"The British Film Industry is hotter than hell right now and that's completely down to independent filmmakers like Steve McQueen -Shame is extraordinary and unique in it's vision, direction and performances but it did not set out to be a 'commercial film'. The fact that David Cameron is now trying to jump on the bandwagon at this late stage is laughable - the train has already left the station.
This is not about commerciality - it's about great filmmaking and the paying public will make their own decisons as to what is commercial.
The government should, like slightly doddery parents -shell out the cash and otherwise stay out of it and let UK filmmakers get on with it - don't mess with a good thing."
January 11, 2012
The big news today is that there is a major film funder for British films in town. The bad news, is that the money is from David Cameron and his coalition government who have taken on the challenge of producing movies as well as trying to resolve the Euro and economic crises.
Mr Cameron's point is that UK lottery and public funding should be used to fund commercially successful British films. The argument goes along the lines that the film industry in Britain isn't really robust enough and needs to focus on returning profits. Then he adds that the profits should go to the producers. The UK Film Council operated under a 'loan' principle, and expected to be repaid out of income and profit.
Read a summary of Cameron's film speech here:
Here's how we see it:
Commercially successful films generally have big named stars in them (Meryl Streep/Iron Lady) and as such really don't need taxpayers money to make them work commercially. So he's helping those that don't really need it, that will probably make it anyway. More money to the rich, less to the poor.
Smaller budgeted films, with no stars, films like Shame and Kill List can actually be more profitable in terms of return on investment than their bigger budgeted star driven vehicles. And they are less risky too. Big budget star driven vehicles can fail too. Isn't it the smaller, indie, films that need these subsisdies? New voices and boundary pushing ideas are internationally recognised elements of British films, and forms a huge part of their appeal.
Successful films aren't always box office winners. How would Mr Cameron define critically successful films, like, say Tyrannosaur? Tyrannosaur was an artistic success which fared less well in the box office.
All that said... could the British film industry benefit from becoming more commercially driven? It is, after-all, the film business.
Why would private investors ever put money in if it is expected that a film will fail? A culture of failure is hardly inspiring, and commercail failure too often a British film disease.
A more 'commercial' sector will hopefully secure better, steadier, reguler employment for casts and crews - less working only for the c.v.
Commercial" doesn't have to mean bad - films like The King's Speech and Slumdog were (generally accepted to be) good films. (NB: Both Slumdog and King's Speech were nearly written off in their early lives)
But will the films Danny Boyle and Hooper made to get them to the position of making their successes (ie Shallow Grave, Longford etc) be as likely to get to the screen in the new system? Without taking the early risks, can talents like these ever have the time to develop?
Could it be that the commercially successful micro budget films like Kill List be the new norm? After all, they were really profitable.
One things for certain - if Dave Cameron thinks he knows for sure, before a film is made and released, what will be a commercial success then he has a huge career in Hollywood waiting for him. There's no such thing as a sure hit (unless it's Harry Potter 9).
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The more I think about DC's announcement the more it makes me angry!
As your article says it's pretty much impossible to say whether a film will be successful before it gets made/released. There are examples of films made for nothing that had a massive return and vice versa - so called sure fire successes that failed at box office. Who is advising DC to come out and talk such rubbish?!
As your article also says the real danger is that if films only get made by writers/directors/producers who are tried and tested success stories the flow of new talent will be blocked. Surely this will result in the industry becoming stagnated...
To find those stories that touch viewers hearts unexpectedly there needs to be a constant flow of new eyes, new ideas, new perspectives.
I just feel like DC's comments stink of greed. Maybe that means I'm just a romantic and I need to wise up to the fact that this is, as you said, a business?! But the film business is just not as cut and dried as that! especially when dealing with the unquantifiable element at work here : The Magic of the Movies?!
Yours, a hopeless romantic,
If anyone was (still) in any doubt as to the ethos of this Government (look at the New Year gongs for the Prime Minister's dodgy financial cronies, some of whom have spent time in jail for fraud, all of whom capitalized - literally - on the dire economic situation they helped create; what a wonderful new aphorism - 'honours amongst thieves'), this will reassure them.
Money and success to those who already have it? Recession or no recession, that is officially the bottom line for this country; it's the only thing that matters.
Artistic merit? Seeking out and encouraging talent? Facilitating an industry's development along creative and cutting-edge lines instead of for short-term financial gain? It's almost as if this is some warped, nightmarish society brought to life by Terry Gilliam.
And what exactly is 'mainstream' anyway? Will we be pitching to No.10 Downing Street for storyline approval?
You know what, to hell with it. Just make films about a wizard, throw in the odd owl, call it Harry Cameron and the Half-Wit Prime Minister and you'll be laughing.
Yours, through the sobs,
I'll make a deal with you.
Make it cheaper for me to either drive or get the bus to the cinema.
Start paying teachers properly and empowering them to educate children to have respect for other people so that I don't sit in the cinema getting wound up by the kids talking or on their phones.
On the same note, why not get the bus to your local cinema instead of driving about in armoured cars and experience your big society for yourself.
Stop squeezing my middle so that I have the funds available to make my cinema more commercial for you.
Oh – and while you're at it, why not remove your head from your arse.
The King's Speech was a very good film. It was made, like a lot of successful British films, with the help and support of the UK Film Council which he abolished. We cannot compete with Hollywood which is a fully fledged commercial industry with a huge national market plus the financial umph to market worldwide. We need State support through lottery funding, tax breaks etc., so that a variety of good films can be made here. What we don't need is a Prime Minister, who knows little or nothing of what he's talking about to tell us how it should be done.
