Creative Industries: 'We are poor at exploiting our genius'

David Puttnam stresses the need for a more commercial approach in the digital age
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The Independent Online
WE are on the threshold of a new Digital Age. This means that a new global economy is being formed, driven by two things - information and images. More and more of our information is conveyed through images and, in particular, moving images.

The advent of digital technologies means that film and television are now simply two components, albeit extremely important components, of a much larger industry - the intellectual property industry. Movies are part of a new industrial sector, which has the potential to generate millions of highly skilled jobs.

What this means, above all, is that we have to start treating film and the other cultural industries in an entirely different way. We have to start considering how we use the creative skills, which we as a nation appear to have in such abundance, to optimise their real economic value, to allow them to play their full part in regenerating our communities, and to forge a new cultural identity for ourselves as a nation.

Indeed for me, by far he most significant development of the "Information Society" is the increasing convergence between entertainment and education. When resources that have traditionally been associated with the best in entertainment are applied to education and training, genuinely surprising results begin to flow.

I think the government's decision to set up a Film Policy Review was a master stroke; in terms of timing mandate and the personnel that they've attracted to run it. I don't want to pre-empt the results of that Review, which will be made clear next month. But what I would say is that having got ourselves up and running on the production front, I think that the industry as a whole realises that we now have to sit down and deal with the complex issues surrounding marketing distribution and the funding of adequate levels of script development and, especially, training.

Something that I've been hammering home for many years is that one of the keys to maximising the potential of our industry is a supply of creative professionals who can access training as they develop their careers. A commitment to growth cannot be taken seriously without a comparable commitment to training. More broadly, it is quite apparent that in the UK, with the notable exception of PolyGram, there is a marked absence of indigenous, vertically-integrated companies, the British film industry will inevitably remain a "cottage" industry, in which booms will quickly turn to bust.

Finally, we have to find a way of merging our infinite skills as creators with an equal confidence and competence as sellers - there's no question that we remain poor at exploiting our own genius for origination. For too long many in our industry have remained secure in their conviction that marketing and distribution were peripheral to the real business if making films.

In the UK (and Europe more generally) once a film, or a book, or a design is completed it is, to a very great extent, considered satisfactory in itself. In America, the creator often isn't satisified until the product has been transformerd into thousands of copies, each one paying a royalty.