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“There is a lot of money out there for people wanting to make films”: Leeds-based filmmaker gives advice on getting investment for young filmmakers

By Phoebe Morton

Kenneth Barker explains his company name represents the perseverance needed in the industry

Leeds-based filmmaker, Kenneth Barker, today spoke to Leeds Trinity students about the challenges of getting investment for independent feature films.

Kenneth has made five independent feature films, with subjects ranging from bikini-clad women fighting dinosaurs to the life of opera singers.  

In his advice to students, Barker said: “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.  

“There is a lot of money out there for people wanting to make films.” 

Barker recalled how he received investment for his first film, Kingdom, from a reluctant investor who had initially rejected it.  

“He said he liked my personality and the way I came across at the meetings.” 

Throughout his career, he has learned that being trustworthy, reliable and having determined vision is the key to success in the film industry.  

He highlighted the importance of support for people just entering the film industry.  

Barker received help from Grimsby College, who partnered with companies such as Sony and BT to provide high-end equipment to northern-based filmmakers for free.  

Whilst working on his film, Catalina, he was able to use film cameras worth hundreds of thousands of pounds free of charge. 

Barker also was able to use a church hall for free as a venue for his film On The Shoulders of Giants.  

But with advances in technology, Barker thinks expensive equipment might be becoming less of an issue, with access to high quality cameras on phones.  

“The technology here is stuff I couldn’t even dream about five years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago.” 

However, Barker did admit the challenges of obtaining investment remain, especially in an industry becoming dominated by Amazon and Netflix.  

When trying to get finance for a film, it can be a vicious cycle.  

 “Without the actor I can’t get the money; without the money I can’t get the actor.”  

Considering the difficulty with financing, Barker encouraged newcomers to the film industry not to reject unpaid experience.  

He said: “There’s this huge argument that always goes around about getting jobs that are always paid, sometimes you need to just take the experience. 

“If you build up experience, sometimes you’ve got to suck it up to do jobs where you’re not getting paid, but people will remember if you don’t screw up.” 

Encouraging working for free could be seen as a controversial statement considering the government announcement in July 2021 of severe funding cuts to arts courses.  

The University and College Union called the cuts an “act of vandalism” that will “be hugely damaging for access”.  

What do you think?