A handful of companies are responsible for the majority of the UK’s films each year and each has its own approach to shepherding stories to the screen.
The US has its studio system – a handful of companies that dominate the market internationally. Film-making in the UK is overseen by a mix of production companies. The larger the company, the greater their ‘slate’ of films. Each is likely to have a multitude of productions in development at any time and use all at their disposal to push projects through to production.
Companies may be run by the creative forces behind the films, such as Directors and Producers, or business-oriented individuals. In either case, production companies consist of executives overseeing their department and their assistants. Smaller organisations may consist of only 1 or 2 senior people.
Larger organisations tend to separate their departments, generally into: development; production; and business & legal teams. Those working in development will source and work on potential stories for the company. Production staff usually assist in coordinating shooting films and ensuring the risk to the production company is minimised by tracking films’ budgets and using their experience to make sure the film-makers have realistic targets and ambitions.
The services of the business & legal department are essential throughout the entire film-making process to guarantee the legality of proceedings (particularly with regards to rights) and financially sound decisions.
Some films are made by several companies working together. Different production companies can bring different things to the table and often a smaller company will find the financial support for a film from a larger organisation or funding body. International co-productions can come about due to their ability to exploit tax incentives and funding opportunities unique to certain territories.
As production companies chart projects throughout their lifespan, the work can be varied but is generally office-bound. Internships and Office Running provide an insight into the process. Those aiming to work within film law will need legal training, while entrepreneurial experience, coupled with an understanding of film-making, will help those looking towards the business department.