Copyright 2002

[ November 19th 2002 ]

Oscar-winning special effects facility Mill Film is bowing out of the feature f/x biz, with "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" serving as its swan song. Mill Film's London-based parent the Mill will not shutter, but said it will now focus its efforts exclusively on its growing commercials and advertising businesses. The Mill originally was founded in 1990, by brothers Ridley and Tony Scott, to create high-end f/x for commercials and music vids.

Mill Film was spun off in 1997 to create computer-generated visuals for films. It employed as many as 150 f/x artists, depending on which projects the facility was working on. "Mill Film has built up a world-class reputation working on the best feature work around, but we have decided that after five years and an Oscar, the time is right for us to leave the film industry," said Robin Shenfield, CEO of the Mill. "We will be concentrating all our future investment and energy on our core advertising business. This will mean refocusing Mill Film technology and expertise into high-end and high-definition advertising."

The news doesn't come as much of a surprise to the f/x community in the U.S. and the U.K. Although its work was pricy, the Mill evolved into a considerable presence among f/x studios after its Oscar win for "Gladiator" in 2001. Shortly after, it landed big f/x pics "Black Hawk Down," "Cats & Dogs," "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" and sequences for both "Harry Potter" pics, as well as shots for the latest James Bond actioner, "Die Another Day." Other credits include "Hannibal," "Pluto Nash," "The Avengers," "A Knight's Tale," HBO's "Band of Brothers" and this summer's "K-19: The Widowmaker."

However, the company's high overhead and struggle to land f/x-heavy pics that weren't either shot by the Scott brothers or lured to the U.K. through tax incentives -- it hadn't been able to attract another pic after the latest "Harry Potter" -- proved a costly hurdle for the f/x arm to overcome. Add to that the heavy competish from local Soho shops, including Cinesite Europe, the Moving Picture Co. and Framestore CFC. "Mill Film has been a creative and commercial success," Shenfield said. "However, film is a volatile business that requires both scale and continuous investment. It is hugely dependent on U.S. studios bringing work to the U.K. to take advantage of tax breaks. So we have decided to focus our energies and future investment on our core business, advertising."

Previous ad clients include Guinness, Levi's, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Nike, Reebok and Pepsi. The Mill had been planning to expand its commercials biz. It opened a commercials production office in New York in July, and now with the company's realignment plans to expand that office, as well as expanding its editing and f/x capabilities at its London headquarters.

Plan also includes opening more editing and f/x suites within London's ad agencies. It already has several such suites inside Ogilvy & Lowe. It will also continue to invest and expand its Internet-based review, approval and media asset archive service, BEAM.TV, used by a community of post houses, ad agencies and production companies. Proprietary technology that Mill Film created for feature f/x will be moved over to the commercials group, "where increasingly more complex computer-generated imagery and high-definition skills are demanded," Shenfield said. "We will also continue to invest in the best technology in order to strengthen the Mill and take it to new heights of excellence. The opportunities in advertising are too good to pass up, and need 100% focus and commitment."

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