Graham Lester George
I thought you might enjoy our reaction to David Cameron's plans for the future of the British Film Industry: Click here...
I’ve got to say I have no idea what he was thinking when he said we need to make more commercially successful films. You can’t tick boxes and pigeon hole what is successful and what is not as much as sales agents would love to. The King’s Speech was the most successful Brit flick in ages, but under Cameron’s new ideas, try taking that script about a stuttering middle-aged monarch getting therapy and pitch it as a commercial success. It simply wouldn’t happen.
These ideas Cameron has are going to stop more King’s Speeches being made not encourage more. The blokes a bloody pillock! Leave it to the professionals...
We got the same speech from the Quebec government (Canada) a couple years back. And so far 1 out of 5 "commercial" films have a real success. Most of them are pretty bad actually. It's hard to categorize exactly what a commercially successful means anyways… A good story, good distribution and marketing can make any film a commercial success. No?
‘David Cameron is starting a conversation with the film industry.
He knows that there isn’t money available on the loan principle that the Film Council had so he’s putting his thoughts on what else he can do. The reason he talks about commercial success is that he doesn’t have the experience or expertise and is seeking answers. He needs those of us in the film industry to return the compliment and teach him about the merits of the Blockbuster and the Indie and how they work in this country. He’s obviously interested. For a British Prime Minister to take the initiative like that is a phenomenal vote for British film!
INVITE DAVID CAMERON TO RAINDANCE! DON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER AND MAKE SURE HE ATTENDS! Invite him to a meeting of rational minds and treat him to your best. Pile him with previous Raindance DVD’s. Misinformed criticism moves us backwards and David Cameron just gave the British film industry the chance to take a leap towards a great future!’
David goes to Hollywood is a very apt title for another shambolic gaffe by the much lauded Tory posterboy.
Only a Tory would preach to an industry that continues to exceed it's limitations, when what he should be doing is apologising for minimising the effectiveness of British films when he got on his high horse and killed off the UK Film Council.
In these times of austerity, uncertainty and discontentment, David Cameron should be concentrating on ending the ongoing invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, implementing the best ways of tackling the crippling debt imposed by the banks and be looking to find meaningful and long-term employment for not just 16-25, but anyone wanting to earn enough money to have a life worth working for.
With so many other issues still to deal with, it saddens me to see our PM more preoccupied with a photoshoot at Pinewood Studios, rather than having the courage, determination and intelligence to tackle all the issues that continue to destabilise our country.
Another disappointing episode in the history of British Politics.
When will we ever have a Government worth believing in.
Hmm…in response to and support of above comments; naturally DC has been afforded latitude of highly paid counsel from his advisors (strategists/tacticians) who are quietly confident despite the proverbial ‘pen being mightier than the sword’ that…UK based creative practitioners are unlikely to respond in the way Hollywood, or indeed Indian filmmakers did when its film industry came under threat. Whether it be writers’ or technicians’ livelihoods at stake, the strikes which followed were reasonably (?) debilitating however got the desired result of being in the spotlight. Give growing disdain for such action in the UK, it could be argued govt officials are quietly relying on attitudes prevalent with the docile amongst us to simply take it lying down. Of course they’d be excused for getting something right…rest is rhetoric!
It would be great if the UK industry could indeed make more commercially successful films; that much I agree with. However as Ken Loach pointed out, there is no formula, otherwise we'd all be millionaires. And as William Goldman famously put it, 'nobody knows anything'.
I wish I had the stats to hand, but I remember a few years ago reading about how many UK films had been made, and were just sitting on shelves, as opposed to how many got a theatrical release. And of those that did, only a fraction turned any sort of profit.
Although the distribution model has changed since then, the ROI of the majority of films I imagine is close to or less than zero. If that's the case, I wonder if this is what David Cameron really meant, but expressed it in populist, but ultimately misguided terms.
I think that Cameron has much of the public schoolboy's arrogance and ignorance and despite what he says, one feels he is always going to act tribally by support the status quo. So the idea of putting more money in the hands of those who already have it, is entirely consistent. I don't think anyone would expect the coalition to fund more interesting and critical films inconsistent with the true blue policy.
David Dameron's recent coment on film industry, proves nothing but a copmlete lack of understanding and it is a total nonsense bt still not surprizing....it's a speach from HIM over FILM industries....and probably he knows better than William Goldman....No one knows anything... but Mr Cameron. what a jock.
I couldn't disagree more with David Cameron's position on the UK film industry. Surely he should be encouraging smaller studios suited to nurturing the abundant new talent that is in this country. We can't be a blockbuster factory like Hollywood or Bollywood, that's just a pipe-dream brought on by the success of The Kings Speech and a global interest in the monarchy due in part to the Middletons. I would like to see what information he bases this diktat on.
Strictly speaking this is lottery money isnt it, rather than
"government" mone?. And the BFI distributes it. The government, having
chosen to give this responsibility to the BFI (rather than the Film
Council) should let them get on with rather than trying to dictate the
individual decision-making process.
Independent Film Trust
A healthy industry/culture is marked by a great range of ambitions and approaches. The brutalist monoculture promoted by Cameron, reducing British film to a location, studio service and link in the post workflow will soon be undercut by our cheaper and hungrier colleagues in Eastern Europe. Instead we should support collaboration and market access across the channel which produces a greater diversity of films and strategies. A dependency on Hollywood as key financier and distributor serves no-one in the UK.
Raindance Post Graduate Course Director
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