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The Rabbit Soon To Be Released

The Mark Duggan produced and directed film, The Rabbit, for One Day Films, written and executive produced by Erik Knudsen, is due to be released soon. There is a cast and crew preview screening on the 4th October 2015 and shortly after that, you’ll be able to view it here at One Day Films. The Rabbit is a 15 minute film about how a young couple on their way home from visiting one of their parents discover, through a graphic and disturbingly prophetic incident on the road home, that their lives and aspirations have been drifting apart and that the future they thought they might have together is viewed very differently by the two of them. It is an evocative short road movie about the painful dissolution of a relationship.

The Rabbit Poster

In the final Vlog about the making of the film, Erik and Mark reflect on the journey of their collaboration:

The Rabbit is coming soon!



The Rabbit Has Now Finished Shooting

Mark Duggan has now finished shooting The Rabbit, written and Executive Produced by Erik Knudsen. The footage looks great and we’re looking forward to seeing the first rough cut.

The film was shot on locations in the English Midlands, entirely during twilight hours. The effect is evocative of the twilight status of the relationship being portrayed in the film.

Production still from The Rabbit

As the title suggests, a rabbit figures prominently in the story and the animatronics work amazingly well. Visit Mark Duggan’s site for further details on progress. We look forward to premiering the film here at One Day Films.



The Raven On The Jetty Released

The Raven On The Jetty Poster

We are very excited to announce the release of Erik Knudsen’s feature film, The Raven On The Jetty. The film is now available:

One Day Films buy button  The Raven On The Jetty on Google Play The Raven On The Jetty Production Scrapbook

 

Other outlets, including Amazon Prime, are being added soon. The Raven On The Jetty will be available in all English speaking territories. There will also be a limited number of theatrical screenings which will be announced shortly. We have developed a unique hand signed and numbered Limited Edition Production Scrapbook and DVD available shortly. The book is the story of the film, scene by scene, told using bits of Erik Knudsen’s storyboard, notes, production stills and stills from the film. Also included is the complete final screenplay and the DVD of the film.

The Raven On The Jetty first started as a concept and idea back in the spring of 2012. Writer and Director, Erik Knudsen, was running a workshop at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television in Cuba when he first started to take notes of the ideas and imagery emerging. Soon after returning to the UK, he involved his Assistant Director, Mark Duggan, and co-producer and wife, Janet Knudsen, and soon the ball was rolling. The development of the screenplay, casting and location scouting proved the most important elements early on and the production was very fortunate to encounter a range of very helpful people in Cumbria and the Lake District of England. Casting, too, took place in the Lake District where the vast majority of the film was to be set. After a public call for interested people, the team were able to shortlist and audition 19 boys and parents for the key roles. Erik Knudsen was keen to work with non professionals from the very area the film was set and the range of talents available proved considerable. Connor O’Hara stood out and proved to be perfect for the main part. Following the decision to cast Connor, the team were able to cast Connor O’Hara’s father, Rob O’Hara, to play the lead character’s father. Helen Teasdale was cast as his mother, followed by the casting of Anne Fraser and Anne Lees.

Shooting took place during the Easter holidays in 2013. The whole cast and crew lived in a couple of cottages near the primary locations, allowing for a communal feel to the production process and enabling an efficient way of organising the shoot. It meant that the principal photography only took 2 weeks, in part because the production was blessed with uncharacteristically good weather. Most of the shooting took place near Penrith and around Ullswater in the English Lake District.

The postproduction process took place during the remainder of 2013 and during 2014 the film went to a series of international festivals. These included the Keswick Film Festival, where we were very pleased to be able to premiere the film in the very area where it was shot and in which many of the cast lived. The film went on to a range of other festivals including the Legon Film Event, Ghana, Lucern International Film Festival, Switzerland, Wales International Film Festival, Aberdeen International Film Festival and the Madrid International Film Festival, where the film won the Jury Award.

