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A Field in England

Friday 12 July 2013, 17:06

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

Ben Wheatley's latest project was released simultaneously on TV, DVD, VOD and in the cinema. Here I talk to the executive producer of the film about whether this bold strategy is working.

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 1.

    I think it works, to a degree. For smaller films this is a solid experiment - and also a test to see if audiences would prefer to watch smaller independent films on their television screens or disc. As for bigger tent pole releases: they of course warrant the cinematic experience. But after Spielberg's anouncement on the implosion of cinema through ticket prices, I'm sure, in years to come, this will be a much more viable option. I very much doubt it will come to that, but who knows.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 2.

    I found the simultaneous release to be an absolute blessing as I lack the means of journeying to the nearest art-house cinema whenever I want to see a film that doesn't have snack-brand tie-in. I can only hope that A Field in England's success prompts more distributors to trust the multi-platform release strategy so more people can see such diverse and challenging films. Aren't films meant to be for our (the audience's) benefit?

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    Comment number 3.

    Firstly in regards to the film itself. A Field In England is a masterpiece, a beautiful, surreal film with fantastic performances and a score that is haunting me a week after I've seen the film last. In a nutshell the film is Witchfinder's General meets Dead Man. After Kill List, Wheatley has become a director whose work I look forward in seeing and his name has gone on to a list of my favorite directors who could potentially helm a long awaited, and very long overdue, cinematic adaptation of Blood Meridian.

    As for the release pattern used for this film; as Aaron L had mentioned already, it was a blessing. As much as I would have loved to have seen this film at the cinema, work commitments and transport problems have put paid to this idea. Even though I work in the heart of the West End, I live in South East London and my nearest independent cinema is the Ritzy in Brixton, which takes me nearly an hour to reach. I believe to watch A Field In England you have to do so with a clear head and not exhausted after a days work. At the end I saw watched it on Filmfour and have since bought it on Blu-Ray. I may have had my doubts to this release pattern, but after seeing the benefits I really do hope this is the future of independent cinema, it will no doubt help the film make a profit (broadcasting and DVD rights will probably increase) but it will also introduce a whole new audience to films that would have normally bypassed them completely. The simultaneous pattern is already getting noticed in the U.S. Refn's Only God Forgives being the latest film getting a simultaneous release next Friday on both cinema and VOD. Why can't it be the same for the rest of the world?

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    Comment number 4.

    My nearest cinema screening AFIE is over thirty miles away - Cambridge Arts - so it wasn't really viable for me to see it theatrically. And I know I'm lucky to have one that close: many are much further away from an independent arthouse cinema. So I saw the film on Film 4 (to be precise, I recorded it and watched it back the following day).

    (In the event I thought A Field In England was a load of tiresome old tosh and I got annoyed with it very quickly, but that's beyond the scope of this blog.)

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    Comment number 5.

    As a consumer of films I really appreciate choice and that's what this type of release offers. I chose to watch it at the Little Theatre in Bath and I'm glad I did as I got to experience the trippy visual feast and soundscape full on. Can't wait to buy the DVD and check out the extras. And thanks to simultaneous release I don't have to! :)

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    Comment number 6.

    I recorded it and watched it in the afternoon a couple of days after broadcast and while watching thought it would be much better on a larger screen and more importantly in the dark. I'm sure those who watched it live or in the cinema would have had a better experience but despite that I did find it interesting and hope more films are released this way.

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    Comment number 7.

    Been calling for this for years - ever since people started complaining about online movie piracy!
    Glad it is being done.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 8.

    I think this is a film that needs to be seen when you're fully alert, as i watched it live on Film4, i got half an hour into it before losing patience and switching off. But i'm always willing to change my mind and will give it a second look some time, but i won't be rushing to see it any time soon.

    As to the wider issue of multi-platform releasing, a few years back Disney were so pessimistic about the prospects for Alice in Wonderland, they wanted bring forward the DVD release from 16 weeks to 12 causing a huge ruckus with Odeon. If this is the cinema chains reaction to a DVD release, i would imagine they may simply refuse to cooperate with dual format releases full stop. We need to remember that it's not just the studios who determine how we view films.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 9.

    I love Ben Wheatley's films and I love this film but sorry Dr. K you were wrong on the piracy issue. Just a few hours after release there were pirate versions out there online. I don't think this will combat piracy. I know many will not agree with this statement but - "It's a case now of accepting piracy as a way of life in the entertainment industry."

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    Comment number 10.

    If there is one thing about modern online piracy compared to piracy of the past is that the selling and distribution of illegal video tapes, dvds and cds in the old days funded criminal organizations whereas online piracy or file sharing is equivalent to a person having a copy of a film or album and giving it to his friend to watch. How come within the gaming industry they have seemed to accept this phenomenon, just observe what happened this year at the E3 conference with Microsoft back pedaling on their policies in retaliation to Sony's more amicable gamer policies. The film industry and the music industry need to wake up, grow up and catch up with 21st Century.

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    Comment number 11.

