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filmwaves.co.uk

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The art of Randy Thom

 Sound designer (FW35)

Screen International
Our interview with Patrick Frater, International Editor at Screen International. A look at the film industry and its market
Patrick Frater is International Editor at Screen International and has the responsibility for anything outside the US and the UK. Filmwaves interviewed Patrick Frater during the 47th London Film Festival and discussed with him his publication, distribution issues and market trends.
SI has a number of editors for different territories. Three, in fact, one for the UK, one for the US and Patrick for the rest of the world. For the US market, for instance, SI is covering the financial aspects that often American publication don’t do. The US editor looks at that side of Hollywood that is not really covered by the American trade magazines, the bit that is outward facing, international - to put together international finance into Hollywood films, make and sell internationally.
Filmwaves - Can you introduce Screen International to our readers?
Patrick Frater - The magazine is a weekly but we have now a daily updated website called ScreenDaily. We launched the website three years ago and it has almost taken over our operation. We launched it almost as an experiment, we were aware that it would have been difficult to maintain because we needed correspondents operating around the clock. But we realised that we had already the experience of publishing dailies three or four times a year at various festivals and markets. Anyway, within two months there were thousand of people signing up. So, we decided to turn the website into a paysite. We were expecting a drop but within a month again we had 3000 people signing up and, this time, paying money for it. We have a very active audience that of course now, because they are paying, expect the news to be delivered quickly and around the clock. This has an impact on editorial and reviewing. We now tend to publish our reviews first on the web and then rewrite them slightly when we publish them in the printed weekly. Also, the contents expanded. We initially published between 5 to 10 news stories a day, while now is between 20-25 a day. Of course when you are at the same time in Israel, Islington and Los Angeles, people’s reactions come through much more quickly. We no longer publish a weekly that has to be delivered and flown around the world. We now deliver news as they happen, rather than waiting for the physical delivery.
The weekly was a conventional mix of news at the front and features in the middle and some statistical stuff at the back. We have virtually taken the news out of the magazine, which have to be up-to-date. People now expect their news to be fresh, not several days old. General public also expect news quickly, owing to global television channels like CNN, BBC World, etc. and because of Internet, people today know about the premiere of a film in Hollywood, a festival in Cannes. Films now are simultaneously released around the world. Like Matrix 3, which even China, a country notoriously hostile to satellite television and Internet, decided to release Matrix 3 together with the others countries. It is a global trade and being a parochial UK magazine is no longer an option.
FW - Did the website affect the printed publication?
PF - A few years ago when the Internet was growing rapidly publishers were very worried, they thought it was going to take over, there was so much hype. We, like most publishers, opened a site because we needed a presence since people were looking for things on the web. But the opposite happened, because the web is worldwide and instantaneous, our brand was suddenly much more widely seen and we got new subscriptions to the printed publication.
FW - So, what is the difference now between the two?
PF - The printed version is much more focused on analysis, background material, trends, profiles of people and companies and reviews. It is a companion to the web-based version. You get the news quickly but you still need help digest them, this is what a weekly or monthly can do better. We are now a weekly magazine rather than a weekly news magazine.
FW - What about analysis of the film market. What is the editorial policy about?
PF - It is about serving our readers who are predominantly film distributors, film sellers and producers, and with a growing emphasis of film financiers. Financing a film is becoming much more complicated, with a lot of private equity money flowing into film, and a lot of tax money available through co-production. We try and deliver explanations and profiles and analysis to those readers. And all of them are also, of course, end-users of films, which is why we review.
FW - What is the angle?
PF - First thing we do is trying as quick as we can to review films from festivals and major film markets. We do not review every single big American film. We choose according to whether they are going to have an influence on international markets. Pirate of the Caribbean, for example, is so big that distributors are going to have to change their programmes, release dates, etc. That is why we would publish a big review of a studio film. But in many ways a studio film is not of great interests to our readers. Our readers are people who are independents and who are buying and selling films outside the studio system. Studio system films are not very relevant to the independent filmmakers. 
We are looking for something that is going to explain how a certain film will perform financially, whether it will attend festivals and why, whether the key acting or directing talent is worth watching in the future.We tend to see the film as a product and as such how it is going to work in the market.