Uniquely, during the making of The Raven On The Jetty, 30 short documentaries were made about the production process, from early development through to the first cast and crew screening. These Video Blogs are all available to view.

The Raven On The Jetty defies categorisation and sits outside any particular national cinema, or any particular genre. The Raven On The Jetty sits on the crest of a wave Erik Knudsen calls ‘cinema of poverty’, a cinema of thought provoking, independent quality films that defy the normal routines of the established film industry in the UK and that aspire to a cinematic aesthetic that seeks independence and simplicity in an age of abundance and complexity. We hope you enjoy the film.



The Rabbit

We’re pleased to have committed to the production of the short film, The Rabbit, Written and Executive Produced by Erik Knudsen and to be Produced and Directed by Mark Duggan. Mark will be the first Director commission by One Day Films to produce a film that has not been Written and Directed by Erik Knudsen and we look forward to an exciting adventure.

The Director of the film The Rabbit, Mark Duggan

Producer and Director, Mark Duggan

The Rabbit is the story of a young couple travelling home from visiting the woman’s parents one moon lit night. They were due to have made an important announcement about a significant event in their lives, but somehow things are not working out as they had planned. This is a a road movie pregnant with the tensions around a challenged relationship.

Mark Duggan’s earlier work often revolves around relationships and longing and The Rabbit is a story that lends itself well to these interests. We therefore look forward to seeing the results and engaging in the development, production and distribution of the film. Mark and his team plan to produce regular Vlogs about the making of the film and progress can be followed at Mark Duggan Films.



Erik Knudsen starts at Bournemouth University

I’m very pleased to be starting today as Professor of Visual and Digital Culture at Bournemouth University’s Media School. I have long had an interest in the activities and developments taking place in the Media School at Bournemouth University and when the opportunity arose to join the team there, I took it. For me, this is one of the leading media schools in the UK.

Still from Bournemouth University web site

Bournemouth University Logo

As Professor of Visual and Digital Culture, I will be joining a lively and ambitious research community at Bournemouth with a view to leading and contributing to the development of practice led research within the media practice areas, contributing to the supervision of research students, contributing to the development of film production programmes and undertaking my own research projects. I am bringing with me 3 PhD student and an AHRC funded research network project entitled: StoryLab International Film Development Research Network. More on that later. Bournemouth University is going to provide me with a fertile context in which to develop a number of exciting projects and I look very much forward to meeting, and engaging with, my new colleagues.

I will remain committed to the North West of England, too, as I will continue to live near Manchester. As my role is very national and international, long distance commuting is going to contribute to an exciting new way of thinking and engaging.



New Short Documentary: In Waiting

You may remember from a previous post that I was in Cuba in December 2014 conducting a Story Lab workshop at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television. During my free time, I used my iPhone to shoot a little documentary with a young man, Alejandro, and his friends, entitled In Waiting (12 minutes).

Alejandro.

Alejandro, the subject of my little iPhone documentary.

Inspired by the questions he raises about the situation he and his friends find themselves in, I was moved to act spontaneously and shoot this film. This is something I do once in a while and I use whatever tool (camera) comes to hand – in this case, an iPhone 6 Plus. The film was shot in one afternoon and one evening. I have made several short films in a similarly spontaneous way, including Vanilla Chip, A Dog’s Farewell To His Master and The Yoruba Tree. There is also a direct connection between this documentary and my photographic essay on Cuba, Cuba In Waiting, which recently exhibited at the Dean Clough Gallery in Halifax, UK.

Despite recent signs of a thawing relationship between the United States and Cuba, many in Cuba feel stuck and despondent about their situation. Since the revolution in 1959, nothing much has changed. Many have left Cuba, and continue to leave, particularly the young, and the country continues to exist in a state of limbo. This short documentary, In Waiting, tells the story of Alejandro, a young educated man in San Antonio de los Baños in Cuba, frustrated by the repressive stasis of the country, concerned for his future and, above all, torn between the idea of leaving Cuba – like all his friends intend to – and staying to change it. Alejandro meets up with his friends one evening and asks himself: how will Cuba change if young people do not stay to change it?

