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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 18:46 GMT
The makings of a movie revolution
By Alex Stanger
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Armed with computers and cheap editing software, a new generation of budding film-makers is finding it easier than ever to get noticed.

Shane Meadows at the Baftas
Now films have turned up in Cannes that have been made on a laptop, in someone's bedroom
Shane Meadows (left)
The days of scrimping and saving to get a first short film made are not necessarily over - but the cost has been driven down dramatically in the past decade, and that's thanks to advances in technology.

For Bafta Award winner Shane Meadows, this shift can only be a good thing.

"When I was a kid, camcorders were as big as your dad's car and they were really expensive," he tells the BBC.

"And then you needed editing equipment so it was something that wasn't open to people unless you had a privileged background."

Meadows is a member of the old school. He had to beg cameras and editing equipment to make his first short film Smalltime in 1996.

He became so frustrated at there being nowhere to screen Smalltime that he founded a "mini event" showcasing it and other shorts.

Joel Veitch's animated cats
Joel Veitch's animated cats became cult hits - and kicked off his career
This year, his feature This is England won the Bafta for best British film.

"Now films have turned up in Cannes that have been made on a laptop, in someone's bedroom," he adds.

"Technology alone has made it a big part for kids that wouldn't otherwise have had the chance."

There is no chance of Meadows making movies on his laptop now, but for those wanting to become future Bafta winners, putting digital pictures together has never been easier - and that's thanks to editing software.

The price of buying this software is dropping all the time and according to animator Joel Veitch, the software is becoming easier to master.

Veitch is one of the revolution's success stories.

You don't need to make showreels and send them to 100 production houses, hoping somebody will watch it
Joel Veitch

His animations of skiffle-playing kittens became an internet phenomenon five year ago.

After e-mailing them to a few friends, they found their way into inboxes across the TV industry.

Since then, Veitch has worked on advertising campaigns for Switch cards and Crusha milkshakes and has created animations for the BBC, Channel 4 and VH1.

"You no longer need to be dependent on the old distribution channels," he says.

"You don't need to make showreels and send them to 100 production houses, hoping somebody will watch it.

"You can just put it on the internet and rely on people e-mailing each other and then you get an audience - assuming that your work is appealing."

Internet revolution

The revolution has again been moved on by the emergence of video-sharing websites such as You Tube, Veoh and My Space, according to the UK Film Council's chief executive John Woodward.

"Even if you make a brilliant film, the question which many have had to grapple with on the web is how do you drive people to it, how do you advertise it?" he says.

"The social networking sites have been a complete revolution in what they have done.

"Consumers will find something, share it with other consumers and the whole thing goes viral and suddenly you can find a project that started quite small becomes an enormous hit."

But do not expect a hit on the internet to suddenly be transported onto the big screen.

Digital hurdles

Digital technology may make it easier to shoot and edit films, but they still cannot be shown at most cinemas in the UK.

That is because only around 10% of cinemas have digital projectors, according to figures supplied by the Film Distributors' Association.

It means movies such as this year's digitally-filmed box office hit Cloverfield must be transferred onto 35mm film before they can be shown at the majority of cinemas - and that costs thousands.

The beauty of the revolution is that it's not about making films that replace Hollywood or the British film industry
John Woodward
UK Film Council
Of course, for the fledgling film-maker, getting a movie shown at a multiplex may be rather ambitious.

But entering it into film festivals and competitions, which require it to be projected onto a big screen, could also prove costly.

But John Woodward believes that is not the concern of this particular movement.

"The beauty of the revolution is that it's not about making films that replace Hollywood or the British film industry," he says.

"What it is about is being able to showcase talent much, much more effectively - and if you do that properly, you are going to get noticed and these films become calling cards."

Watch Alex Stanger's TV report on film-making on BBC News 24's new entertainment news programme E24. It is shown on BBC News 24 at 1045 GMT and 1745 GMT on Saturdays, and at 1745 GMT and 2145 GMT on Sundays.

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