A Birmingham production company has launched its first film with the use of some innovative new marketing and distribution methods.
European Drama Network, specialising in making modern movies from classic plays, has released its film, The Mandrake Root, for internet-only distribution.
The film, a bawdy comedy based on the work of Niccolò Machiavelli, will also be marketed by offering mobile phone users free clips transferred with the use of bluetooth technology.
Managing director and producer Simon Woods said: “The risk averse nature of TV drama commissioning is doing for creativity what Macbeth does for sleep and when combined with the dominance of Hollywood blockbusters in cinema – it is squeezing out anything that is seen as culturally difficult.
“The Mandrake Root is just silly and very funny. We think it appeals to a broad global audience and Bluetooth marketing combined with internet distribution allows us to take the risk of judging audiences to be brighter and more courageous than TV broadcasters and film distributors imagine.”
Although shot in Sardinia, the high-definition film has been almost entirely produced in Birmingham.
Four out of seven of the film’s lead actors were from the city, post production work was carried out by The Audio Suite and HD Heaven in Digbeth and Aquila TV in Broad Street.
The soundtrack was recorded at the Birmingham Conservatorie, the artwork was created by Gas Street-based Two-Thirds Design and photography was by Jennifer Arundel from Redditch.
Mr Woods said: “I am very pleased that the film has that Birmingham link I really didn’t want to go to London. I am a great believer made from Birmingham rather than in Birmingham.
“Getting films shot in Birmingham is not the issue, in my opinion. “Whether they are shot in Sardinia or anywhere else if it’s made in Birmingham then the benefit to the economy is here, this is where the infrastructure will continue to develop. There is a myth that drama production has to happen outside of the Midlands, but it’s not true. The skills and the willing are here.”
Mr Woods, who prior to setting up his company was chief executive of the Birmingham School of Acting, received completion funding from screen-based support agency Screen West Midlands to help pay for the post production work.
He said: “I funded the shooting of the film privately with help from Orbis Corporate Finance, which is also a Birmingham firm.
“The support from SWM represented approximately 20 per cent of our total budget of £200,000.”
To coincide with the premier of The Mandrake Root at Birmingham’s Cineworld, European Drama Network teamed up with the Italian/Sardinian Filini restaurant at the Radisson SAS hotel. Diners can download clips, supplied by SuiteX from The Audio Suite, to their mobile phones for free.
The film is also being distributed online and is available to download, stream or as a DVD from the IPTV site www.europeandrama.net which also provides free TV programming and video blog from the making of the movie as well as downloads of the music, artwork and script.
Mr Woods said: “Cinema is difficult place to get your film screened, unless you have big stars or big money. So the idea that the internet and downloading of films opens up a global market outside of traditional distribution models is very exciting.
“We don’t want to compete on the same terms of Hollywood. Hollywood uses a model of “windows”, releasing films to cinema, then DVD across separate markets, then TV – with different parties having different rights at each stage. “We’re breaking down these windows. We own the copyright on the film and everyone is very clear about how they benefit from the movie.”
The film will also be free of “digital rights management” software, which means that people can download the film from whatever country they are in, will be able to own it indefinitely and can play it as many times as they wish.
Mr Woods said: ““This makes us very us very different from other online providers who are trying to replicate existing film market, but online. They have to realise it’s new world.
“If people want to steal will steal, but most people honest and will pay if we offer the film at reasonable price.”
The film we also be available to see for free online, but only on a small screen.
It will be launched in Europe on August 7 and will be translated into Italian, French and Spanish.