A frame grab from In Waiting by Erik Knudsen

A frame grab from In Waiting

A frame grab from In Waiting by Erik Knudsen

A frame grab from In Waiting

A frame grab from In Waiting by Erik Knudsen

A frame grab from In Waiting

A frame grab from In Waiting by Erik Knudsen

A frame grab from In Waiting

A frame grab from In Waiting by Erik Knudsen

A frame grab from In Waiting

A frame grab from In Waiting by Erik Knudsen

A frame grab from In Waiting

In Waiting is now complete and will be made available soon on this site. At the moment it is being considered for the Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival 2015 and cannot be screened until they have made a decision whether to include it in this year’s festival. Either way, it will be made available soon and it may coincide with the release of The Raven On The Jetty in April 2015.



BBFC Grants The Raven On The Jetty a ’15’ Theatrical Certificate

As part of our preparations for the release of The Raven On The Jetty in April 2014, we have been granted a theatrical age certificate by the British Board of Film Classification.

BBFC Rating of The Raven On The Jetty

BBFC Rating of The Raven On The Jetty

We are surprised by the rating, but it does in a sense re-affirm that context is important. While films that seem more violent and sexually explicit than The Raven On The Jetty may get lower age ratings, the fact that the context of that violence and explicitness may seem less ‘real’ and more ‘graphical’ or ‘fantasy’ means that its influence on younger viewers may have less impact than if the context seems more ‘real’ and more directly relevant to the experience of the viewer. So I am taking this age rating as a kind of badge of honour and one more testament to the effectiveness of the film.



Story Lab Cuba 2014

I’ve just returned from delivering my Story Lab Cuba 2014 workshop at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television in Cuba and am very pleased with how it went. I had a wonderful group of participants, all experienced in film or related fields such as journalism, with an age range from 25 years old to 58 years old. Participants came from Spain, UK, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants on an evening out.

We spent two weeks exploring creativity and story. The first week was predominantly exploring creativity, story and narrative through a series of exercises, discussions and screenings, while the second week was predominantly driven by each individual developing a screenplay supported by individual tutorials. We finished with everyone reading their completed screenplays to class and critiquing them.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Setting.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Setting.

EICTV is based just outside San Antonio de los Baños, which is a 40 minute drive from Havana. The surroundings are beautiful and peaceful and this provided a perfect backdrop and context for creative work.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants

Isabel (my interpreter), Natalia, Ángela and Reinel.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants.

Gato and Brayan.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants.

Fernanda, Michael and Jordi.

I promised participants that at the end of the workshop they would emerge with screenplays for short films that they would be very pleased with. And they were not disappointed. Because of the way I like to develop ideas with people, I know that what emerges is going to be something that, first of all, they are surprised they had in them and, secondly, that will have such a strong connection to them and their creative aspirations, that they will feel very close to the work, proud of it and connected to it. Getting the seed right and understanding approaches to story and narrative makes it possible to have first draft screenplays that are very close to being ready to go into pre-production.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants.

Augustin

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants.

Florencia.

I was amazed at the quality of work these participants came up with. Stories that mattered; stories that came from the heart; stories that powerfully dealt with a range of profound themes. Diverse stories that reflected the character of each individual. Unusually, in every single case, I felt these stories to be very good and deserving of production. In fact, I know that most participants are going away to look at realising these works and I look forward to this happening.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants.

Gato, Eliana and Ángela.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants.

Leandro and Augustin.

