David Cameron’s speech on the UK film industry: what does it mean for low-budget filmmaking?
Prime Minister David Cameron has said the UK film industry needs to match “the quality and impact” of international movies. Here’s Nick’s take on the matter...
It's hard to start without any other thought: that, once again, someone who doesn’t understand the film industry is meddling with it. In this case, though, it's not the kind of meddling that's easy to dismiss. It leads to the door of British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the government.
This has all come about as a result of comments from David Cameron on the state of the industry, and what needs to be done.
The British film industry just isn’t profitable enough for them, apparently, and so films must be more mainstream and more commercially viable. In fact, his exact words were that the industry should be “More dynamic and entrepreneurial” and “Rival the quality and impact of the best international productions”.
This means, it seems, that big production companies churning out identikit movies will receive money, while small, unproven companies and filmmakers will be left to rot. Thanks David Cameron, you’re really helping the industry grow. Already equipped with its own ironic fundablefilms hashtag on Twitter, many people are rightly outraged at this, and pouring scorn on the whole idea.
Cameron’s suggestion really is idiotic, and among the very good points already to be found online I would like to say exactly why, in my opinion, the entire thing is flawed, unhelpful and harmful to the British film industry. Please stay away from it Mr Cameron, unless you’re secretly a genius film mogul who knows more than anyone else, and has cracked the secret of a guaranteed hit. Which I somehow doubt.
First, it may seem like a good idea to only make films with commercial appeal. We have a failing economy and mass unemployment, especially in the youth sector. Making large-scale hit films would seem to be the answer, generating more revenue and also providing more jobs. Except it won’t – if you’re a production company whose very survival now relies on making these commercial films, you’re going to use crew, writers, and directors you know and trust, and have experience making hits already.
Bang goes any opportunity for creating jobs for those without experience, and no funding would be there for those unproven filmmakers. An industry which is already small enough, and relies on a boy’s network of somebody knowing somebody else would shrink even more, and no young, exciting talent would emerge – unless they happened to know someone within the industry.
There would, in fact, be fewer jobs and even less opportunites for those who aren’t blessed with the right contacts. We should be offering funding to film schools, graduates and fresh new talent to go out and make something. We would obviously have fewer hits on our hands, but we would be creating a lot of work and, for minimal investment, could well end up with some pretty big hits anyway. To not offer this is downright disgusting, and essentially would make the British film industry the playground of the cultural elite. All of whom would be making the same film over and over, which leads me to my next point.
That there is no magic bullet or guarantee of success surely proves that trying to make commercially viable films is at best flawed, and at worst deranged. Anyone who even has the most basic understanding of the economics of film would know that successful ideas don’t necessarily work a second time. Audiences are far savvier than we give them credit for, and will easily become bored of the obvious and formulaic. Cameron seems to be hell-bent on turning Britain into a Hollywood-lite, which we certainly don’t need.
Hollywood is already artistically bankrupt, with a mass of sequels, prequels, and remakes, and there is a definite fatigue among audiences. How long until the same occurs over here if we go down a similar route, especially with fewer resources, in terms of both talent and finances?
I’m not saying we don’t have great filmmakers here, just fewer of them, and the really good ones won’t stick around to make boring shit that’s ‘commercially successful’.
I still can’t quite believe how stupid these comments are and the fact that this review of ‘industry experts’ (including Julian Fellowes) genuinely believe that, just because they say so, suddenly we’re going to start making hit after hit over here. Oh yeah, I forgot that everyone’s been trying really hard to make flops recently. But to even think that you know what would make a hit is ludicrous. One of the beauties of film is that no one knows what will work and what won’t. Some of our biggest successes wouldn’t even be looked at under the new regime.
Take, for example, our recent Oscar winning hits, The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire. Neither exactly screams out award blagging mega-hit and, indeed, may not have seen the light of day with producers entirely focused on making money rather than making anything artistic (whereas forgotten tripe such as Sex Lives Of The Potato Men would still get through). But the success of both just goes to show that sometimes gambles pay off, and that we need to risk investment in projects which may seem commercially unviable.
I remember several years ago, when a trio of exciting new TV talents were trying to get their somewhat out there film project made. Luckily, somebody took a risk on it, and Shaun Of The Dead saw the light of day. Edgar Wright is now a darling of Hollywood while Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are able to star in big-budget Hollywood films.
Even more than other industries, film needs new talent to survive and renew itself. Every successful filmmaker starts somewhere, but with a new focus on only films which will make a profit we would be destroying this and essentially selling the industry for a quick buck. There is simply no longterm gain to be made from this, only an ill-thought out get rich quick scheme in which there is no guarantee anyone will actually make money.
I hope there is resistance to this idea, and that common-sense prevails. Otherwise we may yet see my favourite of the #fundablefilms titles appear in multiplexes: Tyrannosaur 3D.