Focus, an event for international production professionals from across film, television, animation, documentary, advertising and games, returns to London as a live event Dec. 7-8. Now in its seventh year, the confab combines two days of live events at London’s Business Design Centre, and four more days of online streaming.
The industry event, which presents its conference program in partnership with Variety, allows delegates to meet in person or virtually with content makers, film commissions, production services and location providers from across the globe.
Designed to be inclusive, entrance to the live event is free — a nod organizers say to the extensive use of freelance workers in the creative industries — and digital access for the online section carries a modest charge.
Billed as “the meeting place for international production,” Focus has more than 60 program sessions, including keynote speeches, panel discussions, workshops and presentations, both in person and live-streamed, from more than 150 leading industry experts.
The event includes an exhibition area with more than 150 companies attending with stands that include film commissions from Antwerp, Belgium, the NL Netherlands Film Fond, regional film offices from around the U.K. including Bath, Bristol and Liverpool, as well as national and international bodies such as the British, German and Portuguese film commissions.
A rich array of panels and talks in the program section includes sessions on film finance, new tech solutions for productions and a session called Tackling Mental Health in the Screen Industries probes a hot topic in a world still emerging from COVID.
Speakers during the program include Samantha Perahia, head of production U.K. at the British Film Commission; Neil Peplow, director of industry and international affairs at the British Film Institute; Luane Gauer, head of acquisitions at Protagonist Pictures; and Vladyslav Riashyn, president and founder of Russian global production company Star Media.
A special event, the Sue Hayes Lecture — in memory of Focus cocreator and former film commissioner at Film London and director of the Edinburgh TV Festival, who died in April at age 69 — will be launched this year, to salute her impact on the creative industry.
Jean-Frederic Garcia, Focus managing director, tells Variety “these are very fast-changing times for the creative industries and the event provides a space to catch up with trends and connect with old and new industry friends.” “In the last five to 10 years, there has been a shift in how content is consumed — YouTube, Google and other platforms.
“We believe Focus is the only event in the world that puts together all the creative screen industries and talks about what is relevant to producers and the makers of content.” Perahia says that the chance to meet and network in person again was a key reason to attend Focus.
“The industry is all about relationships — business networking has always been absolutely crucial.” The U.K., with its “transparent, reliable and swift” 25% film incentive, offered world class above-theline talent, crews, locations and studio facilities, she says, noting that apart from the famous London-region studios, such as Pinewood and Shepperton, major new facilities such as Scotland’s Wardpark, Belfast’s Harbour Studios and Liverpool’s The Depot now also offer local and international productions excellent services.
Addressing the impact of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, she says there were two separate levels: political and business. The need to negotiate new trading and visa regimes had driven “much closer” contacts with European partners since the U.K. left the E.U.
“There is lot of reciprocity and mutual support between the U.K. and the rest of Europe — our panel at Focus will be looking at that. Whatever is happening at a political level, the will to produce major film and TV does its best to cut through all that.” The combined total spend on film and high-end television production in the U.K. for the first nine months of 2021 was £4.7 billion ($6.3 billion), she adds.
“This is the highest figure on record. It is more than 2.6 times higher than the same period in 2020, underlining the U.K.’s resilience and its global reputation as the world-leading center for film and TV production, VFX and post.”