It was an immensely enjoyable workshop. Hard work keeping tabs of the work of 12 people in such a concentrated periods of time, but well worth it. The stories emerging from the participants truly inspired me in my own work. In fact, I got so impatient that I decided to try out my new iPhone 6 Plus to make a little on the spur of the moment documentary. Through my good friend, Oriel Rodriguez, I was introduced to a young man, Alejandro, who, like so may other young people, are so frustrated with life in Cuba. Unlike every single one of his friends that I met, he has no plans to leave Cuba. When I asked about how he dealt with these issues, he started telling me about how he hangs out with his friends in a particular square every evening and they talk about their frustrations with Cuba deep into the night. They have no money, no opportunities, no entertainment and no incentives to invest in fighting to change Cuba. The psyche of the youth is so broken, the only option is to find a way to leave. So I decided to make a little documentary about it and spend an evening shooting and doing some interviews. This could actually be the beginnings of a bigger feature film and because of this initial shooting, my mind is abuzz with ideas circulating around a kernel around this theme. More to come on this in due course.

Oriel Rodriguez in San Antonio de los Baños.

Oriel Rodriguez in San Antonio de los Baños.

Alejandro.

Alejandro, the lead subject of my little iPhone documentary.

Some evenings, I had the good fortune of being able to attend Ruth Goldberg’s class on Alfred Hitchcock. She is an inspirational teacher, and like a previous series of classes I attended some years ago about Robert Bresson, I felt truly inspired by re-looking at one of the all time masters, Alfred Hitchcock. Not only the films, but the discussions that Ruth expertly guided were very interesting and enlightening.

Ruth Goldberg.

Ruth Goldberg.

I believe that I will be doing another Story Lab workshop in Cuba in 2015 and look very much forward to that.

Workshop participants:

Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants

Jordi

Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants

Leandro

Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants

Florencia

Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants

Gato

Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants

Augustin

Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants

Natalia

Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants

Ángela

Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants

Reinel

Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants

Michael

Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants

Brayan

Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants

Eliana

Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants

Fernanda



Cuba In Waiting Solo Show In Autumn Programme At Dean Clough Galleries In Halifax, UK

 

Dean Clough Galleries, Halifax
AUTUMN EXHIBITIONS
Private View: Saturday, 18th October 2014 from 12 noon to 3.00pm
 
(Main shows continue until Jan 3rd 2015)
 
Dean Clough Autumn Show Invitation
 
Photography Gallery
Erik Knudsen: Cuba in Waiting
October 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015
 
Film maker, photographer and University of Salford professor, Erik Knudsen was invited to see Cuba ‘before Fidel Castro died’. That was in 1998 and Castro (albeit ghosted by his brother Raul) is still, very much, alive. Knudsen’s thoughtfully constructed, colour-bleached photographs have been amassed over the last four years and depict a string of poised yet static incidents in bars, paddocks and arenas across Havana Province. While acknowledging the genuine reverence that Castro commands, Knudsen also lays bare the poverty and repression that hold a renownedly educated and energetic people in check. “Everyone”he says, “is waiting for change”.
 
 
Crossley Gallery
Jo Brown: Open Pathways
October 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015
The last element to fall into place in this substantial show of abstract paintings and drawings was the title. Most conceptual artists know exactly where they’ll end up before they open their studio door; but when Jo Brown (b. 1945 and a ‘Dean Clough artist’ for some two decades) starts a painting, she doesn’t know what it will be. “This ‘not knowing’ is very important to me,” she says “because of the improvisatory, intuitive way in which I work, which depends on being sensitive to what is happening as a painting unfolds. The natural world is always there somewhere in the background as I explore the feeling of landscape through colour. So, my use of colour is much more about feelings than figuration”. The fact that Jo is widely collected (by municipal galleries as much as private collectors) and pays homage to Turner, Matisse, Heron, John Hoyland, Gary Wragg and Paul Tonkin offers a reassuring set of imprimaturs to those made nervous by abstract work. However, all they really need to do is access the paintings in the same disembarrassed spirit that Jo creates them. Here is pleasure, excitement and joy. So it was heartless of us to laugh when she dialled the title through. It reminded us of the remark by ‘Yogi’ Berra the baseball player – ‘When you come to a fork in the road, take it’. “Oh I like that,” said Jo. “Can we get it into the invitation?” Almost certainly not, we responded.
 
