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Canadian-born Catherine Vetere is the head of a London-based movie production company, 4D Pictures. (Greg Latter)
Canadian-born Catherine Vetere is the head of a London-based movie production company, 4D Pictures. (Greg Latter)


Movie-making business reels with technological change Add to ...

This series looks at technologies that will be game-changers for small business, particularly firms whose staffs are highly mobile and where travel is part of the game.

When Catherine Vetere strolls to the headquarters of her movie production company, 4D Pictures, it’s a distance of about three metres.

Ms. Vetere began working in the film business after graduating from Toronto’s Ryerson University in 1984. Out of school, the Trois-Rivières, Que., native started out in the Film Liaison Office at Toronto City Hall, promoting the city and Ontario to producers looking for movie locations, and then arranging the logistics, such as closing streets for scenes to be shot.

Today, Ms. Vetere works in England from her home office in a historically designated house in Muswell Hill in north London. She set up 4D after selling a chain of cafés and retraining in script development at London’s National Film and Television School.

While not quite a movie mogul yet, she is already an accomplished producer, with two feature films under her belt, A Thousand Kisses Deep and Dirty Weekend, as well as several short films and new movies in development.

Dirty Weekend, a bilingual dark comedy, is soon to be released in Canada and the United States. Set in northern France, it had its premiere last summer at the Montreal World Film Festival and was also shown at the Beijing International Film Festival.

Ms. Vetere says that the business of movie making is complex and constantly surprising.

For one of her short features that recently completed shooting, called Chop Chop, “I had to use a prosthetic penis that was rigged to go from flaccid to erect. It’s being edited now,” she says.

The film, that is.

Producing a movie means finding and organizing people with different skills – from investors and accountants to writers, directors and actors to crews, technicians and marketing and publicity experts.

Technology has changed the business dramatically, Ms. Vetere says. “I am a real Luddite. But technology today speeds up the process so much, as early as the development stages,” she says.

At one time a producer like Ms. Vetere would have an office with a staff, meeting rooms and screening facilities. Now she works with her laptop and specialized movie-related software and apps.

With budgets ranging from a few thousand to several million dollars – low for the movie business – she does her planning using software called Movie Magic Budgeting. “They’re wonderful tools for working and reworking a schedule and a budget to fit both the director’s and writers’ vision and the budgetary necessities of filmmaking today.“ She chooses shooting locations by Internet. “We can make informed calculations,” she explains.

“When I was at the Toronto Film Liaison we scouted locations to show producers and directors how Toronto could double for international locations. Now, all I have to do is send a request to any of the many film commissions around the world and they will read the script and send me potential locations and information about tax credits.”

Ms. Vetere has tried crowdfunding for some of her projects but found it to be a mixed success so far. “I have used it for short films and have raised sufficient capital. But good crowdfunding requires developing a strong campaign and rollout program,” she says.

“Personally I prefer old-fashioned face-to-face pitching. I regularly attend film festivals and markets, mostly Cannes and Berlin, where I can meet with sales agents, distributors and financiers and find out what they are looking for.”

Her editors use industry standard software such as Final Cut Pro, as well as a few tricks. For example, Dirty Weekend, like most movies, was shot on high-definition digital video, but her postproduction team used software called DaVinci Resolve, which softens the images and colour to make the finished product look like film.

“It’s important for the actors as well as the audience, because HD is unforgiving,” she says.

The digital world has changed the way films are publicized and marketed as well, Ms. Vetere says. Not long ago, distributors would stagger the release of various forms of a movie, starting with theatrical release and then following this weeks or months later with a DVD and a digital version that can be downloaded.

Now the public wants everything fast, she says. “Many distributors find they can get more out of their marketing dollar with what’s called ‘day and date’ release, putting out everything at once.”

Though not a social media aficionado by nature, Ms. Vetere says her business can’t live without her staying online constantly. “Twitter and Facebook are a must in this business, but when you’re a one-person office, you find yourself doing it at midnight in bed.”

It’s all worth it, she says. “Movies have a very important moral place in the world. They let us gain empathy for things that we may never experience in our lives.”

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