The Hollywood-ization of the British Film Industry

Does this logo look familiar? You’ve probably seen it in front of countless films by British auteurs like Ken Loach, Andrea Arnold, Steve McQueen, Danny Boyle, Mike Leigh, Lynne Ramsay and many others. You may not know this, but the British government finances Independent films. Wait… what? That’s right. The UK Film Council finances challenging, socially-aware art. They green lit these films this year: Shame, Weekend, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Attack the Block, Tyrannosaur, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Kill List, and others. Pretty amazing, right?  Oh, sorry. I forgot to mention the government recently disbanded the UK Film Council.

They gave the councils responsibilities to the British Film Institute. So far everything has basically been the same, but the British independent film industry received some bad news today. This Monday the government will release their review into the film policy, and the Prime Minister Cameron hinted at what’s to come. Indiewire reports:

Cameron said that he felt that the industry should “aim higher,” and produce “more commercially successful pictures” without Hollywood backing, commenting “Our [government] role, and that of the British Film Institute, should be to support the sector in becoming even more dynamic and entrepreneurial, helping U.K. producers to make commercially successful pictures that rival the quality and impact of the best international productions,” adding “we must incentivise U.K. producers to chase new markets both here and overseas.

“Historically, a disproportionate amount of public money was directed at a type of art house production. Some were excellent, but they were aimed almost entirely at minority markets. This cannot continue, we must have a more balanced approach with greater support for mainstream films because the key to building a dynamic industry will always lie in film’s relationship with the audience.”

Even worse news seems to come from the BBC. “Today” program Arts Editor Will Gompertz said on the show this morning that, having spoken to a senior person involved with the report, it’s expected to shift towards a focus to those with proven commercial track records. If you’ve made a successful film in the past, it’ll be easier to get funding. Gompertz quotes his unnamed source as saying that the new system will focus on, “Movies that people want to see, not luvvies who are your mates,” and that “It’s over for Mike Leigh,” the beloved British auteur whose films wow festival crowds, but rarely become financial triumphs.

This is bad news, people. The British government is taking its cues from the US and Hollywood by putting profit before people. Making money is going to be more important than making films that actually say something about the world we live in and critique our broken society. I don’t know why Britain is looking to Hollywood for inspiration when it releases hundreds of bad movies year after year. Hollywood hasn’t figured out what’s going to make money. If they did why would they spend hundreds of millions of dollars on films that come nowhere near making a profit? What makes Britain so confident they know something the US hasn’t figured out with decades and decades of experience? Now we’re in danger of losing the next Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, Shame, Hunger, Fish Tank, Attack the Block, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, and countless other great films. I guess my plan to make films in Britain is out the window…

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One thought on “The Hollywood-ization of the British Film Industry

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