Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Starsuckers US release, update!

So our US distributor Revolver has been working their magic, and Amazon have agreed to release the film on Amazon Instant Video, which is very exciting. A great deal of the film is set in the USA - the central character, Ri-Yann is from Las Vegas - so it's fantastic for it to finally be getting a US release! more info on this as it comes up... also rumours that iTunes will be going large on the film as well. Starsuckers page on Revolver Site

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Starsuckers gets US release!!!

Thanks to the lovely people at Revolver US, Starsuckers will be released on DVD and iTunes on the 25th September. To order your copy and find out more go to the Revolver site... join the US Starsuckers Facebook Group here

Friday, 18 November 2011

Access to Justice

We recently made a film for the Guardian about the victims of press smears.

This is the letter that I've written to Lord McNally ( the minister responsible for passing the law.

Dear Lord McNally

I’m not anyone remotely important so not expecting a response to this mail. I’m not a celebrity, politician, pollster or lobbyist so I’m probably the last person you’ll want to listen to. I’m just an ordinary person who cares about what happens to other ordinary people.

Under intense lobbying from the media, Parliament is about to severely restrict CFA/No Win No Fee arrangements. This self serving campaign was hatched by large media corporations, who want to avoid being troubled by people on normal incomes suing them when they’ve been libeled. People like Chris Jefferies, who was smeared by a dozen newspapers who decided that he was guilty of the murder of Jo Yaetes, despite the fact that he was completely innocent. Jefferies quickly realised that the PCC was simply a lobbying group for the press, masquerading as a regulator. The only way he could possibly restore his reputation was through the courts, and the only means he could afford the crippling legal costs was with a No Win No Fee agreement. Jefferies won, but were he unfortunate to go through the same experience after your law restricts CFAs, no lawyer would take him on, and his life would be demolished.

His story and others are in a film I’ve just made for the Guardian, so if you have 10 minutes to listen to the public, they make a compelling case.

I know none of them runs a large media corporation, so they obviously aren’t nearly as important as Paul Dacre or James Murdoch who can, by their own accounts, tilt elections. They are just the poor unfortunate people who vote and pay taxes, so don’t trouble the Westminster village very much. Though I would point out that what happened to them could happen to any one of your friends, maybe a member of your family – possibly even to you. If that tabloid cyclone strikes close to home in a years time, and CFAs are a distant memory, you won’t have anywhere to turn. And maybe then it might seem like a good idea to have remembered that Justice is a right, not a luxury.

It’s up to you

Chris Atkins

Monday, 1 August 2011

Genius complaint letter

We've had a few angry letters in response to this film, mainly from lawyers. But this one takes home the gold - and he's absolutely right!


I've just finished watching the excellent Starsuckers' documentary on More4. For me the programme merely deepens long held misgivings with regard to Band Aid, Live8 and its sundry imitations, while reaction from those on the wrong end of your investigation, published on the website, increased these reservations still further if anything.

But although congratulatiuons are deserved I must ask about one rather annoying feature on the graphics, and which smacks of compliance with EU diktat more than anything. This places Edinburgh in Scotland but puts London (and Birmingham and every other English city judging by the map used towards the end of the programme) somewhere called 'ukay'.

Since what I saw on screen cannot have been either an accident or a mistake it must have happened by design. I find this odd since the monolithic corporate infuence over our lives you warn against so cogently and so successfully in the film also promotes the trans-national government that serves its interests and which, through European regional policy, is currently trying to impose unwanted anonymity on the English people.

Why did your programme abolish England Mr Atkins?



Friday, 29 July 2011

Film to be shown to UK TV again!

Following the death of the News Of the World, one of the targets of Starsuckers, More4 have kindly agreed to screen the film again. It's on More4 11.10pm this Sunday 31st July. If enough people watch it they might show it again on the main channel!

Monday, 27 December 2010

More Fake Stories....

The first thing anyone knew about Starsuckers was when the Guardian splashed the news on it's front page that we had been selling fake celebrity stories to the Tabloid Press. At the time I wrote a guide so that anyone else who wanted to make a few quid in these tough times could earn some quick cash selling their own nonsense to the great British Press. After the British TV screening on More4 in April, I suddenly started getting emails from students who had seen the film, been inspired, and picked up the phone to tabloid newsrooms and spun some yarns. The full details can be read in an article about these copycat hoaxes in the Independent Newspaper here.

Hearing we had a new generation of hoaxers snapping at our heels, we realised we had to raise our game. So over the summer myself and Jonny Howorth faked a film about Urban Fox Hunting that was taken seriously by the entire British Press and BBC news. Read the full story here.

In it's own way hoaxing can highlight misreporting and media distortion better than any artlcle or blog post. If the news is putting out the wrong story, create something ridiculous that fits their set narrative, and send it in to the newsdesks. Happy hoaxing.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Film Council Abolished!