 
Upstairs Galleries
Chris Cullen: The Ingenious Gentleman
October 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015
Todmorden-based artist Chris Cullen (b. Chorley 1948) has been carrying around Cervante’s satire on chivalric conventions  – ‘El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha’ – since 1982. He’d even convinced himself that he’d read it… until in 2010 someone presented him with the full text (the remarkable 2nd volume of which was printed exactly 400 years ago). Since then Chris has been compulsively generating scenes from the book in both paint and ceramics. Given that even Picasso and Dali couldn’t dislodge the hegemony of Gustave Doré’s 19th C. illustrations, you might wonder what Chris was hoping to achieve. He’s the first to admit that his oil paintings owe everything to Doré’s imagery and reveals that he found a forgotten copy of Dali’sQuixote in his teenage sketchbooks. And while it is evident that (unlike the many sentimental, theatrical adaptations) Chris has grasped Cervante’s uncannily post-modern epistomology; there is no intrusive literary exegesis in this extensive show. “I just had the book in my head. I wanted to elaborate it, to see it in full colour, to get the full tilt of Quixote, to get that roundness… what I really wanted was a pop-up book!”. It’s an unapologetic celebration, then; and an exhibition as much BY an ‘ingenioso hidalgo’ as it is ABOUT one.
 
 
Illustration Gallery
David Roberts: Tales of Terror
October 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015
 
David Roberts (b. Liverpool, 1970) studied fashion design at Manchester Metropolitan University and recalls working (hyphen-etically) as a hat-maker, shelf-stacker, egg-fryer, hair-washer, film-extra and coffee-maker before illustrating his first book (‘Frankie Stein’s Robot’ by Roy Apps) in 1998. Equally at home with colour as he is with black-and-white, David has gone on to visualise the scribblings of many leading children’s authors. Collaborators include previous children’s laureates, Jaqueline Wilson and Julia Donaldson, among many others. Roberts cites influences from Heath Robinson, Edward Gorey and Gustave Doré. In this beautifully mounted show (curated by Chris Mould) he displays an impressive aptitude for the monochrome image as he brings Chris Priestley’s chilling ‘Tales of Terror’ to life with a mesmerising array of minutely detailed drawings.
 
 
Seminar Gallery
Stephen Weir: And While We Play Tennis
October 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015
 
Stephen Weir (b. Ripon 1954) has spent a lot of time in the South of France where he paints abstracts under the Languedoc sun. This exhibition, however, centres on his mixed-media, boxed collages. “My collages are about living in a frenzied, media-dominated 21st Century in the UK where we are constantly bombarded by news through virulent electronic media,” he says.“…This is the opposite of life in Southern France”. Weir (who was tutored by Terry Frost at Reading in the Seventies) admits to being drawn to 24hr news coverage but “watches in bewilderment the absurd events that are revealed“. Instead of generating a sense of global inclusion, he argues, the ‘media blare’ creates a sense of isolation and alienation. “These works are secret documents exhibited for you, the viewer, to decode and unravel”.
 
 
Link Gallery
Boffinworld
October 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015
 
From the dawn of the steam-powered engine to the potentially vivid sunset of the nuclear power station, Britain is justly proud of its scientific achievements. Be it the transistor or the World Wide Web, the nation’s historic contribution to the global supermarket of ideas stands as proudly as any loss-leader should. Today though, as the chill wind of austerity threatens to numb the digits that gave the world its first programmable computer, the cry goes up: “Can we yet use this wind to fan the embers of our inspiration and restore the white heat of technology?”
And for that we need Boffinworld. 
Experimental yet economical, Boffinworld is a heady blend of research and recreation. In a holiday camp atmosphere Britons can relax among the rocketry and LEARN from LEISURE. From the Manhattan project to the Bikini Atoll, extraordinary endeavours have always needed luxurious locations and so it is that ‘from the Big Bang to the tequila slammer’ Boffinworld aims to put the fun back into physics. Realised here is the first Boffinworld project; a response to the L.G.M. question. Its S.E.T.I. project (Send Extraterrestrials Tea Immediately) uses cold war technology to deliver a hot beverage. The ‘Brown Streak’ projectile will deliver a payload of warm, soothing tea to our neighbours in this universe or beyond.
 
