provide the cash rebate once the project is complete, which means you need to find a way of paying for the services that you’ll be claiming back on. There are a few specialist financiers who’ll advance you the value of the FTR for a fee such as Headgear Films, Coutts, and Barclays. Like anything finance related, it’s always best to shop around for the best rates.

    Since Brexit was announced, it’s been debated whether the government should look at boosting the rebate offered by the FTR to help ensure Britain remains a competitive destination for international productions. Similarly PACT proposed raising the amount offered to independent film to 40% to help bolster the sector following a decline in the value of Pre-Sales, which has traditionally underpinned how indie films are financed. Whilst it remains to be seen whether either of these proposals will be enacted, one thing that remains certain is that the Creative Tax Credit has proven a tremendous success and will remain a cornerstone of the creative industries.

    For anyone interested, Stephen Follows has an excellent article on whether the FTR can be applied to short films. The FTR never specified a run time for films, so theoretically it is possible for a short film to conform to all the criteria.

    A little known fact is that the HMRC actually has a unit dedicated to assisting with queries about the Creative Tax Credit. I’ve always found them to be incredibly helpful and generous. You can get in touch with them at:

    Creative Industries Unit
    Local Compliance SO717
    PO Box 3900
    G70 6AA

    Tel: 03000 510 191

    Important disclaimer – I’m not an accountant, and would always recommend you speak to a qualified accountant or lawyer when working on a project. Let’s face it, not only are they far more knowledgeable about the subject than we’ll ever hope to be, but leaving them to deal with their speciality frees us up to focus on the creative aspect of filmmaking. Everybody wins, right?

    The Brexit Factor

    Over the past year we’ve all become accustomed to hearing continual arguments about Brexit and whether it’s the right decision for the long term prosperity of the country. Rather than wade in with my own views, which quite frankly none of you care about anyways, I think we’re missing the real question about what steps now need to be taken.

    The creative industries have been amongst the fastest growing sector of the British economy over the past few decades, in part due to our involvement in the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production and the free movement principle. These have allowed us access to the best talent and funding opportunities which we could not have competed with on our own. In fact, most independent films and several major television series such as Game of Thrones are reliant on these two principles.  Our withdrawal from the European Union raises the question of how this will affect our status as a world leader in the creative industries. I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers, but it’s worth breaking down three key challenges Brexit poses and possible solutions to them.

    1)      Free Movement

    The Free Movement doctrine has long been a pillar of the EU membership. It’s allowed us to bring in highly skilled crew and cast with the minimum fuss. In fact, our VFX industry is heavily reliant on attracting top European artists. This has long been touted as one of the most contentious issues facing the Brexit negotiations, and in all honesty I think it’s too close to call which way the decision on whether Britain retains this principle will go.

    Should we decide against it, then there’s 2 probable outcomes. The first is that productions will lose out on being able to use top European talent as easily. In most cases they’ll no doubt fight to get them the relevant VISA’s so they can be involved, but this will be felt most sharply amongst the smaller independents who won’t have the time or resources to be able to do this.

    The second outcome that I suggest most likely to happen is that more and more work will become cloud based, particularly in Post Production, with companies setting up satellite offices across Europe to retain access to talent. Whilst this will allow the companies to remain competitive it ultimately means a loss of jobs and tax for the UK economy.

    Many Hollywood productions choose to film in the UK because of our status as global leaders in VFX. It’s a position that we must fight to retain, otherwise there’s a genuine danger that the next major franchise may be shot elsewhere.

    2)      Funding

    Securing funding has always been tough, but one ray of sunshine has been the European funding bodies. Not only have they provided financing for films, TV and games, but they also crucially support the exhibition sector. Our loss of EU membership for example will have a detrimental effect on films being shown across member states as they’ll no longer qualify for the Europa Cinemas initiative which supports independent films to be shown across Europe.

    Again, I suspect that we’ll negotiate to remain a part of the MEDIA program. Its benefits have so far proven to be beneficial for both Britain and the EU as a whole. One area that could see a radical change is how the UK Film Tax Relief is applied. Previously it’s been limited by EU state aid rules which attempt to maintain a parity between members. In the future, we could actually amend the rules. I am personally in favour of revamping the Tax Credit to offer a more generous rate to British independent film. PACT have previously raised the possibility that it should increase from 25% to 40% for independent films with a budget between £2 to 10m. If this were to happen, then it would help to alleviate the pressures on producers and financiers in the face of a collapsing pre-sale market. I personally believe this could help to spark a boom in the independent sector, boosting the number of jobs and helping production companies to plan effectively for the future rather than being forced into reactionary decisions.