    Multi-platform is perfect - especially if Film 4 shows them free of adverts! it makes smaller movies so much more accessible since so few cinemas show them and when they do they are often shown only once or twice on mid-week afternoons.

    I have a real beef with the Duke of York's in Brighton on this issue: they showed Les Mis, Great Gatsby and Star Trek etc. endlessly when the Odeon and Cineworld in Brighton also had these on heavy rotation, and so make it difficult to catch many of the smaller movies in spite of now having three screens.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 12.

    Like Harry Lime I lost interest and nodded off after an hour just as it was getting really strange, the slo-mo run was quite creepy. I will give it another go as I have enjoyed and paid to see Wheatleys last 2 films but having said that its now just in the metaphorical pile of unwatched films which is a shame. But if there wasn't the opportunity to see/record it on telly I would have shelled out and seen it at the Tyneside(bit of a hike but worth it) and may have made more of an effort with it.
    As for the model of distribution I think its only worked on this profect due to the strength of Wheatley and his cast. I doubt many other films could have as good a pedigree behind it for the budget and in the future the free tv broadcast will be dropped for VOD/Disc and limited theatrical release which is quite common now.
    I think this film was a bit of a perfect storm and may be hard to repeat. A bold move which i applaud, especially the no adverts(surely a good way to generate revenue).

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 13.

    Sorry for disagreeing with you Mark but.....

    I think Simultaneous DOES NOT solve piracy, infact it does just the opposite. Anyone who knows about downloading films illegally will tell you that the quicker the DVD or Blu-Ray is released, the better it is for the pirates.

    When someone goes on to a piracy website to download a certain film, what they will look for is a DVDrip or BRrip meaning a film that's been copied from one of the disc formats. Any film that's been released on DVD or Blu-Ray will be up for grabs. However, films that haven't been released on this format yet are rarely available to download; the only available options would be ugly copies of footage filmed with a camcorder in the cinema, which most downloaders don't bother with.

    To give an example; If I wanted to watch "Pacific Rim" illegally at home for free, the fact is I couldn't. I would have to go to the cinema. But if I wanted "A Field In England", no problem! Plenty of crystal clear copies available for download. Thanks to simultaneous release.

    As for the film showing on TV. Personally I believe that most people who download films do it to avoid paying anything at all. If they wanted to watch the film I can't see why they wouldn't continue to download for free, as oppose to paying for a blu-ray or DVD. At least with the current system, they are forced to pay for a ticket at the cinema if they want to see it immediately.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 14.

    Multi-platform release certainly worked for this film; showing it on TV certainly brought it to a much wider audience than an art house cinema/DVD release would have. A TV release at the time of the major reviews certainly helped it.

    A Field in England cost only £300,000 to make, whereas the average cost of an hour's TV is over twice that. Film4 got the rights to screen 90 mins of TV at much less than the normal price, whilst the funders will also make money from whatever box-office and rental revenue trickle in.

    Given the critical reception has been largely positive A Field in England is likely to sell more DVDs, rentals etc. as word of mouth recommendations bring it to a wider audience.

    I’m sure some tried it and gave up quite quickly (black and white, surrealist in parts, the audience has to work to keep up with the narrative and appreciate it). Those that stuck with it would be quite hard core cinema fans. As some above mention it persuaded them to pay to see it again. I certainly want to see it again.

    Some numbers from the opening weekend:
    In the cinema A Field In England made £21,399 in the first weekend.
    On TV it attracted 288,000 viewers (including time-shifted channel Film4+1). Early figures, which include recorded viewing on Saturday and Sunday, bring the total to 357,000 – up on the Film4’s slot average of 346,000.
    Sales of DVDs from Amazon and HMV across Friday and Saturday amounted to 1,462.
    The number of Blu-ray copies sold was slightly higher than DVDs. The Blu-ray edition features more extras than the DVD release.
    More than 11,000 units have been shipped to Amazon, HMV, WHSmith, Asda and Sainsbury’s.
    On the Film4OD and iTunes platforms there were a total of more than 1,000 purchases.
    http://www.protagonistpictures.com/a-field-in-england-uk-opening-figures-screen

    For low budget, avant garde movies this multi-platform release model works well. Hopefully this will allow low budget ‘experimental’ films to be made and released this way.

    For bigger budget movies I see problems, especially if you show it on terrestrial TV.
    How do you recoup costs if you give it away for free?

    Making movies available on pay-per-view download could work, provided it was cheaper than the cost of a cinema ticket; but I can see the big studios and theatre owners not liking that idea.
    Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

    Would this approach work for Pacific Rim, Lincoln or even The King’s Speech?

    My view of A Field In England?
    Wheatley’s Down Terrace I wasn’t that impressed with; hardly the same impact for a low budget British indie as, say, those by Shane Meadows.
    I didn’t like Kill List. It was an incoherent mess, with several possible plot lines; a film that obviously wanted to be compared with a much, much better cult British horror movie.
    It tried too hard and failed – on so many levels.
    Sightseers I warmed to; much better.

