The power of representation on film is a potent thing. The performative aspect of cinema is such that the art form responds to the cultural discourse while altering it, changing it, and improving it. This is why improving representation in film and television, both qualitatively and quantitatively, of groups that have been historically marginalised is an essential gap in our culture today. There is a need for fresh diverse stories -and diverse voices. Phil Hunt has made this his mission with his next venture, Bohemia Media.
Phil Hunt has been managing director of the UK-based companies Bankside Films and Head Gear Films. Since founding the latter in 2002, he has funded over 250 films. He nevertheless identified a gap in what his activities afforded him to do. “I have been approached with movies that were not quite right for Head Gear, which is commercially-based,” he said recently to Screen International. Thus was born Bohemia Media. It is an entity designed, with his partner Lucy Fenton, to not only produce and champion diverse stories to the silver screen, but also foster emerging diverse voices in a nurturing environment that is not necessarily driven by commercial considerations.
As we catch up, in the midst of the lockdown, the first piece of the bigger picture that is the Bohemia project is currently shut. “It started with this pub, The Apple Tree, which was designed to be a home to a community, not just one facet of the community.” Over the phone, Phil Hunt marks a pause as he considers the current state of safe spaces for marginalised communities. “There are gay bars, and lesbian bars, and kink places, but there is nowhere that is for everyone,” he continues. This was the beginning of the Bohemia project: a place that is open to a community, and that is owned by the company so as not to be beholden to a landlord that could evict the project or hike up the rent. This serves as a home base for the creators in the Bohemia fold.
And if the idea behind Bohemia Media is a response to the current state of representation in film, or lack thereof, the roots of it date back to the early 80s. As a punk fan then, the only place where the punk clique would be able to congregate would be in gay bars. “It was basically the only place where all the freaks could go.” As Phil Hunt describes it, it sounds like a perfect bohemia.
A Brand for Better Representation
Do not imagine, however, that the project is in any way nostalgic. If anything, the project is very much focused on the future, by starting to nurture singular, diverse voices now.
The Apple Tree is Bohemia Media’s home. It has hosted anything from drag shows and performances by kink-friendly intersectional feminists playing the ukulele to workshops with intellectual property lawyers -and it’s all free. It is also the starting point for the broader Bohemia brand. The broader ecosystem of the brand contains other entities. Bohemia Egomania is the talent management arm that completes the body of the talent-fostering institution. Bohemia Utopia is the charitable arm which will give back into the community. Bohemia Distribution will be the distributor for the content that emerges from the other entry points of Bohemia.
Part of the originality of the concept is that, by virtue of being a fully formed, well-rounded ecosystem, Bohemia Distribution will be able to feed back into The Apple Tree and will be a direct business-to-consumer proposition. After all, doing something new and innovative can’t be done by thinking inside the box.
The originality of the enterprise comes both from the beauty of the project and its iconoclastic, thought-provoking vision. After all, Phil Hunt is an entrepreneur at heart, who’s has had a circuitous path into the film industry. He began producing feature films in the mid 90’s with micro budgets that occasionally found more than a micro audience. Prior to the film business, he was an advertising and music photographer including working with bands such as Big Audio Dynamite. Phil began investing in central London real estate in the early 90’s -a skill that came in handy when the time came to purchase a freehold pub that was to become The Apple Tree.
All the different arms of Bohemia will carry out different aspects of the mission that Phil Hunt has given himself, with his partner Lucy Fenton. “It’s all one and the same thing: it is very much a politicised space, and from that space the brand was born: Bohemia.”
While we are on lockdown, Phil Hunt will be joining us at Raindance in one session of our Lockdown Sessions on 28th April, in order to discuss what an executive producer does, how film finance works and his work at Bankside and Head Gear. We will of course discuss Bohemia Media as well, and talk about how to increase representation of diverse stories. Join us.