On June 6 Lord Puttnam spoke on BBC Radio 4 in relation to his inquiry at Goldsmiths: “A Future for Public Service Television“, and made the point that ‘Informative and entertaining are not opposites’. Whilst made in the context of public service television, about which further, excellent related work is available, the interrogation of supposed opposites or problematic dualities is an important feature of much audiovisual industries work.
The regularly addressed false dichotomy of creativity and commerce / art and business, is clearly understood by practitioners and researchers, yet remains a setting for trade coverage that proves a hospitable landscape for imprecise understandings. In recent work on risk in the film industry a recurring problem emerged setting up a hard and fast simplistic separation in broad understanding between the use of data (associated with creative automation) and the expert, experienced practice of established professionals. Oversimplifications often obscure the complex interrelation of multiple different types of work that goes on in filmmaking. This obfuscation can then inhibit vital under-recognised practices that exist across a spectrum of dynamic, interrelating, interests, devices and entities.
The inquiry report (2016, 33) highlights “the principle that quality is intrinsically linked to risktaking, innovation and experiment in the form and content of programmes.” These characteristics so vital to public service broadcasting also support the generation of of excellence in filmmaking and underpin the ability to produce and capitalise on a hit film. In the report interdependency of vital risktaking and wider commercial benefits are characterised at the sector level: “Mariana Mazzucato argues, “the public sector not only ‘de-risks’ the private sector by sharing its risk, it often ‘leads the way’, courageously taking on risk that the private sector fears”” (2016, 34). In film this also happens within individual independently financed projects and at the talent career level. Public agency “soft” funding and the Film Tax Relief enable many films to exist that would not otherwise. But multiple parties within the financial structure of the single film have different terms of engagement with the project and different perspectives and rationalisations for such involvement. The complexity of that assemblage of different market actors enables an ecosystem where films that are both creative and entertaining, innovative and commercial have the potential to exist and suceeed.
It is vital that misperceptions are challenged and Film and TV are very lucky to have such a champion in Lord Puttnam.
Born and Prosser, 2001, p. 676. Mariana Mazzucato, ‘The Future of the BBC: The BBC as Market Shaper and Creator’, LSE Media Policy Project, October 14, 2015.