    3)      Digital Single Market

    The Digital Single Market is one of the most controversial policies being debated within the EU. Financing a film or television series has historically been achieved through selling the rights on a territory by territory basis. The DSM threatens this as it works on the basis that once a film or television show is available digitally in one member European country, it would be available everywhere else too. This would be catastrophic for not just the British industry, but every EU member. Distributors would no longer be willing to pre-buy as they’d lose their exclusive rights. In turn, this would make financing a film or television series near impossible, unless you were getting your money from just one source like a Hollywood studio or the major SVOD platforms.

    One of the flaws with the DSM is that it’s assumption about “availability” is the same thing as demand. The proposals assume that by making all content available simultaneously it’ll fuel demand. In reality, it takes time, infrastructure and money for a distributor to build demand for each film in order to attract an audience. Each film requires a unique distribution and marketing plan to help it find an audience. Something which can vary tremendously from country to country. In some territories a film may receive a large theatrical release, whilst in others it may be a straight to VOD title. The DSM seriously risks undermining the decades of experience that distributors have built up, by promoting the idea that a product can simply be released across all territories in a quick easy fashion.

    I suspect there will also be an unexpected consequence in that certain minority languages could face oblivion. As minority languages they have a limited audience, which means finding the audience in territory takes considerable skill and expertise. The DSM will remove any pre-sale value from such films and television series.


    Guest Blog: How To Make Hollywood Quality Mo-Cap On An Indie Budget

    This week’s blog is a first, in that it features a guest writer, Nikolay Savov. I’ve been friends with Nik since we met at the National Film and Television School, and was always blown away by how he was already pulling off ambitious projects. After seeing his graduation game Falling Sky involved Mo-Cap I thought it’d be great to invite him to talk about his experiences, and whether it’s possible for low budget projects to use the technology.

    What Is Mo-Cap?

    Motion capture, or Mo-Cap as it's more commonly known, is when you digitally record people or objects' movement. It's used to capture complex patterns, such as facial expressions or movement, to help create 3D digital models that are used in gaming and filmmaking. Using special cameras, the object or person is scanned several dozen times per second in order to reproduce realistic movements in real time. 

    Tell Us A Little About Falling Sky

    Falling Sky is an NFTS graduation game being made by fellow student Jonathan Nielssen, as part of his MA in Games Design and Development. Set across a sprawling landscape of American suburbia, the story follows Daniel and his younger brother as they embark on a quest to solve the mystery of their mother’s disappearance.

    It is a beautifully looking narrative driven type of game that is also very cinematic. Jonathan and I share a deep passion for this type of projects and from the beginning, we set as our goal to make such a game. For that purpose, we used Unreal Engine, and we wanted to use Mo-Cap to help bring to life the characters. We had previously collaborated on a project called ReTreat, where we’d used facial-capture technology and saw the tremendous benefit it’d had on the character animation, so for the graduation project we wanted to push ourselves one step further.


    Mo-Cap is a cutting-edge technology that audiences are more familiar with seeing in Hollywood blockbusters and Triple-A games. Can you talk us through some of the challenges you faced in trying to use this for a student project?

    The biggest challenge was whether we could afford it. Firstly, we had to find a motion capture facility that was the right size for our project. Even a small facility will cost at least £2000-£3,000 per day, which gives you an idea how much the big studios must spend on a hanger filled with cameras… Generally speaking for those new to the technology, the more cameras a motion capture studio has within the space, the more accurate and free you are to use different ranges of motion. I think it’s important to ask yourself how much space you genuinely need. Everyone wants to be able to go down the pub with their friends and brag about using the biggest studios to film in, but in reality, if it doesn’t serve the project then you’re just wasting precious time and money you could have better spent elsewhere.

    As a student project, we felt that our best approach was to get in touch with several industry leaders on the basis they might be willing to help out. Our first port of call was Centroid3D, who already had a good relationship with the NFTS.

    At the time, Centroid3D were booked solid, but they recommended that we ask one of their overflow facilities at Amersham and Wycombe College. Simon Clayden and Neil Bedecker, who manage the facilities there were exceptionally supportive and offered to help us with the project. Admittedly, through our own naivety, we assumed that shooting the material was the hard part done and dusted. Next came the real challenge, processing the data. The sheer scale of data required for Mo-Cap and how you process it is in my mind the real hurdle each project has to overcome, especially on a budget. Once you’ve shot the material, you then need a team to process the data to ensure that it can be successfully implemented within the game engine. This meant taking all the captured data, checking for any anomalies, before finally making it Maya compatible. After the models had been completed in Maya we then put them into the Unreal Engine.

    Talk Us Through What A Shoot Day Looks Like

    Nik hard at work on set... 

    Nik hard at work on set... 

    We had a two day shoot, which meant we had to work around our actor’s availability, child employment working hours and Amersham and Wycombe College’s opening times. This meant we had effectively 5 to 6 hours each day of pure shooting time. Each day we started prepping from 7:30am to 5:30pm. A big component of shooting in Mo-Cap is ensuring that the cameras are correct set up and calibrated. If anything had been out of sync, then Jonathan would have had to manually synchronise each body and facial performance, which would have been a nightmare. Fortunately, we had Simon and Neil to guide us through it. Without them, we’d never have been able to achieve something of this scale so as a team we’re incredibly grateful that they were so generous with their support.

