Birmingham drives digital revolution

Birmingham drives digital revolution as Screen WM announces £10m fund backed by Advantage West Midlands 

Regional Screen Agency, Screen WM, has today announced a £10 million digital media fund, developed through an innovative partnership with Channel 4, and supported by Advantage West Midlands.

Birmingham has been confirmed as the UK commissioning hub for England and Wales of Channel 4’s new Four Innovation for the Public fund (4IP) announced by Channel 4 today, which will kick start a wave of new investment in public service digital media content for audiences around Britain.

The £10 million fund includes a £5 million investment from Channel 4, matched with £5 million from Advantage West Midlands.

Managed through Screen WM, with Channel 4 providing high-level support and establishing a commissioning executive team located at the screen agency’s offices in central Birmingham. A 4IP steering group will be chaired by Channel 4 chief executive, Andy Duncan.

4IP is planned for launch in July, and its editorial focus will be on working with the best talent, both individually and within digital production companies, to deliver publicly valuable content and services on digital media platforms- such as made for mobile content, social networking sites like Facebook and online drama series.

The fund will run for at least two years, and West Midlands’ companies will be able to apply for investment of between £20,000 and £1.5 million. Profits made by Screen WM from their investments will be reinvested into the fund. 

Suzie Norton, chief executive of Screen WM said :Securing a major broadcaster like Channel 4 to base their commissioning hub for 4IP in England and Wales in Birmingham is a major coup for the region, and positions us at the cutting edge of digital media production in the UK.

“The fund will provide fantastic opportunities for screen media companies across the West Midlands to lead innovations in areas such as online drama, interactive education and games development. In addition, the fund will work to attract major investment from international blue chip companies such as Google, Microsoft and Bebo, along with public sector partners like the NHS and Arts Council.

“Screen WM is committed to ensuring that our region’s strong media production industry reaps the rewards of the digital revolution. The 4IP fund forms part of our continuing strategy to lead the way in digital, which has seen the extension of our £600,000 Advantage Development Fund to support the digital media, and the agency playing a leading role in the development of Birmingham’s first Digital Film and Media Event, to take place in October this year.”

Mick Laverty, chief executive of AWM said: “Today’s announcement underlines the West Midlands’ position as a leading player in the digital media world. The region is home to over 20% of the UK’s games developers nationwide, the national centre-of-gravity for serious games, Channel 4’s largest Indie producers and an embryonic but growing interactive media company base.

The new fund will not only support development amongst our home grown talent, but will encourage further investment from major digital media companies outside of the West Midlands through commissions and collaboration.”

Liam Byrne MP, minister for the West Midlands, said: “At my first culture summit with James Purnell last year, I said the West Midlands could become Britain’s digital media capital. Today’s announcement is proof we were right. Our combination of creativity and science puts us in the lead of what is fast becoming a huge job market for the future.”

Leader of Birmingham City Council, councillor Mike Whitby said: “This is fantastic news for Birmingham and positions this youthful and diverse city at the cutting edge of digital media content creation in the UK. Birmingham City Council and Screen WM have a strong partnership in supporting the screen media industry in the city, with our new international digital event as a perfect showcase for this exciting new initiative.”

Andy Duncan, chief executive of Channel 4 said: “Media consumers are changing rapidly and Channel 4 must find imaginative new ways of communicating with them. We have to work with the most creative and dynamic companies and many of them are based in the West Midlands, which is why we are delighted to be working with Screen West Midlands on 4IP.”


Premiere film course

A film course, thought to be the first of its kind anywhere in the world, is offering a £100,000 budget to talented film makers to make a feature length production.

The MSc in digital feature film production at Staffordshire University, will give a team of seven of the best filmmakers from around the world £100,000 worth of budget and equipment to make a film of their choice, anything from a documentary to an action thriller. 

Andy Paton, senior lecturer in entertainment technology, said: “There are only a select amount of places on the course, basically one person for each role associated with filmmaking.” 

It is hoped the course, starting in April, will push the boundaries of digital cinema. 

For more see Staffordshire University.

Forget your flat screen TV – grab a footpump!

You may think your top end flat TV is impressive but take a look at this inflatable cinema from Lindstrand technologies, a company better known for making hot air balloons.

Would be pretty awesome for parties or barbeques…

The outdoor cinema screen