 
PLUS…
 
Missing Link Gallery
Ian C. Taylor: Incoming
Ongoing
 
Now and for the foreseeable furore, we’re pleased to announce that the Bradford-based artist Ian C. Taylor (b. Derby 1945) has volunteered to stud the cubic terminus of the Link Gallery with his unique brand of found and occasionally profound art. Ian began working at Bradford School of Art in 1969, was once “a freelance sculptor for TV”, claims inspiration from both Gaudier-Brzeska and Fred Astaire and is collected by the likes of Sir Terrance Conran, Andy Goldsworthy, Stephen Frears and Albert Hunt.  A geyser-ish celebration of the imagination’s fecundity.
 
 
Mur d’entrée
People, Places and Things (Monterblanc and Sowerby Bridge)
October 18th 2014 to January 3rd 2015
A mutual interest in ‘The Stereophonics’ led to a long-lasting friendship between Sowerby Bridge resident, Irene Murphy, and Monterblanc resident, Gaëlle Favennec. Gaëlle recently became deputy mayor of the Brittany town – which precipitated an exchange of digital photographs between the two locales. “We have a new media library,” Gaëlle writes in brave English. “So I thought of my friend, Irene Murphy who paint, and I asked her if she will be interested to exhibit here. She answered me ‘why not’ and all started at this time. She presented me this project of pictures of Sowerby Bridge and Monterblanc and I found it was a really good idea!”. The project is also a welcome chance to celebrate Sowerby Bridge in Halifax; and to reflect on the cultural understanding displayed by Gaëlle who – fortunately – realised that “why not?” is a northern indication of enthusiasm.
 
 
FAQ’s about Dean Clough Gallery Private Views…
 
1.   How do I get to Dean Clough?
See www.deanclough.com for a downloadable pdf map or ring reception on 01422 250250
 
2.   Can I bring someone else to the Private View?
Yes. Everyone is welcome. The Private Views are a major social event in the regional arts calendar which are typically attended by over 200 people – including children!
 
3.   Are the exhibitions open during weekdays?
Yes. The Dean Clough Galleries are open seven days a week from 9.00am to 5.00pm. Entry is free.
 
4.   Do I have to pay for parking?
You do not have to pay for parking on weekends (so the Private View is ‘free’) but you do have to pay for parking on weekdays.
 
5.   Why do FAQ’s never answer the question I really want to know?
Ha! You’re very welcome to email Vic Allen on victorallen@btconnect.com if you have a specific problem.
 
 
Dean Clough Galleries, Halifax HX3 5AX • Tel: 01422 250250 • www.deanclough.com
 


Content Malaysia Conference 2014 in Kuala Lumpur

It was great to be able to contribute to the Content Malaysia Conference 2014 held in Kuala Lumpur last week. I was invited by acting Director General of FINAS (the Malaysian Film Development Corporation), Dr Megat Al-Imran Yasin, who asked me to give two talks: one on the relationship between higher education research and the film industry, with specific reference to my experience in the UK; and the other on my experience of leading a media school – the then School of Media, Music and Performance – into the MediaCityUK development at Salford Quays in Manchester, UK. The latter was in direct relationship to ambitious plans by the Malaysian film and television industries to develop a Media City in Kuala Lumpur by 2020.

