In the next few weeks, two leading figures of the British film industry will be speaking in Oxford: Eric Fellner, co-chairman of Working Title Films; and Barnaby Thompson, head of Ealing Studios. Working Title is Britain’s largest production company, and through the success of many of their best-known films, from Four Weddings and a Funeral to Bridget Jones’ Diary, has played a crucial role in shaping British popular culture. Ealing Studios, is the longest-running studio in the world, with films being made on the site since 1902. Before being bought by the BBC in the mid-fifties, the studio was the base for a number of classics, from Passport to Pimlico (1949) to The Ladykillers (1955). The studio broke off from the BBC forty years later and, with the new millennium, began to release films again under the studio’s name, from St Trinian’s to Shaun of the Dead.
The talks are being run by Oxford Broadcasting Association, and mark a departure from their first talk of the term, given by Joanna Hogg. While Hogg discussed her embracing of ‘arthouse’ values and rejection of the traditional studio system, Fellner and Thompson will discuss their involvement in the commercial side of the film industry, and their experience as producers. OBA are keen to dispel the mystical aura that tends to surround the producer’s role in film, resisting the temptation to focus on the figures, primarily directors and actors, that tend to be placed in the limelight. By inviting speakers from a wide range of backgrounds and positions, the hope is that the series will provide audiences with a broader knowledge of how the film industry works.
Fellner has previously suggested that the film industry is undergoing a divide into low-budget and blockbuster, with little in between, a shift that the two speakers demonstrate. While Fellner’s Working Title continues to opt for high-profile hits, from Les Misérables to About Time, Thompson’s Ealing Studios seems to be moving in the opposite direction, leaning instead towards micro-budget films such as the upcoming Kids in Love, starring Will Poulter, Alma Jodorowsky (granddaughter of Alejandro), and Cara Delevingne. With cinematic television on the rise, it is no surprise that both Working Title and Ealing Studios are becoming increasingly involved in television production. The reason for such changes, along with their potential impact on the film industry, are likely to be among the issues discussed.
Eric Fellner’s talk takes place on Thursday 6th November at Oriel College (8pm), while Barnaby Thompson’s will be held the following Monday (10th November, 7.30pm, tickets £3) in the same place. Both will last for approximately an hour, including twenty minutes for questions from the audience. As demand is expected to be high, it is recommended to reserve tickets in advance. For future OBA events, including a screening of student shorts and talks from Roger Michell, Amanda Berry and Susanna White, please visit their website here.
For more information about Oxford Broadcasting Association, please visit their website.