Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Film Agency Wales Signals New Cooperation with Welsh Film Scholars and Industry Experts

Pictured above Professor Elan Closs Stephens CBE, photo courtesy S4C.

The appointment to the Board of Film Agency Wales of Professor Elan Closs Stephens signals a new willingness by the Welsh film agency to recognize the key role played by Welsh film scholars in small nations, including Wales.

Small nations are historically deprived of full participation in the international audiovisual industry, for various reasons. Those who seek to participate, must overcome historic obstacles, and must transcend prejudices, blocking their inclusion in the global marketplace.

One way for small nations to overcome their disproportionate disadvantage to larger, better funded nations, is to 'leverage' the talents and energies of their scholars. Scholars who wear 'two hats' of educator and film critic, for example, maximise limited resources for small nations.

Film scholars provide a low-cost 'bridge' between the study of film and the film industry, through their knowledge and business contacts. Many small nations overlook this valuable resource, and neglect or ignore the potential of utilizing the talents of these scholars.

For example, film scholars valuate films as they study them, similar to the valuation of films that occurs by newspaper film critics and judges at international film festivals. These critical valuations contribute to the 'marketing copy' and 'promotion verbage' which can be used to promote and advertise films. Historically, Wales has neglected this valuable resource.

Film scholars also interview and regularly are in close contact with industry 'players' and celebrities, and can facilitate the funding of new films, and the employment of film school students.

Canada, Ireland, and Scotland have benefitted from the contributions of film scholars, i.e., Canada's scholars have been pivotal in elevating the worldwide visibility of the Toronto International Film Festival; Ireland's film scholars have created research which may have helped to create key partenrships with Irish-American Disapora film producers, who in turn are funding new films in Ireland.

According to Film Agency Wales's press reports:

"Elan Closs Stephens CBE has joined the Board of the Film Agency for Wales and used the first meeting of the new Film Education Forum, hosted by the Film Agency, to encourage the various factions of the education sector to work together to realise the benefits that film education can bring to all aspects of society."

In every other industry, scholars are tapped for knowledge and innovation, but in the fledgling film industries of many small nations, film scholars are mostly an after-thought. We believe Stephens will have a unifying effect for the nurturing of a film culture in Wales.

This is one very bright development, in a contested and politicized history of film agency management and film policy in Wales. The fact that Peter Edwards and his team are even establishing this committee is an indicator that someone in Wales is actually thinking.

The question is, will Stephens's committee consider the successes of other small nations, or will Wales once again try to 're-invent the wheel'? We ask this, because, it's one thing to establish a committee which 'in theory' listens to scholars; it's another thing to actually entertain and implement policy based upon a diversity of opinion, both domestically-trained and external.

Furthermore, previous incarnations of film agencies in Wales have failed to consider the political advantage of 'bringing on board' the expertise and goodwill of this small nation's critical minds (especially a linguistically balanced group of consultants), and this has been to their detriment, if not their eventual demise.

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© 2007 Mark Leslie Woods

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