Erik Knudsen speaking at Content Malaysia 2014 conference

Erik Knudsen speaking at Content Malaysia 2014 conference. Sharing the panel with Adam Ham, Regis Brown and Dato’ Mahyidin Mustakim. What’s this – no suit?

I hadn’t quite realised the scale and importance of the Content Malaysia conference until I arrived. The conference was taking place in one of the poshest hotels in Kuala Lumpur, The Mandarin Oriental, right next to the famous twin Petronas towers, and while this was a business to business event, attended by mainly people from the film and television industries, it was part of a larger public KL Converge event taking place at The KL Convention Centre next door. My first talk took place just before the arrival of the Minister of Communications and Multimedia, who was to formally give his blessing to proceedings. As a consequence, there must have been about 250-300 people there. My second talk, the following morning, was attended by about 150-200 people.

Erik Knudsen with the singer, Zainalbidin, the Minister of Communication and Multimedia, the Chair of FINAS, Datuk Haji MD and the Director General of FINAS, Dr Megat Al-Imran Yasin at a reception.

Erik Knudsen with the singer, Zainalbidin, the Minister of Communication and Multimedia, the Chair of FINAS, Datuk Haji MD and the Director General of FINAS, Dr Megat Al-Imran Yasin at a reception.

The fantastic attendance by both important political people and media entrepreneurs, filmmakers, producers, distributors etc, was an indication of the tremendous efforts Malaysia is making to have an international presence in film and television and to be the leading producer and hub for media content in the South East Asia region. They are pumping millions into this effort, including through incentive schemes to attract productions to Malaysia, the building of the Pinewood branded film studios at Iskandar, next to Singapore, and through their extensive efforts to sell media content at all the leading film markets across the world. They realise, rightly, that content is at the heart of every media industry, hence the title of the conference. (There was also a storytelling masterclass running alongside the conference.)

While there, I learned a lot about what is happening in Malaysia and South East Asia in general and met some very ambitious people. Of course I already know Dr Megat Yasin, the Director General of FINAS, but while there I had the privilege of making friends with Hassan Muthalib, the father of Malaysian animation films and the leading scholar on Malaysian cinema, and Sheen Singh, the CEO of Passion Productions, the leading service company for international advertising companies shooting in Malaysia. Both have a keen interest in working with new and emerging talent so we had many conversations about that, life and art. It was also great to be able to meet up with my PhD graduate, Nico Meissner, who runs the Cinematic Arts programme at Multimedia University. I suspect that this programme is going to become an important player in the ambitions of Malaysian cinema and look forward to following, and perhaps participating in, these developments.

Erik Knudsen answering a question from the audience at Content Malaysia conference

Erik Knudsen answering a question from the audience.

My talks had two simple themes. First, I wanted to stress that research and development is a critical aspect of any successful industry and that a mature relationship between industry and higher education could provide an effective context in which new ideas and talent development are explored and nurtured. This is particularly relevant given the financial challenges that many broadcasters and film companies find themselves facing. Gone are the days when Higher Education was simply thought of as a training provider of fodder for media employment. Smart companies see universities are partners through whom they can explore and develop new talent. No one really knows what is going to happen next or what they even like – until they see it. Higher Education is about encouraging students to take risks, to develop creatively, to build critical rigour into their thinking and to develop their courage. The industry does not want us to deliver hacks, but graduates who are able to adapt to and shape the future. This is why our primary business is not training, but education. On the other hand, real engagement with industry provides students with an opportunity to more fully understand the challenges and opportunities open to their creative impulses and aspirations.

On the research side, many of us in the practice led academic world continue to be engaged with filmmaking or media practice, exploring and reflecting critically on what we are doing and as a consequence hopefully making a contribution to the industries and crafts we work in. Our engagement with, and guidance of, for example, our PhD students, who are themselves often from, and will be returning to, the industry also offers opportunities for the development of cutting edge new ideas and the creative practice of individuals.

