CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/THE COMFORT ZONES - UK directors could benefit from the increase in work, Francesca Newland writes

The worst thing about The Comfort Zones is its name, which is more than a little tree-huggy. But nomenclature aside, there does appear to be genuine demand for its service - matching UK directing talent with foreign scripts.

The worst thing about The Comfort Zones is its name, which is more than a little tree-huggy. But nomenclature aside, there does appear to be genuine demand for its service - matching UK directing talent with foreign scripts.

It is being set up by two well-regarded and trusted industry figures: David Lawrence, formerly the vice-chairman of Dorland and chief executive of Bates in Brussels, and Andrea Binda, the founder of the Central Group of Film Production Companies.

Howard Spivey, the former head of TV at BMP DDB, is involved on a part-time basis and the pedigree and contacts of these founders will be key to the venture's success.

Their contacts have facilitated the signing of the production companies Academy, RSA and Stark to The Comfort Zones' books. In addition, Binda has an address book full of useful numbers in Italy, traditionally a problem area for UK production companies.

The success of the company, will rely heavily on the team's ability to collect scripts from foreign agencies. For this they will rely on good PR in the first instance. After that, it is putting representatives in place in various key markets.

In Australia it has hired John Wilson, a former managing director of KMP, to be its ambassador. He, and his equivalents in other countries, will approach agencies asking for their scripts.

Crucial to the venture's success will be its ability to source good quality scripts. Lizie Gower, the managing director at Academy, says she trusts their taste. Lawrence admits: 'We will have to stay very conscious of quality.'

Lawrence believes that there is a surfeit of UK talent and a dearth of highly regarded directors in many foreign markets. This is the basis for the expected demand for The Comfort Zones' services.

He also believes that foreign agencies will want to use the company as a short-cut - it will do their research for them.

Similarly, he feels that the UK's production companies are more focused on producing films than they used to be and, therefore, spend less time on marketing their directors overseas. Stephen Gash, the joint managing director of Stark, says: 'The majority of our work is UK domestic. We don't have a world network of representation. We can't afford it and I can't afford time to do it myself.'

The service will be flexible. In some cases, a foreign agency will hire a UK director and use his or her production company, while in others a local company will be employed. A percentage of the director's fee, paid by the producer, will go to The Comfort Zones.

The service has the potential to be a very valuable resource for UK production companies. It could also distribute work more evenly and encourage young talent, allocating scripts to less famous directors who are less busy. Lawrence says: 'All production companies have a superfluity of talent. They are happy to find work for their directors in different parts of the world. It goes on their reel.'

Gower confirms: 'Any extra help trying to gain exposure is gratefully received.'

UK production companies have nothing to lose. The worst that could happen is that they receive reams of dud scripts, or none at all. The Comfort Zones seems to be filling a gap in the market that is so useful to plug, it makes you wonder why nobody has done it before.



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