    How Did you Approach Finding Actors For Falling Sky?

    We had to treat the Mo-Cap shoot like any other fiction shoot. You’re not just looking for a great voice actor, but one who can bring a physical presence to the work. As a film producer, I was fairly confident about this side of things and used my previous connections to find our cast. We were fortunate in that we were able to attract a stellar cast of actors including, Stephane Cornicard and Christy Meyer, who are well known in the gaming world for their roles in Dragon Age, Horizon Zero Dawn and Dark Souls.

    What Happened Next?

    After the shoot itself, we spent a week with Amersham and Wycombe College checking through the data we captured. Simon and Neil worked with students from the college to process all the data. They all put their heart and soul into it, and I think it really shows in the demo that we have.

    Since then, we’ve been hard at work prepping the game for EGX. Each graduation game at the NFTS is extremely lucky in that the school organise for the games to be showcased at EGX, the major industry gaming event each year. Our goal was to have a highly polished demo of early gameplay to help wet press and potential investor’s appetite for the full game.

    What Was Your Biggest Learning Curve?

    Both Jonathan and myself were aware that we had huge gaps in our knowledge as we’d never tried this before, so we spent a good few of weeks visiting Amersham and Wycombe College to talk through the requirements with Neil and Simon. All of that time spent planning and rehearsing for any problems that may occur, paid off in the end.

    I think one of the main things I’ve taken away from our shoot is a new perspective on how Mo-Cap works. For example, on a film set you normally shoot 3 pages a day. In Mo-Cap we were shooting approximately 20! It was such a stark difference that Jonathan and I were both caught off-guard.  Obviously, the question of how complicated the movements and actions are has to be taken into account to give you a realistic sense of what can be achieved, but there’s a world of difference between the two. After the first day's shoot, we actually had to spend that night frantically writing more material as we’d shot so much on the first day!

    If you’re at EGX this week make sure to come stop by the NFTS Games stand in Rezzed West section where all 8 graduation games will be on show.

    The Ultimate Survival Guide for EGX 2017

    Top Tips for Exhibiting Your Game At The UK's Largest Gaming Event


    Any die hard gamer will tell you that September holds a special place in their calendar due to EGX, the UK's largest games fair. Over four days more than 70,000 gamers descend on the NEC Birmingham to be amongst the first to discover upcoming titles from both the Triple A studios and indie developers alike. Known for its bold mixture of debuting commercial titles like Call of Duty: WWII and Assassin’s Creed Origins alongside innovative indie games, over the years EGX has established itself as the place to showcase your game as an upcoming developer.

    ITB Titles

    Last year I was fortunate to have the opportunity to showcase my debut game Into the Black there. Made as part of my Master’s degree at the National Film and Television School, the game is a third person VR game set during the infamous wildfires in Yellowstone Park during the late 80s. What happened next was the stuff dreams are made of. When we first arrived at Birmingham International, both myself and the games designer-developer Naomi Kotler, were infused with a sense of excitement and blind panic at what people would think when playing the demo of our game. We never expected to walk away from the festival with two nominations for the Unity Awards, including being the only UK student game selected that year, or universal praise from several of the industry’s top publications such as Upload VR who cited it as one of their top 50 games for 2017. This year I’ve been invited back by NFTS Games to help the current students to unveil their graduation projects. To say that I’m blown away by the innovation and quality of their work is an understatement to say the least. Having spent the past few days engrossed in talking all things games, it got me thinking about what my top tips for exhibiting a game at EGX are, especially when working with a limited budget.

    As an indie developer the prospect of exhibiting your game at a major gaming event can often feeling pretty daunting, and leave you questioning whether it’s possible to stand out compared to the bigger titles that have multi-million pound marketing budgets. Over the past few years there’s been a noticeable shift in the industry towards independent titles. EGX has been a particularly vocal champion of this with both the Leftfield Collection and Rezzed sections at the festival demonstrating the best and brightest new talent on offer. Personally, I think this trend is going to continue for the foreseeable future and with some careful planning it’s possible to punch above your weight.

    I’ve broken my top tips down into the following sections: Prep, On The Day and Press so that it’s hopefully easier to find what you’re after.


