Bridge + Tunnel Productions (B+T) is an independent media production company that produces a range of unique, exciting and challenging projects - both mainstream and community-based. B+T was founded in 1997 with an ethos of producing work with uncompromising creative vision and social relevance. Their projects often revolve around themes of identity, migration and equality. Since then, a number of divisions of the company have been established which work across media production, television, film, games and production services. We talked to James Baillie, producer at B+T, about the North East television industry, what’s next for the company and attending Locarno Film Festival.
Who does the team consist of at Bridge + Tunnel?
Firstly, there’s the Creative Director and CEO, Tina Gharavi who is a director, producer and a writer. Then there are two other producers: myself - James Richard Baillie - and Nelly Stavropoulou, who has now been with the company for more than two years and who also runs our media charity Bridge + Tunnel Voices. Alongside us is Beatriz Clemente, our office manager and administrator. For the past few months we also have had Romain Goemare and Emmanuel Brun working here as part of their courses at Business School in France
How do the different arms of B+T operate?
They're threefold. B+T Productions does TV and film work. Its aim is to be a regional centre for media production in the North East - the WarpX of the North East - working across TV, film, games and production services. B+T Voices does charity work (not for profit), often with disadvantaged and at-risk groups in the region. Finally, B+T France is our sister company based in Paris and was founded last year.
How do you feel about the development of the film industry within the North East?
TV is enjoying a golden era at the moment and whilst TV is undergoing a period of flux there’s room for a lot more media companies in the North East, that’s for sure – and it’s a bit of a cliché but the ones that will do best are the ones who not only think globally but act globally.
There’s also a lot of scope for transmedia and projects that work across several media. For example, the gaming industry is particularly strong in the North East and there is a real tech start-up culture developing via initiatives such as Campus North.
Do you think the North East industry can compete nationally?
The North East industy should do better than compete – it should really be taking a lot of business away from other regions. It’s not even three hours from London by train but it’s one of the cheapest parts of the UK to live and rent, with a great quality of life.
It’s a very fertile region in terms of creativity and one that is ready for take-off – what the region could really do with is the kind of seed funding to media companies provided a few years ago, like the two million pound Creative Content Fund from North Star and Northern Film & Media.
Can you tell us about your current project, The Good Iranian?
It’s a gangster film set in Paris and the Middle East. It’s a really exciting project we’ve been quietly developing for a couple of years and we hope to make some major announcements shortly.
We’re going to be launching a stand-alone game alongside The Good Iranian, which will be made here (in Newcastle), working closely with Newcastle University, over the coming year for release across platforms in 2016. There’s further information on the website and we’ll be going live with a new website (For the Good Iranian) in the coming weeks.
You recently attended Locarno Film Festival with the project. How did it go?
Locarno is a weird festival – it’s held in August for one thing, but it’s a great setting on Lago Maggiore near the Italian border. The number of industry people is rising steadily, but unlike Cannes or the Berlinale there’s no market, so it’s a good spot to meet with people and have discussions about projects without the stress and hassle of the two big Euro festivals. I’ve been there twice now and it’s always been really useful.
Are Bridge + Tunnel currently working on any other projects?
Yes, we’re making an interactive documentary looking at the prison system in the US. It’s a new kind of documentary that’s never been tried before so we’re really excited about that. Again, we hope to announce some important developments by the end of the year.
James attended Locarno Film Festival part-funded by Northern Film & Media's Market Access Fund. To keep up to date with what's happening at Bridge + Tunnel Productions follow them on Twitter and take a look at their website.