British Screen Forum says budget pressure is causing switch to new voices and original ideas

New research published today by Narval Media and the British Screen Forum (BSF) shows that the development of new shows has become increasingly difficult due to inflationary pressures. The report, ‘Hell and High Water: A Study on Project Development in Film, Scripted TV and Video Games’, was produced by way of 74 extended interviews with individuals working at different stages of their development career.

The study states: ‘The film, TV and – to a lesser extent – game production cycle is often fraught with difficulties, which can be whittled down to a twin challenge: on the one hand, a high and rising level of demand for a limited pool of creative talent, while on the other hand, many UK production companies in the film and TV spaces experience chronic difficulties in raising sufficient cash to cover the costs of early development tasks.’

British Screen Forum CEO, Pete Johnson, said: “This trailblazing study arose from British Screen Forum’s conviction that the dearth of research on development impairs efficiency across the screen industries, resulting in particular in poorer risk assessment and less effective public incentive policies. It is intended to be a first step in improving our understanding of development as a key stage in the life cycle of screen production, with a view to initiating discussions on best practice and a fruitful exchange with the public sector agencies regarding their support for development.”

Many interviewees report having adapted to a challenging market by no longer emphasising existing IP and established writers in favour of original ideas and concepts and new writing voices. Although the trend is especially in evidence amongst new or recent entrants, many senior producers have also re-oriented at least partly towards spec work and ideas generated in-house.

Whilst the current marketplace for scripted content continues to favour adaptations of pre-existing IP, the success of mould-breaking films and TV series based on original writing means buyers also having to consider both sides of the equation.

The report notes that a large component of risk in development is attached to the low conversion rate from project into funded production, which is estimated as running at an average of 20% to 25% of projects in TV and film, with significant variations from company to company and from slate to slate. This makes life particularly difficult for independents who have not achieved the scale necessary to enable them to serenely write off many more projects than they can take forward into production.

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