Posted Sep 17

MPC Episodic MD on the vibrant age of streaming, future of episodic content

by Jane Bracher
MPC Episodic MD on the vibrant age of streaming, future of episodic content by Jane Bracher

MPC Episodic hit the ground running since it was created this year by the award-winning visual effects studio, having already worked on The Third Day for HBO and Sky with more projects in the pipeline.

The Focus spoke with Managing Director Tom Williams about why the studio was created and the culture they’re trying to foster. He also shares his thoughts on how the age of streaming and the rise in episodic content came to be, as well as the future of making that content in a post-pandemic world.

What are the objectives for the new studio?

MPC Episodic has spun out of the MPC Film brand. The reason for having two separate entities is to recognise that the expectation is for film-quality VFX in TV, but there is a different way to approach that to make sure you can achieve it in the timeframes and the budgets that TV shows have. So rather than trying to adapt the film processes to do something that they're not designed for. We have created a team and pipeline to support the budgets and timelines but maintain the quality expectations of our clients. That way film remains the Oscar-winning experts they are and we become, hopefully, the Emmy-winning experts for what we do for the episodic and series world, which is growing massively at the moment. There's a real need in the market, there's a huge growth with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Sky in the UK and across Europe, Peacock, Hulu. The companies who are commissioning and making television, a lot of that requires some sort of VFX, ranging from the quite basic work through to your big sci-fi or character creature shows, which is really exciting. Our aim is to be European-focused, but we work on international shows.

Why do you think there's been an uptick in episodic content in recent years?

I think you could go back about 15 years maybe. This has been coming for a long time. Since 24, ER, The West Wing, some of these ground-breaking shows that came out of America which kind of serialized this 24-episode TV, becoming what we would know as binge-watching. Then the advent of the internet, we're just essentially following the model that has affected all other media books and music  where people want more and they want convenience. They want to be able to watch programmes. They don't want to wait every week for an episode. This is obviously born from Netflix that went from a DVD rental to a streaming service.

I think it's taken a long time but it's just technology and people reacting to the customer's need.

So my need as a viewer, I've watched quite a lot of TV, I can't imagine going back to when I had to wait a week for a new episode. I think it's been coming for a very long time. It's just taken this long really for the bandwidths and broadband and the technology surrounding it to catch up.

What kind of team culture are you looking to build and foster at MPC Episodic?

We feel we want to be part of a story.

We want everybody to be a part of the story of MPC Episodic as well as being part of the client's story and helping them get their narrative on screen and make sure (people) really buy into the story that our filmmakers are trying to tell.

We see that kind of feeds all the way through and part of our motto is 'play as one'. We believe in team. We believe that we should share and be as honest as possible with information. We try not to hold anything back unless it's client-sensitive information. Obviously we don't share that anywhere outside the group who are working on those shows. But in terms of how we're doing, what we're going to be doing going forward, news on the performance of the business -- everything like that we try and share with everyone so they know what are our aims, what are our goals, what do we want to do, so they can act in the right way. We also share the kind of characteristics that we believe our people should display and perform, and lot of it I think everybody would automatically go yes of course, but in a day-to-day environment it’s quite hard to achieve.

What do you think is the future of episodic content relative to feature films? Do you think people will gravitate more to episodic?

I'm so passionate about film. It's always been my love and I think I've seen more films than most but I think there is a massive hunger for episodic content. I think we're going to see film move more to a streaming platform. There’s a lower risk and an easy calculation for the studios to work out exactly how much money they can make from making that film and getting it onto the screen. I think there will always be a place for those big summer blockbuster cinema releases. We just are probably going to have less and what you might actually see is more of a return to low-budget independent filmmaking, rather than just being dominated by the larger Marvel superhero films, which are not bad things because me and my kids love them to death. But I think we might see a change in terms of the scale of the shows that we see hitting the cinema. Inevitably because of covid-19 and because of streaming platforms, there will be change and it's just kind of what shape that change takes over the next few years. –


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