    A Field In England was actually a surprise to me. It reminded me of quite a lot of 60’s and 70’s English and European avate guarde films.
    e.g. Kevin Brownlow’s Winstanley plus some of early Pasolini with some Nic Roeg and Donald Cammell (and many other influences) thrown in too.
    Wheatley has declared ambitions for Hollywood; I suspect he’s better off ploughing a similar furrow as in A Field In England. Wheatley’s found his cinematic ‘voice’.

    One day someone will want to make a film that’s compared to A Field In England.
    It’ll fail, but then having got that out of their system, hopefully, they’ll go on to find their own style.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 15.

    Was good to be able to see it on tv. No adverts was a bonus. Shame that the film itself wasn't as good as its fantastic retro trailer. A Field doesn't compare with far more gritty and interesting films from the late 60's/early 70's that obviously inspired it.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 16.

    This film would be doing a lot better at the pictures if it wasn't so hot and sunny out.

    It's notable, though, that even for a well-publicised film by a popular new British filmmaker, this is a very small, experimental movie which would probably only normally attract a small cinema audience. Manchester Cornerhouse, for example, has only had a couple of screenings a day on their smallest screen.

    You could probably debate whether their choice was affected by its being on TV; my impression was that it could have had more screenings, on a bigger screen, if it hadn't been on TV. But of course the TV has meant it's been seen by hundreds of thousands of people, so that's nice. And maybe the publicity will boost the number of screenings in the coming weeks.

    If my personal feelings count for anything, I was glad to see it on TV rather than travelling out as I wasn't that into it, and was glad to dedicate my cinema trip for the week to The Act of Killing, although that felt quite strange after sitting in the sun all day watching Wimbledon. I'd made my plan and I stuck to it.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 17.

    Didn't think I was going to get to see it in the theatres (my preferred viewing), so I recorded the Film4 broadcast, but my PVR decided to fall over. I thought I'd be stuck with waiting for it to hit the top of my rental queue. Luckily our local house of picture has managed to fit in a screening after their refurbishment this weekend.

    I recall that Berberian Sound Studio tried some sort of web distribution. I did manage to get it at a rare screening(requiring an afternoon skive), and I'm glad I did as I can't imagine its claustrophobic otherworldliness would work as well in the familiar surroundings of home, on the PC, or piped through to the TV.

    At the end of the day, this model will only work if you can show the suits that it bags the loot they're after. While it might clearly be the way forward for indie or marginal films, with inherently low budgets, which may need a marketing spend equal to the same to compete with the mainstream, it would be interesting to see if the numbers would stack up if a typical "tentpole" release were given the simultaneous treatment. I'm sceptical about this, and I would worry that the demand for screens for their "big" films by distributors could push the indies back off into what we still call "straight to video".

  • rate this
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    Comment number 18.

    I live way out in the middle of Lanarkshire, so getting to a cinema is a bit of a hike for me, and there are few accessible cinemas near me that show this kind of film, so I don't generally get to see them. I did manage to pick it up on DVD (Blu-Ray hasn't "quite" caught on in this flea-pit town) and I'm glad that I didn't have to wait ages for that to happen.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 19.

    Hello, it's me again. I'm the guy who complained that you'd gotten "boring" in your last Kermode Uncut video. It would be great if you could talk about my complaint in just one of your videos. I really want to hear what you think of what I think, and I really want to feel my thoughts have been noticed, and I really take what I said seriously, because I've been such a huge fan of you for so long. Please do at least one video talking about it, it will at least shut me up. Here's my comment again:

    Mark, I have a serious issue I would like to raise. It would be great if you could address that issue in your next Kermode Uncut video, because I'm sure a lot of other people have noticed.

    Why have you completely lost your "meaning"? What happened to the good old days when you were known for your rants, impressions, running jokes, bickering, complaints about 3D, complaints about modern blockbusters, etc? Now you're just completely ordinary. The thing that really made me notice this is that in this video, you said Gerard Butler in a normal voice.

    I'm not denying that you're a good critic, but anyone who's been so entertained by you over the past many years would now find you boring.

    I actually don't live in the UK. Once, I was bored, and searched "Pirates of the Caribbean review". And I came across your review of Pirates 3. I was still laughing for about 30 minutes after I watched it, and I was never bored again, because I was always thinking about it. Then I decided to see what else you'd done, and then I knew I had to subscribe to your channel. That was what made me a huge fan of you. I even recommended you to my friends.

    But now, you're just an ordinary critic. That's not what made you famous, you're known for being a critic who's opinion isn't always in line with popular taste, and who has very strong views and is not afraid to share them.

    I dare you to watch your review of Pirates 3 and some of your Kermode Uncut videos about 3D. It will bring back lots of memories. It might even make you feel emotional.

    I'm not asking you to change your style just for me, even though I'm sure lots of people feel the same way, I'm just asking you to take a few minutes to remember. Remember what you're famous for. Remember what made you who you are.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 20.

    Watched it on telly, on my big flatscreen, looked sweet. Wasn't overly impressed by the film compared to Wheatley's others though.

 

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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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