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of the running battles Starsuckers has had with the UKFC, and their dogged attempts to stop our film being released because we upset the media elite. On monday 26th of July the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that the UKFC was to be abolished which is something I and many other indie producers have been campaigning about for years. I've done several pieces in the media about this, but my views are probably best summed up by a piece I've done for The Times. It's sitting behind thier paywall but hopefully they won't mind if I reproduce it below:

No one under 35 will mourn the UK Film Council, argues the director Chris Atkins

There has been much wailing about the demise of the UK Film Council, but many producers and directors are delighted that it’s finally been axed. My sentiments are not motivated by sour grapes — far from it — as a producer I had four films funded via the UKFC and so had the opportunity to observe their failings close hand, and, in my shame, help them to waste public money.
The first problem? The choice of films. They cared more about promoting diversity and fulfilling social quotas than about strong scripts. For that reason Nina’s Heavenly Delights (the worst film that I or anyone else has produced) was given £250,000 by the Film Council via Scottish Screen, not because it was a good story — far from — but because it was about Asian lesbians making curry in Glasgow, and so the perfect PC trivector. It was a critical and commercial flop, but no matter; we ticked the boxes.
The real scandals, however, came out of the UKFC distribution fund. This doled out more than £4 million a year in grants to help to release finished films (to pay for posters, advertising and so forth) and Pete Buckingham, the head of the fund, has given public money to some unlikely choices. In 2007, the impoverished rock band the Rolling Stones and the unknown director Martin Scorsese collaborated to make the forgettable Shine a Light — essentially a piece of marketing to plug the Stones’ album. The Film Council handed over £154,000 to promote Mick and Keith despite the Stones being worth more than £100 million. Furthermore, the grant went directly to a distributor that is part of an American studio. U2-3D, (also derided as a 90-minute album plug) got £164,496, generously helping out a band that rarely pays tax in Ireland, let alone the UK. That year I made my first half-decent film, Taking Liberties (four-star reviews and a Bafta nomination). When we applied for a similar grant our distributor received £5,000. While the UKFC was helping Jagger and Bono, my mum was going round her village handing out fliers.
But the distribution fund’s greatest balls-up was the Digital Screen Network. In 2004 the Film Council announced that it was going to invest £14 million to install digital projectors in more than 200 cinemas. At first glance this was manna from heaven for low-budget film-makers. The costs of physically distributing our movies on celluloid film were crippling. Digital distribution could bypass all these costs, as hard drives could be made and shipped for a tiny fraction of the costs of film prints. But rather than make the technology “open source” (meaning that anyone can render a Quicktime on a hard drive and screen it) the Film Council decided to listen to the anti-pirating lobby, and set up an expensive encoding network. This meant that to get our film to cinema we had to go to just one company that had the monopoly on managing the Digital Screen Network. Getting a film out this way takes ten days and costs £5,000, even though you can encode a film at cinema quality on your Macbook free. The derisory £5,000 that the UKFC gives to every indie film suddenly doesn’t seem so generous.
The real disaster, however, came with the council’s placement of the digital projector in cinemas. In the majority of cases the theatre owners put them in their largest screen, which made perfect sense to them because they could maximise revenues. But when independent films were being released, they would get placed in the smaller screens, with no digital projector, so we still had to spend money on prints. Meanwhile in Screen One, the publicly funded digital technology was screening Toy Story 2, which no doubt delighted the Hollywood studios that have had their costs subsidised.
Then comes the running costs of the Film Council itself: 75 people in a five storey building, with a rent of £300,000 a year. Their top ten execs all earned more than £100,000 and the UKFC running costs were at one point listed at £7 million a year. Film4, which basically does the same thing as the UKFC (reads scripts and dishes out money) manages to operate with a staff of ten.
The Film Council’s statistics department was a running joke among friends. They produced reams of reports, including posting box-office takings four days after they were available on a dozen other websites, and expensive studies that concluded that the Film Council was doing a jolly good job.
It was doing a good job with its expenses claims. The CEO, John Woodward (salary more than £200,000 a year) was rumbled by The Times last year for spending £16,000 on lunches. More than a dozen members decamped to Cannes for the festival. My greatest hour came when I was producing A Woman in Winter, backed by the UKFC. I was flown to New York, first class, accompanied by four UKFC execs, on an all-expenses-paid trip and stayed in a top hotel for five days to pitch the film. It didn’t matter that the script was so esoteric that hardly anyone in Britain understood it, never mind any US studios. I did a handful of meetings with American execs who passed on the script even before I sat down. But I bought some cheap DVDS and got to run down the steps of the library they used at the start of Ghostbusters, so I wasn’t complaining. This is why there has been precious little criticism of the Film Council over the past ten years — no producer wants to cut off a source of potential funding.
Getting funding from the Film Council was about knowing the right people, not having the best script. The council’s 2008-09 financial statement reveals that more than £13 million was awarded to films or companies in which members of the Film Council had an interest. The Film Council hated taking risks, so it was always easier to dole out more cash to the same tiny elite. Much of the wailing about its death has come from creaky industry figures who have been lucky enough to get some of the cash. While I admire Mike Leigh enormously, he has had more than his fair share of public funding, so it figures that he is a bit miffed.
I have yet to hear a bad word about the end of the UKFC from anyone under 35, because it is the up-and-coming film-makers that the council has neglected over the years. A survey by Shooting People (the excellent website and newsletter that does cater for the independent up-and-coming film community) found that only 50 per cent of its members think it’s a bad decision. A new film-maker starting out with a cracking script and barrelful of talent was as likely to get a meeting with the UKFC as he was the head of Paramount. Once you’re in that sacred clique, you just pick up the phone and book in lunch at the Groucho.
The Film Council represented the worst form of new Labour wastage, with layers of meaningless bureaucracy. Once the chairman, Tim Bevan (who works for Universal) started using the word “stakeholder” it was clear that this ship was on course for an iceberg. BBC Films and Film4 saw which way the wind was blowing, and slashed their costs and survived. The Film Council lumbered on and, with the coalition gaining power, it was an obvious target for cuts. I’m a big supporter of the Government giving limited cash to fund British movies, and I’m praying that this will continue. What we do not need is a fat, ineffective quango leeching millions away from the film-makers.

Link to article on The Times site