Erik Knudsen with Hassan Muthalib and his students at Content Malaysia conference

Erik Knudsen with Hassan Muthalib and his students

Training is almost a separate issue, though not quite. A university will never be able to deliver a fully trained end product. This is not in the interests of a university and in any case, every company and producer needs different things and while organisations like Skillset in the UK try to standardise training across the sector, this has in my opinion not been a success. There are strong training outcomes as a consequence of a student’s education and these can form an excellent basis from which industry can build further training in situ. Invariably, when industry thinks of universities as training institutions, they are disappointed.

Actually, where most training occurs is in the independent and fringe sectors of the film and television industries. Hollywood, for example, relies on a deep hinterland of film production activity outside of the majors ranging from fairly large scale independent work to the fringe projects of small indies. This is where the talent gets trained, where they develop their unique visions and where Hollywood goes to find such new talent and new ideas. The majors cannot in themselves take risks, develop innovations or develop new talent. So in any strategy about creating a sustainable film industry, I would look strongly at how the independent sector can be encouraged and nurtured without stifling it with policy driven initiatives.

Erik Knudsen speaks to the media at Content Malaysia conference

Erik Knudsen speaks to the media

All in all, the opportunities for fruitful and mature interaction between higher education and the industry will be best fulfilled if this relationship is built around notions of research and development. Malaysia has an opportunity to skip a stage in the development of this relationship and encourage a mature relationship between its still developing media and film provision in its universities and its film and television industries.

As for the Media City developments the Malaysians are considering, my second theme, I wanted to focus on the idea that ultimately what makes a successful film industry is not buildings and technology, but people, their ideas and their stories. Technology has changed to such an extent that big buildings are no longer necessary to house most production activity, with the exception of high end productions. In fact these same high end productions are vying for the attention of especially young people in competition with low end content produced by ‘amateurs’ and distributed on such platforms as YouTube. What happened to book publishing in Europe with the advent of the Gutenberg Press in the 16th century is about to happen to film as a consequence of the digital revolution. How many of the 250,000 books published each year in the UK will make their authors money? Was money the main motivation for the writing of the vast majority of these books? Yet all these books contribute to the sustaining of a publishing industry that has enriched our lives.

When thinking of building a Media City it is therefore worth pondering this brave new world and understanding the fundamentals of what makes creative people tick. When you look at successful creative clusters around the world, they were originally built on informal clusters of small and medium sized companies in the proximity of a decentralised university. This latter point is important, as it relates to my earlier comments about the creative interaction between industry and universities. A decentralised university allows for creative and informal interactions with small and medium sized enterprises and practitioners who are ultimately going to drive innovation. The big players can then come in on this bedrock of innovation and enterprise. Where the big enterprises try and artificially create a hub of innovation, there is a high potential for long term failure. One could end up with fantastic and expensive buildings with wonderful facilities, but all the creative talent is hanging out in a poorer part of town because that’s where all the innovators hang out.

Media interest in Erik Knudsen talk at Content Malaysia conference

Media interest in Erik Knudsen talk

In the development of a Media City, I therefore think it important to create a very open and informal environment, cheap and flexible and, above all, designed for people to hang out. Inhabitants must be able to shape their own spaces and have flexible arrangements around the available technologies. Because of the nature of our businesses, it is always going to be dominated by a sea of small and medium sized enterprises, so I think it worth considering designing facilities and the relevant costings with this in mind.

The other thing to bear in mind is cultural and geographical diversity, particularly relevant I feel in a country like Malaysia. Why have just one big Media City? In what other ways can one develop media activity and media businesses across the country? The idea of having a concentration of an industry in one city is perhaps based on old business models and technologies and is perhaps one that should be questioned.

I look forward to having further discussions with people in Malaysia about these themes. Unlike in the UK where the industries and their infrastructure are pretty fixed, and very hard to change in any way, the Malaysians still have malleable infrastructures and institutions, which I think makes it a very interesting place to be if you’re a filmmaker or a film entrepreneur.