The business of film
The business of film

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The business of film

2.2 Why development is so important and so hard

Because development is such a risky process, it is not something that all players in the film value chain are able to do – particularly those that are commercial players.

Here’s Alex Hamilton, who you met earlier, telling us why it’s hard for his company to justify the investment of time and money into the development process, despite the fact that he’s running one of the most successful distributors in the UK.

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Transcript: Video 3 Alex Hamilton talks about investment into the development process

ALEX HAMILTON
Traditionally what we have been, what we are, what is our day to day business is to acquire rights to films that we know are going to happen. That's very important. It's a distribution-driven decision. We know that we're going to have a film in '18 months that we can distribute and exploit. With development, that's a little further off. There's no guarantee that any idea, any script, in and of itself is actually going to get to be a final feature film. It's in and of itself, a risky business because there's no obvious product at the end of it. That's why there's always this difficulty around development, I think.
 If you're a company like us that have your bottom lines that you have to hit each year, you can't live manana manana. You can't just wait for the great film to come along. You've actually got to invest in films that you know are going to happen. You can almost create the analogy of the gold prospector, the person who just has to sort of sift and sift and sift and then might hit Eureka moment at some point with an idea how that can be shaped. But the development process for some films is years, so that doesn't fit easily with the way that companies are run. The company will have an annual budget.
 In our case we're a public company, so every quarter we have to be telling the market what are revenues are, what our profit levels are. There's necessarily a slightly- if I'm on a schizophrenic relationship with development, because it's like, when's that going to be ready, then? When's that going to be a film? We though, started to get more involved now because we realise that any really good content company is only going to be as good as its content. Quite often, just giving yourself more sources of content is a good thing to do. Giving yourself more chances, and quite often that's about getting involved very early.
 That's the trade off because the best ideas tend to get snapped up pretty quickly, and then they're owned by somebody else. You'll hear in the US how many projects are just snapped up because they seem a great idea, and every single effort, every single corpuscle of a studio body is based upon getting big movies out the door. If they think they're going to miss something, they're terrified of it. Therefore, development carries a value of its own, just to get the idea. But it's such a risk because a film could just sit there, a script, for years in development and just be reoptioned and reoptioned and never actually go anywhere. It's hard, development. No doubt about it.
End transcript: Video 3 Alex Hamilton talks about investment into the development process
Video 3 Alex Hamilton talks about investment into the development process
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As you have seen, the source of the film itself is a key factor. For the major studios the ‘star’ system is crucial as well as the development of major franchises that spawn one blockbuster after another. However, in the world of independent feature films, it's much harder to predict outcomes.

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