Monday, January 15, 2007


So after thirty-three years Silverscreen Productions (NZ) has announced its voluntary liquidation - sad but not surprising.
Silverscreen started as a one-director company with the hugely talented Geoff Dixon working out of his living room. It eventually grew into an amorphus group of companies with fingers in many pies: production, design, post-production, Internet, TV and feature films: all many steps away from its core business…
What is the core business of a tvc production company? I thought it was to offer the services of a talented and experienced director to the advertising industry in order to make iconic commercials that capture the audience’s attention for their clients’ brands.
However, the current trend with production companies is to spruik the fact that they are the biggest, the best, have the greatest flashest offices, are the most awarded, sponsor the best lunches/parties etc ….
Production companies seem to have forgotten that they work in the world’s second oldest profession and that it doesn’t take flash offices and hundreds of staff to run a successful production company - it takes talented, experienced directors supported by producers who can bring good work in, on budget.
The current trend is to offer a huge roster of mostly mediocre directors, one for every mediocre script!
Even if there were that much talent around, the investment in promoting planeloads of directors and the cost of on-the-job training is huge. Problem is, clients have slashed budgets and margins, while expectations have stayed where they’ve always been: high. It is simply not possible for these two trends to continue side by side.
In Silverscreen’s case, it has not only hung on for dear life in this unsustainable environment, it has added more volatile and unpredictable businesses to the mix with its forays into special effects post-production and feature films.
Its demise, as I said at the beginning, is sad but not surprising. But there are many players that owe it a huge debt of gratitude, myself included. The list is long of those that have benefited from their association with Silverscreen, however brief: LeeTamahori, Richard Gibson, Matt Murphy, Mat Palmer and Messer’s Prince, Noonan, Long, Whyman and Douglas to name but a few…
….. and if I were one of the many poor souls owning a production company, big or small and worried that the next call is going to be the bloody bank again I’d be looking very very carefully at the bottom line (I know I did…in the end!!)
Happy New Year.

Roger Tompkins

NOTE: Silverscreen Sydney has not been affected by the voluntary liquidation of Silverscreen (NZ).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

not sure i agree with you on much of that roger. ss were brought down not because they ignored their core business, but because there isn't enough core business to go around. that and the fact that prod co's have been forced to aggressively undercut each other on every single bid (a practise I'm sure you've been party to). sure, the roster was big, but at a time of media convergence it might be considered smart to look into stretching the creative talents available.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

look they ignored the core biz and expanded into post films, online etc. a tight small prod co with a core of three/four directors can do very well in this climate... running a full post house with telecines huge staff rooster etc ...i'm not convinced

2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any more nominations for the Neil French mit cigar lookalike competition?

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

apparently you can only be a director if you chuff on a stoogie

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Roger, working from your kitchen is okay when you have 20 Years of clients up your sleeve, with your house paid off with the kids gone...

But when you're not in that lucky position, you go hard to suit the market. Looking from the outside in, SS did everything right for itself and the industry except for not keeping all the gun directors that they nurtured and developed over the years.
They all pissed off from the boob that feed them when they were young and unfortunately took alot of business with them.

Working from home is nice if you are winding down, but you have to play big first before you play small.
You've done it (Cranbrook), Geoff's done it (Silver Screen), David D has done it (Film G), Jeff D's done it (BLACK & Radical), Toia's doing it (ZOOM), Mel B & the Princess is doing it (Sweet Shop), Steve Rodgers is doing it (Revolver), Murphs doing it (Good Oil) etc etc.
Big gets you big and small gets you small.

SS may have played a bit big in a strinking TVC market with some unloyalty bring SS down, but being small you go by unnoticed. Big attracts big, small attracts small. Small goes by unnoticed unless a director they represent is a fuckin genius and usally those genius directors run away to greener pastures leaving the little shop dead.

I just hope Geoff pays his bills on his way out the door, so we can all say to him for ever more "Good on ya Geoff for giving it one hell of a go and thanks for the memories, the inspiration and the bench mark to follow".

4:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Silverscreen definitely set the benchmark in this part of the world I reckon, but eventually in this business the good directors leave and go out on their own as it's so easy to start up a prod co if you have a name, a few contacts & some ambition. And look at all the talent silverscreen spawned, the industry is better for it.

Understandably Geoff tried to diversify, as diversification is the only way you can become a real business as opposed to a place certain name directors work from. You have to diversify and get bigger to evolve as a proper business (if that's what you want). What sort of business would Revolver be without Steve, or Plaza without Paul. Radical on the other hand is a real business.

Geoff always gave it a good go and has been a great asset to the industry and I'm sure he'll kick on thru Sydney office & Oktober. At least he never succumbed to the Plush's of the world like many have done on their way out. RIP.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Video killed the radio-star" syndrome at least SS were not a one hit wonder - well done Geoff and all the best for the future.

9:32 PM  

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