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Screen International (10/Sep/1983) - Special Feature: Filmbond Provides an Answer to Industry Service Headaches




  • The issue contained a large number of congratulatory messages.


Filmbond provides an answer to industry service headaches

Just as a super-efficient film crew does not always get the merit it deserves for behind the scenes work, so the service aspects of the film industry are sometimes forgotten for the more glamorous aspects.

Yet as everyone working within the industry acknowledges, the importance of solid back-up is crucial to any successful enterprise.

Filmbond, along with its affiliates Fleetfilm and PBS Services, is in the back-up game with a vengeance and, according to the experienced management team that put the whole set-up together, they are fast becoming the answer to any producer or distributors complete set of service headaches.

Filmbond are now celebrating their second year of successful operation, expanding at a pace which amply backs the judgement of the men who launched the setup, in the belief that a crucial service was not being performed for the industry.

The company is made up of 35 full-time staff, headed by the board of directors which include Arthur Abeles (formerly with Warner Pathé and CIC, who launched the marketing company Filmmarketeers and who first had the idea of the company), Sam Shorr, who was with Universal, and group managing director Bill Ingram, whose career includes stints with Warner Pathé (where he met Abeles), Universal (where he was European service manager) and then on to CIC where he became international service manager. In a career that covers most crucial aspects of the servicing industry, Ingram then went on to Technicolor UK, where he was managing director before a brief stop over in Los Angeles as president of Introvision Programming. It was while he was in L.A that the call came to return to home pastures for the launch of Filmbond.

"Arthur and Sam had been talking about the Filmbond idea for some time, and I had always wanted to be a part of it," he recalls. "When it all came together, I was delighted to come back."

The first thing that strikes the casual observer of the Filmbond set-up is the experience packcd into the management team. And as they are all anxious to stress, it is experience in the right area.

"The whole point we try to emphasise is that the experience we have, which goes back over more years than I care to talk about," smiles Ingram, "is all solid film experience.

"Everybody here is a film man through and through. We think that is unique. Of course there are a number of other companies who offer all the services we do, but nobody docs them with our background of experience or with our overall control.

"There is no aspect of servicing that we don't cover. And being film people we like to think we understand the needs of film people. One of the problems with outside freighting agents, no matter how good they might be, is they simply don't always understand a particular requirement. We do. That's our business; because we understand how film — and video — works we try to anticipate any problems that might arise.

"All our experience is in film."


As Ingram says, it is a formidable line up of experience, with each of the directors achieving the highest positions in their fields before linking up — and each of them has known each other for many years.

Naturally they can all tell the industry a hundred reasons why film-makers should use Filmbond, but again and again the emphasis comes back to the completeness of the operation; the attraction, they feel, is getting all the jobs done, from storage, to arranging screenings, to lab negotiations, print rejuvenation, transport, airfreight and a hundred other jobs.

"For many of our clients we are taking on the whole job, although of courst everyone is at liberty to pick and choose from our menu," considers Shorr.

"What we are really doing is servicing done by a completely reliable outside agency, rather than employ full time staff in-house to do the same job.

"If you take on the full Filmbond service, the most you'll ever need is one person at your end, simply for liaison. We'll do the rest. We reckon that could be a saving of anything up to four or five salaries, and anyway we reckon we can do it betier.


"So you are getting the best service we can offer, and a very economical way of doing it. There are many peaks and valleys in servicing and also a limited number of experts around to employ, whereas we maintain an organisation dedicated to service, and we take all the overheads and costs and so on; and of coursc with the calibre and strength of the customers we have that is added security and negotiating power."

In operation for only two years, Filmbond has expanded and changed to meet the growing demands of a business which is now almost unrecognisable to the one which they entered so recently. The advent of video and cable has added a new and. on their own admission, highly unexpected dimension to the Filmbond repertoire.

"We always liked to think we were flexible enough to meet changes," says Shorr, "but we never dreamt that we were going to have to be as flexible as we have been. Now video is a major part of our operation, as is preparing and mastering prints for The Starview cable operation. These are things that we had no idea about when we started. Obviously that is very surprising, not to say gladdening for us.

"We find that almost every day the film industry changes and even if the cinema film disappears completely — and we certainly don't think it will — there will still be a tremendous need for the kind of service we perform. We've gone in a lot of directions that we didn't expect and expanded in a way we didn't dare dream."

Summing up the Filmbond philosophy, Ingram says: "The thing we really do place a lot of emphasis on is the total service we give to people, the fact that it is a one-stop operation. Frankly we do all the nonsense, all the painful stuff, everything that no creative producer or distributor should really want on his hands. We think we offer a competitive and thorough service, the kind of thing that if it was kept in-house could become very expensive if it got away from you."