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Worker co-operative production companies

Hello all,

I was just wondering if anyone knows if there are any worker co-operative film production companies around? Or if anyone else likes the idea?

Here is a good short film offering some insight into a design and printing worker co-op in the UK:

vimeo.com/162710674

Any thoughts welcomed

  • I love the idea, but have never been sure if it would work in practice. Clearly people have made it work particularly in the print sector where project lifecycles are modest and the kit is relatively cheap and robust by comparison, and you tender for smaller, faster gigs in a specific political lobbying ideology sector. The customers are probably all aligned socially, not corporates.

    I've not really heard of it working in the film/video sector, and I'm not really sure why. It works in retail pretty well, but again that's fast turnaround of low value items, maybe that's the key. My inner communist loves the idea though.

    2 months ago
    • That's a good point about the customers Paddy. I'm not sure how it would work on larger projects - but I suppose it's a matter of how established a company would become and the nature of their work.

      I definitely feel that its the way forward for businesses. There's an Economist by the name of Richard Wolff who talks about the role of worker co-ops at great length. One of his sites is: www.democracyatwork.info

      1 month ago
  • Hi Daryl. Its something that I've thought about a few times over the last few years, and I'm talking to people about it currently. I think it would work for a feature film if the collective all came together and gave their services for free on the production and everybody got the same back end % of any profits. I think it could work really well for a mix of experiences, i'e graduates working alongside established crew and cast. I watched the video and it inspired me to share it on Facebook in order to gauge any interest from my film making colleagues.

    1 month ago
  • I think the first priority is to build the community, and once that's more or less working then look how (and if) that structure can work with clients coming in, and how best to divide that work.

    I set up Filmonik in Manchester years ago ( filmonikweb.blogspot.co.uk/ ) which is basically a filmmaking collective that meets semi regularly to screen their work, is ALWAYS making films together, and holds regular open access filmmaking events that attract huge numbers of filmmakers, both locally and from the international Kino community. They even had their own (huge) space for about 18 months, donated from the Co-operative, that functioned as hang-out, studio, base, sound-recording pod, etc etc!

    In 2009 I started Kino London, based on the same principles of open access and collaboration: www.kinolondon.com At one point it was the biggest short film night in London (soon will be again!!) and we've never programmed a single film - it's a totally open-mic event, and we ran loads of filmmaking projects with folks like Sony, Southbank Centre and Tate. They were always free (or max £10) to take part, we worked with shared or donated kit, people collaborated with folks they'd never met before, and everyone taught each other and shared their skills. For one project we had the run of Tate Britain for two whole days for around 60 filmmakers to film whatever they wanted (we had fiction, dance, doco, experimental...). Kino took a break after going non-stop for over 7 years and will relaunch in a couple of months.

    At some point in the future - likely in Manchester, where I live - I plan to set up a permanent space that can house groups like Filmonik - a bit like the Wonder Inn ( www.facebook.com/Thewonderinn/ ) that has kit hire, events space, cafe, training and workshops, big screening space etc. all based on membership, and as much as possible cash-free, so a mutual credit system. You have to include an element of cash-free in any collective, as the whole idea of everybody collaborating to get stuff done, or to learn something and develop, is that you learn without needing to spend the cash. You learn in exchange for whatever else you can offer. If you're just building a collection to make and share cash more easily (not saying that you are!) then in my opinion you're doing it for the wrong reasons.

    Sure, it's possible to do this is in a filmmaking context, even working with clients. Build your community, decide how people becoming part of and leave that community, decide what you can offer as a group and how you structure yourself to clients, decide what and how you will charge, and how the projects will be divided up, how you will work with clients etc. Also - crucially - decide who will be doing what when there is no actual project going on, to merit taking a cut of the money from the projects that are happening. Being part of a collective is a nigh-on full time job - it's a functioning community - so perhaps in between projects you're training people, or doing the accounts, or writing or the website, or cleaning the office etc. I think you need a permanent space, that functions as your hub, where everybody gets together all the time, and wherever possible all the work happens.

    I think your idea of shooting a feature like this Chris is interesting, but my concern with that is that it's still the vision of a few (maybe even one) number of people being created by a much larger number. The vast majority of the cast and crew will not even have site of the figures involved, and most would dispute them anyway. "Why do we need the crane today? Why are we seriously paying for two security guys" etc etc when there could just be more money to share around. And let's be honest, no feature made in this way would make any money WHATSOEVER. Features only sell because they're made to top notch standards with cracking actors and crew (and most of those don't make money anyway). And most people working at that level simply won't do a project like that.

    Final thoughts - f you don't have a strong structure and and a group of people that firmly believe in that structure then you can't start working with clients and taking payments. You need to build that structure first.

    :-)

    1 month ago
    • Very valid point about crew. For most crew, the opportunity to work with/for a creative is a non-opportunity. "Experience", "exposure", "showreel" are meaningless to a caterer, cable basher, boom swinger. A DIT isn't learning from a director, they're facilitating them.

      1 month ago