Edinburgh TV Festival

Edinburgh TV Festival

Just got back from the Edinburgh International Television Festival and my head is still spinning. So much happened over 4 days that I can’t possible write it all so there’s going to be some more general impressions from me.

I was lucky enough to get on the Fast Track scheme for the Festival, which meant a group of 45 of us or so had separate lectures for the first couple of days from leading channel controllers, production company executives and producers. They spent an hour each telling us about where they got to where they were, their tips for the future, and concentrated on certain areas of TV. After these we were then free to join the main festival where there was a constant series of lectures and workshops and network drinks drinks drinks. There were a lot of drinks.

We were staying in halls of residence too, so I had four days of waking up in my clothes with a hangover and stumbling into lectures. It was very similar to uni, except this time I actually made the lectures.

I’m sure lots of people got very different things from this experience but for there were two seperate threads through the festival: Not Managing Creativity, and 3D is coming.

Not Managing Creativity

From all the speakers at the festival and all the people I met there were three I particularly admired and striked a chord with me – Andy Harries, Chief Executive of Leftbank Pictures (The Queen, Wallander, The Damned United), Tim Hincks, CEO, Endemol UK, and Jimmy Mulville, Managing Director, Hat Trick Productions (Father Ted, Have I Got New for You).

All these men are incredibly successful and at the top of the game. But what they all had in common is that they were very playful, loved what they were doing, and didn’t seem to like rules very much.

Andy Harries said that he came up for the entire idea for the film The Queen when Helen Mirren walked into a party he was at and everyone looked round at her like she was the queen. He walked up to her immediately (he didn’t know her), told her she looked like The Queen, phoned a director, and put together the film there and then.

Both Tim Hincks and Jimmy Mulville were incredibly scathing of trying to manage creative at all. Tim Hincks talked about Endemol producers being very naughty and making programmes when they were actually told not to (Deal or No Deal) and this rebellious streak was essential to them. Jimmy especially was making a massive and very passionate stand that creative talents should not be managed at all and just be left to get on with it. He seemed to be fed up with ‘creative’ briefs coming from channel controllers, executives, strategists and even bank managers and wanted to keep the art alive. This was very encouraging.

For instance Jimmy Mulville did an impression of a proper creative producer explaining his ‘creative strategy’:
Errmmm, we like, er, think of a programme we like, and we make it.”

And Tim Hincks explained the festival as a collection of 95% of the people talking about why programmes didn’t work over the last year, and that anybody could do that. But the magic 5% are the people who might actually come up with something new, and that comes out of playing not analysing.

They also both pointed out that over the last ten years none of the most successful programmes have come out of the creative briefs of channel controllers. They’ve always come out of an individual or team from left field in a weird and unpredictable way, not when people deliberately tried to give what they though people wanted. No wonder the financial side of TV despairs at managing at creativity and basing millions of pounds on these people – creativity is by its nature unpredictable and unmannagable, and that’s why it’s fun.

Oh, and news just in – I had a chat with a company called Ignite and Hoopla are now going to be providing improvisation and role play based training for them with some industry wide training. If we had such a thing as a share price, that announcement would make it go through the roof.

3D TV

Really unexpected for this one. I always thought 3D TV was going to be a gimmick that would come out and then fade away. But the technology I saw with the BBC Research and Development team made me think this is going to be the standard TV within about 15 years. It’s now very lifelike and actually at some points felt like looking out of a window rather than at a TV. Also they will be available without glasses soon.

All the 3D programmes I’ve seen previously tend to be whizz-bang-look at me-in your face-3D 3D 3D, but the ones I liked best at the workshop were more subtle than this. When you’re able to just show it as lifelike you don’t have to be so in your face with it.

I can really seeing it working at first with nature and geography documentaries. I can also see it working with Theatre as it goes. For many reasons in 2D TV just bunging a camera on a play doesn’t work and you loose ‘something’. But with life like 3D this could change. I could see the National Theatre setting up 3D theatres across the country to broadcast plays or other theatre’s stuff to. Perhaps 3D rooms with theatre style seats, curtains, ice creams and with these life like images theatre could finally work from a distance. A bit of a cross between theatre, cinema and TV.

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