How the location production event could unite the disparate tribes of production.
A good producer is someone who can organise everything and everyone involved in making a film to within an inch of its life. And good organisation takes knowledge, particularly when you’re shooting somewhere unfamiliar.
Jean-Frédéric Garcia has been Managing Director of The Location Guide for over ten years now. For almost 20 years the publication has been an indispensable resource for anyone planning on shooting just about anywhere, providing all the essential pre-production resources needed for filming on location around the world.
Now they’ve started something new – an event with the same goals. On 14th and 15th December 2015, the London’s Business Design Centre will be host to FOCUS.
According to their website, FOCUS “is London’s first international trade show, summit and networking event for film, television and commercials”. That sounds ambitious, so we asked Jean-Frédéric what the big idea is.
The Beak Street Bugle: Where did the idea for a location production event in London come from?
Jean-Frédéric Garcia: Over the years we’ve been going to the Location Trade Show in Los Angeles, organised by the AFCI, and almost every year people were asking us ‘why don’t you do one in London?’ With our contacts in location management and production across screen industries, we’re the natural link that can bring all the right people together.
We thought it was something interesting and were approached by several big event companies to do it in London, but wasn’t always the right time. I know that several other organisations and publications in the UK were thinking about doing an international production and location event in London. But because it’s a big venture and there’s always the risk of doing something that people are not going to attend. So nobody made it happen.
We’ve been toying around with the idea for a while but The Location Guide is a publishing company and we don’t have the expertise to do a big event, because it involves such a lot of organisation. If we were to do something we’d want to do it properly. We didn’t want to do five tables in a hotel reception.
Early last year we were introduced to LiveBuzz, a company that specialises in helping media owners plan their first event. We had lots of conversations and meetings. They liked the idea, the industry and people’s reaction to The Location Guide so much that they said ‘we want more than to help you; we want to do it with you.’ So that’s what happened. They believe in the project as much as we do and so FOCUS is a joint venture between LiveBuzz and The Location Guide.
BSB: Why do you think now is the right time for this kind of event?
JFG: London is the big production hub of Europe but nobody has ever done anything here that actually talks to all screen industries. Film, TV, the internet, commercials; everywhere in the world they used to be extremely separated. They used to have that silo mentality – you shoot one or another. However, when it comes to directors I can’t remember having met one who does commercials who doesn’t want to do a feature film.
Because of the explosion of content with the internet the whole industry is creating so much more now. It’s unbelievable how much is being made. And with that the old lines between film, TV and commercials are getting blurred. I’m not saying there’s no difference anymore, but the borders are not as clean cut as they used to be. And The Location Guide is perfectly placed to talk about that or to galvanise all of those people together because that’s what we’ve been doing since we became independent.
We always wanted to talk to all the screen industries because when it comes to film and location it doesn’t really matter whether you bring to the location a documentary, a feature film, a commercial, a TV series. It’s work that arrives in a certain place and you need to make sure crews work, eat, sleep and play.
It wasn’t always easy to make sure that everybody understood that we wanted to do something for all the screen industries, but we really wanted to transcend all of that because the audience will not care what format you are labelling your content as. If it is cool they will watch it. If it lasts two hours they will watch it. If they want to binge watch a TV series then they’re going to binge watch it. It’s not about airtime anymore because they don’t care about that. They just want to access whatever is good wherever they want whenever they want.
BSB: What are the benefits of bringing these industries together?
JFG: The aim has never really changed. We really wanted to use the platform of London to create an international event and to make sure that producers, production managers, location managers, executive producers etc. could all meet under one roof and benefit from the other industries.
Feature film people work so much with incentives, which is something that is just about to start in the commercial industry, but is very interesting to see how it worked for them and how now hardly any movie goes somewhere to shoot if there isn’t an incentive. Incentives have obviously spread to TV with all the high-end TV dramas. High-end TV dramas need money and sometimes they turn into very neat (or sometimes not so neat) branded content, which is more like advertising. Our objective was to make sure that all of the people would be able to talk together. And benefit from each other.
It’s also good for the London production industry to see what is out there. Many producers have the one production service company that they use in South Africa a lot because it’s great to shoot in South Africa. There’s no way around it, South Africa and Spain are massive countries to do service, but we wanted to show them that maybe they could consider other places and providers who are really keen on making the best job they possibly can for London or Europe.
BSB: What have been the main challenges?
JFG: We never went into this thinking it’s going to be easy. Obviously this is a commercial venture, and the two biggest challenges were to make this proposal viable for all parties concerned and to attract the right audience for the exhibitors.
A show without visitors is not a show. But I believe that we are on the right track to provide the audience. The figures look good so far. But have we overcome the challenge? I will only be able to tell you that afterwards.
It also looks like the producers are willing to travel for FOCUS too. 57 per cent of visitors registered come from the UK, 24 per cent from Europe and 19 per cent from the rest of the world. We always thought that the bulk would come from the UK, but that’s quite a good mix.
The conference [FOCUS Summit] is a massive beast. We’ve got really cool names to talk. It’s going to be extremely interesting. I can’t stand boring speakers at conferences. I prefer to go home and sleep. One of the things we decided early on is we will need to have speakers who are really engaging because that’s so important. It’s one day. It’s going to be full on but people really have to be engaged. That’s why it took us a bit longer to put the summit together because the speakers really need to be of a certain calibre within the industry.
BSB: How have your aims changed as you’ve put the event together?
JFG: I don’t think our objectives from the moment we started to where we are now have changed. I think it’s still the same – to create an alternative to the more corporate events that already exist in London.
We tried to remove as many barriers to entry as possible. It’s free. So whether you come for an hour or the day you’re not going to pay for anything. The second thing is we tried to schedule it in the least busy period of the year. In the second week of December the industry starts to relax a little. People are going out and catching up for Christmas drinks. We wanted to make sure people would not be abroad shooting a movie or something, so a fair amount of the industry would get to the show. We’re going to have a big bar lounge at the show to make sure that people will be able to catch up with their friends.
It’s in central London – N1 – not some out-of-the-way exhibition centre. We’re going to have a drinks reception on the opening night. On the second night we’re throwing a party with the APA, so we’ve tried to make it as networking-focused as possible. People will have a chance to meet and greet, renew contacts or make new ones.
Register now to visit FOCUS.