Money-making has always been a part of Art

Hegedüs Kata
2023 October 16., Monday 15:41.

Prof. Paulo Leite teaches at Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa in Portugal  – He specialises in screenwriting and production and has long been involved in screenwriting and film finance and film marketing in the UK. We asked him about his experiences and views during his Erasmus exchange at SZFE. 

How does your course, film financing and marketing help the students to find their places in the always growing film industry?

There is a lot of noise in the market because there are lots and lots of films being produced. Digital technology has made the act of shooting a film (or any audiovisual content) more affordable and easier to use. This does not mean that filmmaking is cheap. It means that there is simply too much content in a market fighting for people’s attention. In that context, most people are worrying about the most visible parts of filmmaking: how to write a great script, what’s the best camera, how to do a certain special effect. Very few people seem to be thinking about the two most important fields today: financing and marketing. It’s in these two areas that lies the keys to all others. Considering that all subjects have their importance at some point of the process, financing and marketing will have an impact on everything. This means that film students who take some time to understand these subjects have a lot more chances to move their projects ahead.

Why do you feel it is important to teach film financing and marketing?

Without financing, there is no film. People tend to believe that in the end, some artistic brilliance will make up for the money that isn’t there. That’s a myth. It’s not true. It may have happened a few times in 120+ years of filmmaking, but those were exceptions – never the rule. In reality, it is the adequate financing that will create the conditions for artistic brilliance to appear and do its magic. It’s the same thing with marketing. People think their films will magically sell themselves. In reality, the marketing process goes hand in hand with the film’s financing. It’s not about selling the film. It’s about eliminating the effort of selling. There are millions of roadblocks between a film and its audience. Marketing provides you a map around those roadblocks. 

It’s not an easy question, but do you think that commercial films are losing their artistic essence for advertising and money-making purposes?

Not at all. The money-making has always been a part of Art. The issue is that, while money has a tangible nature, Art has an intangible nature. We never know which films will pass the test of time. However, the idea that money-making destroys Art (and vice-versa) is another myth. All films are commercial unless the producer decides to lock them in a vault and never release them. That does not mean that every film should be Marvel. However, it is absurd to believe that Arthouse films are not commercial. They have different audiences, different prices and different expectations. Money-making is not Art’s enemy (and vice-versa). Ignorance about film financing and marketing is the enemy.

Why did you choose The University of Theatre and Film Arts of Budapest and what were your favorite experiences at our institution? 

Because of the school’s prestige and track record of excellence. I believe the school has a great tradition and influence in Hungarian Cinema. In that context it is always a privilege to be able to cooperate with the school.

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