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Film Finance Forum. Interview with Leon Clarance, Octopus Investments

In the end of June a new Film Finance Forum 2011 was held in Moscow within a frame of the 33rd Moscow International Film Festival. The event gathered many famous American and European Film Producers as well as other important members of the Film Industry. The speakers shared their views on modern movie business with the audience while emphasizing the current role of Russia in this sector.

The ongoing tendencies of the World Film Market and the future of international entertainment arena were our key topics in a discussion with Leon Clarance, an Investment Director working for the British company – Octopus Investments. At the latest Film Finance Forum Moscow Leon participated in a panel talking about Global and Local Film Finance Trends.

- Hello! Please, introduce yourself to our readers.

Leon Clarance (Octopus Investments)- Hi! My name is Leon Clarance, and I work as an Investment Director at Octopus Investments.

- What impressions have you got during this visit to Russia?

- I have been to Russia before. I also visited Russia in 2007, but I think I have seen much more of it during the last 24 hours of my trip than during the previous time. Moscow is a beautiful city with some stunning architecture. Russia’s economy is so vibrant, and many western companies are doing their business here.

- Is it your first Film Finance Forum Moscow?

- Yes, it is here in Russia. Though I attended a couple of Forums previously like the Film Finance Forum held in Zurich in 2010, which also covered Accountantship.

- What do you expect from this year’s Moscow event?

- Extensively, one of the motivations for attending and speaking at these events is actually to generate a benefit for myself and my company, to be able to dispense some portions of wisdom to other participants coming from the industry and to outsiders as well.

Clearly, it is important not only to present a brand, but also to build and to maintain a network of contacts within the investment and production community. There is also a side-benefit for us here collaterally. One of the reasons for coming hew is in sharing our knowledge and developments with a wider marketplace.

- How do you see the modern place of Russia in the international Film Industry? Is it attractive for foreign companies?

- Absolutely! You do not really need to look at the specifics of the Film Industry here, but instead you can evaluate the commerce in general. Russia is a huge economy with abundant natural resources and tremendous wealth.

It exports, but retains a lot as well. As a marketplace, Russia has huge potential for any industry and, particularly, in the Entertainment Sector, which includes the Film Industry. It is very exciting to uncover the opportunities of such a huge Russian market.

- In what way does a current economical situation in the Western countries influences the Film Industry? For example, there are State Debt problems within the EU and the Unemployment Rate in the US is still rather high.

- Well, you have a Ph.D in Economics, so you probably follow all these events more closely than I do, but from my point of view, I think you could see an entrenchment of liquidity as a result of the latest World Economic Crisis. The marketplace is now more focused with only those projects possessing huge commercial potential being evaluated.

The economies of the world are re-emerging from the crisis of the past two years. Hopefully, in spite of all the remaining problems the marketplace will expand further with only sharper understanding of current risks and rewards associated with types of investments available in the Film Industry.

- What are the main new tendencies unfolding in the Film Industry nowadays?

- Convergence of platforms at the Entertainment arena. For example, in the UK you can currently access the same film probably through 5 different platforms from the same television. I think the conversion is a huge disruptive element on marketplace providing new opportunities and threats for common players of the market. It is really a huge emerging thing nowadays.

Another potential surprise is a backlash towards 3D. Super franchises and huge Hollywood studios are using this as a risk mitigation strategy. In my personal view, the new rise of successful directors like it happened with such movies as King’s Speech (2010), Black Swan (2010) clearly shows that these films were striking with a strong narrative, great storyline and well-developed characters.

They were critically and commercially recognized not less than huge expensive blockbusters blowing up a lot of things on screen. Finally, there is the third tendency, in my point of view. There is a little bit of an appalling growth of demand for DVD due to threats of piracy. I think, these threats sometimes are overplayed by the Industry in an amount, which is somewhat conducive to understanding.

- What is in the future of collaboration between the Film Industry and the Video Games Industry?

- Here I can get back to my earlier point about the convergence technologies. My MBA thesis was actually related to the role of intellectual property in film-making strategies, for example, with the rise of videogames becoming films and films getting videogames attached to them instantly.

As a home entertainment arena continues to converge and get new access to Internet and digital deliveries to your single screen. Videogames and the interactivity of entertainment will merge over time. I talked to one producer before, and we discussed the ability not only allowing you to watch a film, but also to choose an outcome kind of like you playing the game.

What does the hero do? What way will he go? Will he fight or run? You will get all these elements in a physical film, what will make it similar to playing a videogame. It will feel like watching a high-class narrative opening tremendous production values.

- Do you play videogames in your free time?

- I do have a console. It is a PlayStation 2, what makes me kind of an old-school in gaming. Though, now with two young children, it has been quite a lot time, since I actually played anything. My wife has got a Wii, and at times we enjoy playing James Cameron’s Avatar (2009).

- Thank you, Leon!

- You are welcome!

P.S. Film Finance Forum Moscow was presented by Winston Baker in association with Variety.

Autographed by Leon Clarance (Octopus Investments)

Leon Clarance's Autograph (Octopus Investments)

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