    1. It’s always tempting to keep adding new features right up until the day. Last minute additions are often the ones with the most bugs. When prepping your demo for EGX, set yourself a cut-off date for new content and focus on honing what you have. It’s better to have 10 minutes of great content, than 30 mins that are plagued by annoying glitches. Sods law is that the moment your game breaks it’ll be right in front of a journalist, so best to play it safe and not risk the embarrassment.
    2. Try to hold a playtest before going to EGX. Even if it’s just amongst a few friends their advice can be invaluable and should any bugs pop up, you’ve got that crucial time to fix them before it goes on show at the event.
    3. Set a time limit for your demo. It might sound stupid, but do you want 1 player to spend five hours playing your game, or 50 players to spend 15 minutes each playing? Personally I’d aim for the demo to be around 10 minutes. It gives you enough time to give the player a good sense of what the game is about and show off your skills.
    4.  Always, always check the equipment you’ll be taking to EGX beforehand. It’s also worth bringing a hard drive with a copy of the latest build on it. That way if anything goes wrong you’ve immediately got a back up to hand.
    5. If you’re using handsets, always make sure to bring spare batteries. It might sound like super obvious advice, but good luck finding anywhere nearby that sells them!

      On The Day:

    1. Make sure to get to there nice and early so you have plenty of time to set up your stall. First entry for guests into the NEC is at 10am.
    2.  There is free wifi available throughout the presentation hall. However, depending on where your stand is it can often be quite slow and patchy. Sneaky tip: Outside the presentation hall is a Weatherspoons. All Weatherspoons pubs are connected to “The Cloud” which offers free fast wifi. So why not grab a quick drink whilst fire off those press releases…
    3. There are a number of places to get food inside the NEC and within EGX itself. Like most events, the food tends to be on the pricier side. I’d consider bringing food with you, or having a look online beforehand about where best to get food. Also, always keep a few bottles of water at your stand. It’s surprisingly tiring work standing around for four days.
    4. Always bring cash as there aren’t many cash points around and the ones you do find will normally charge you to withdraw cash.
    5. Wear comfortable shoes. Seriously. After 4 days on your feet the last thing you need is blisters.
    6.  If you’re keen to try out any games, try walking around before the event opens and exhibitors are still setting up. Most are quite happy to let you have a go whilst it’s still quiet.
    7.  Sometimes you’ll get poor feedback which can be heart breaking after you’ve spent months perfecting each aspect of your game. Try to view all feedback as constructive and assess whether the feedback is based on personal taste or if it reflects a genuine concern with the gameplay. Often the most valuable thing from exhibiting your game isn’t publicity, but the feedback that allows you to make improvements before it goes on sale.
    8. When the hall first opens most people will stampede towards the latest Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo titles. Don’t worry, people often go straight for the “Must Play” titles to try and beat the queues and claim bragging rights that they played it before their mates. Once they’ve had chance to try out the game, they often then go searching for other titles to play and will often be quite excited to chat to developers about what they’re working on.


    1. Write up a list of journalists and publications you’d love to come and try out your game. Spend a couple of days researching online who the most relevant contact is at each publication and send them an invite to come play the game. Make sure to include a press release and some high quality images from the game. Better yet, why not write to your favourite publication offering them the first look at your trailer or content? Journalists love exclusive content as it not only makers it an easier pitch to their editors, but also helps them to stand out amongst their competitors.
    2. Always send out any invites or press releases a few days in advance. You want whoever is reading it to give it their undivided attention, leaving it until the last minute means you risk them casually glancing at it whilst they are standing in a queue to play a different game.
    3. Everyone at EGX will be wearing a wristband. Press used to be given a white wristband, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for them. It’s worth noting that this covers everyone from major publications right through to Youtubers with small followings. The important thing is to treat them all equally. Their support, whether they have 20 followers or 5 million followers, is what enables us to pursue our passion of making games for a living and that’s something we should always be grateful for.
    4. Some press may ask to film themselves playing the demo or ask to record a quick interview with you. It’s worth deciding beforehand if you’re comfortable with them filming the gameplay as often it may not be the finished version. You could alternatively offer them a copy of your trailer or high res images instead to accompany their article. Visual content is king in today’s media landscape.
    5. The PR agency Indigo Pearl is responsible for validating all journalists who attend EGX. If you explain that you are attending as an exhibitor and ask nicely they will often send out your press release to all media delegates attending EGX.
    6. There’s an entire audience that view the releases and announcements from EGX online. It’s worth dedicating time towards making sure you have great digital materials you can post about throughout the 4 days the festival runs.
    7. Press & industry members attending EGX often update their Twitter handle to say “Bob Anybody @EGX”. It’s worth checking each day to see who is listing themselves with the @EGX handle, and potentially inviting them to come play your game.
    8. EGX lasts for 4 days, as silly as it sounds most gamers go for all out publicity blitzes on the first day. By lunch time they’ve run out of new content and spend the rest of EGX recycling old images, try to stagger the material you release so people have a reason to come back and check for new updates.

    Most importantly, enjoy it! EGX is a mad few days, but you’ll have a great time and meet loads of wonderful people! If you’re around make sure to drop by the NFTS Games stand and say hello.