Billions lost to creatives who can't manage says Puttnam

Fiachra GIBBONS
British producer David Puttnam says that creatives from film to games tend to end up ditching good businesses when they begin to grow out of their control

"Brilliant" entertainment businesses are "falling like flies" because creatives do not know how to manage, the legendary British film producer Lord Puttnam has claimed.

The veteran Oscar-winner behind "The Killing Fields" and "Chariots of Fire" -- and the only non-American ever to lead a Hollywood studio -- said the problem is putting a massive brake on the multi-billon-euro industry.

David Puttnam told MIPCOM, the world's top entertainment showcase in Cannes, that creatives from film to games tend to end up ditching good businesses when they begin to grow out of their control.

"What happens is potentially brilliant businesses fall like flies once they start doing well because people did not get into this to manage, and they walk away.

"The moment you dislocate yourself from the creative process and you become a manager is awful," Puttnam admitted.

"I hated every single day of my two years at Columbia Pictures. It was horrible," he told the gathering in the French Riviera resort, which ends Thursday.

- 'Hopelessly unsuited' -

"I was unprepared, unqualified and hopelessly unsuited to being a manager. So how do you get gifted people to run nice-sized businesses that are comfortable -- but understand that is different to sitting down at a drawing board doing animation?"

He said the creative industries in Britain, Germany and France generate 161 billion euros ($185 billion) a year and 2.2 million jobs, with revenue nearly doubling in the UK in five years.

"The need for clear-sighted leadership has never been more critical," said the producer and educator as he launched a new executive MBA course for the screen industries with the University of Arts London (UAL).

"Our sector is different," argued Puttnam, who ran Britain's National Film and Television School for a decade and is credited with predicting pay TV as early as 1981.

Conventional MBAs don't work for creatives because they "teach managerialism for much bigger companies," he said.

"Making a small business into a larger business is an enormous challenge and although we have lots of very gifted people I am not certain their talents extend to this.

"In fact they have not got into the business to do this," he added.

Larra Anderson, Dean of Screen at UAL's London College of Communication, said good medium-sized screen, music and particularly games firms often tend to burn out.

"And this is the place where the real creativity comes out and starts to count. So you end up with this huge gulf between people starting out and the AAA studios," she said, referring to mid-sized and major games publishers.