UK films urged to be more 'mainstream' in new report


Ken Loach: "Public money should go to fund a wide variety of projects"

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The British film industry should back more mainstream movies, a report is expected to recommend next week.

Ahead of a visit to Pinewood Studios on Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron said the film industry should support "commercially successful pictures".

His comments come before the publication of Lord Smith's review into the government's film policy on Monday.

The review was commissioned to find out how the industry could offer better support to UK film-making.

Mr Cameron praised the UK film industry but said "we should aim even higher, building on the incredible success of recent years".

He acknowledged the British film industry had made "a £4bn contribution to the UK economy and an incalculable contribution to our culture".

Lord Smith, the former Labour culture secretary, is also expected to recommend developing an export strategy to increase the profits of British films.

Speaking to the BBC, director Ken Loach said it was important to have a diverse film industry with a wide range of films to choose from.

"If everyone knew what would be successful before it was made, there would be no problem," he said.

"What you need to do is fund a lot of different, varied projects and then you'll get a really vibrant industry."

Loach added he would encourage more independent cinemas, saying: "The market does not provide choice if you don't intervene."

Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes, who was a member of Lord Smith's panel, said it was necessary to support mainstream films.

"There has been the thinking in the past that public money should only go into films that can't get any investment anywhere else," he told Sky.

"When you actually analyse that it means it should only go into films that nobody could conceivably want to see and there's no logic in that - you want to make a film-friendly, audience-friendly industry.

"It's not a question of not having minority films, it's just opening it up so we're also getting behind films that people might want to see."

Grassroots support

Mark Herbert, chief executive of Warp Films, which has made films including This Is England, Submarine and Tyrannosaur, said it was impossible to predict which films would be commercially successful.

He said the company's biggest commercial success had been Four Lions, a comedy about inept suicide bombers.

"It took £3m at the box office, won festivals, did brilliant business in Germany and France and is up there with big studio films in terms of DVD sales.

Bafta rising star nominee Adam Deacon Adam Deacon wrote, directed and starred in the comedy Anuvahood

"Yet nobody backed that. There was no public money in that. When I was trying to raise the money, I had very experienced funders and producers saying 'Nobody will go and watch this film.'"

He also pointed out that black and white silent film The Artist was making more money per screen than any other film currently on release in the UK and is favourite to win best picture at the Oscars - but would not have looked like a hit on paper.

"You can imagine people saying 'Who's going to watch a black and white silent film?' But they are, and people are loving it," he said.

Mr Herbert added that independent regional film-makers must continue to be supported as well as major film studios, and that new talent must be nurtured by supporting low-key, low-budget films.

"For talent to get to the stage where they can pull off [making] a blockbuster, they need to support the grassroots. It's like having an elite England football team and not supporting any young players."

Speaking at the announcement of this year's Bafta rising star shortlist, nominee Adam Deacon, who wrote, directed and starred in Anuvahood said: "2011 was a great year and our films like Attack the Block and The Inbetweeners were competing against America.

"It shouldn't all be about The King's Speech and these sort of films. We need fresh talent and fresh ideas."

The Inbetweeners movie The Inbetweeners earned more than £45m at the box office

Film critic Mark Kermode, at the same Bafta event, said it was "impossible" to judge what was going to be a commercially successful film.

He said that independent cinemas and adventurous programming were an important factor.

"There are loads of great British films made every year and only a fraction of them actually find a foothold in cinemas. If you really want to address the way the British film industry works address exhibition and distribution - that's the answer."

The British Film Commission welcomed the prime minister's recognition of the economic impact of the movie industry.

Chairman Iain Smith said: "It is reassuring to hear the Government understands the role big budget, international movies shooting in the UK plays in building a world-class skilled workforce, while boosting the UK economy."

The report follows the abolition of the UK Film Council last year, which handed over its funding responsibilities to the British Film Institute (BFI).


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  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Channel 4 and BBC would never be able to or be able to take the hit if it fails to fund what Cameron and Smith propose. We make a different type of film in the UK and we should be proud of those who make them and encourage more of the same, not try to mimic Hollywood on a shoestring budget. Our films are brilliant so lets fund them to continue making more of the same. Lets not dumb down please

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    I am quite capable of thinking - when I need a film producer etc to do it for me I'll turn recluse.Nor do I need their help in managing my perceptions. Film does little of that kind of thing anyway despite its pretensions. Those who have intelligent reflections on seeing one would have had them anyway, those who can't or don't chose to reflect won't be caused to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Let's not forget that this same coalition abolished the UK Film Council, responsible for The King's Speech. He might as well sell off what's left of the British Film industry to Disney, so that all that is produced are safe, cosy family movies that he and his family can watch while the rest of the country starves materialistically and intellectually during austerity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Sorry, but why should the British taxpayer put a penny into films, some of which no-one will ever want to watch? In this economic climate do you really want to be putting OUR money into films which are certain to lose money? Not me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    The film biz should do "commercially successful pictures"? What amazing advice. Will Cameron next be telling the FA to field "good football players" ready for when the next World Cup rolls around?

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    What does David Cameron have in mind? "Carry on Coalition" maybe? "

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    131. J J Hunsecker
    I am far from 'dumbed down' thank you every much, but I wouldnt buy most UK backed fillms from the cheap DVD bin.Unless I have lost the ability to read the article says should back more mainstream, not only mainstream or fully mainstream. Why should public money go on supporting only those aspects of an industry that appeal to/stoke the ego of a certain type of person?

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    2 Hours ago

    Typical Conservative view - do things to make money.
    What's wrong in just doing something because you want to do it well?


    Nothing so long as you do it on your own money and don't expect somebody else to pay for it like Labour always do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    There seem to be a lot of comments here from people who don't understand how film distribution works, how multiplexes buy their films, and how profits are spread around.

    There are serious issues to be addressed around distribution barriers to almost anything but standard Hollywood fare. To a great extent, people will see whatever generic rubbish is pushed in front of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    Honestly Dave. If someone pitched you a drama about the speech impediment of King George VI would you really have said "My God, that is a blockbuster waiting to happen!". Or how about a film of the life of a poor Indian kid who grows up and goes on a TV gameshow? Slumdog Millionaire almost went straight to DVD, in the end it grossed $360m. Goldman was right, nobody knows anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    David Cameron father of RACISTVATISM. Go out and claim our borders lads, your country needs you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    "Typical Conservative view - do things to make money.

    What's wrong in just doing something because you want to do it well?"

    Typical socialist view - don't worry where the money comes from as long as someone else pays for it.

    We can't afford decent care for our elderley but we can afford to gamble on making movies = crazy priorities.

  • Comment number 132.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Many movies these days are visual rather than about plot. Nothing wrong with that, I hugely enjoyed Sherlock Holmes. It's better than some of that other rubbish that pretends to have a plot but has subliminal pro-US or pseudo-religious dialogue. Dave is trying to concoct modern day opium for the masses. Dumb everyone down. The intellectual left will be hardest, the rest is already there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    In essence the Brit film industry has it all - great studios (some of the best in the world), directors and actors. It isn't all 'It's Grim Oop North' or 'It's all Poshed Up Happy Down South' - there are a few exceptions - 28 Days Later springs to mind. Budget lack often seems to be in promotionals. However - 'Die Hard With A Brummy' ? It's no, isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    BBC Midlands Today are running this report tonight on my short film Stop/Eject and the lack of regional funding for shorts since the Film Council's abolition: If the government doesn't support grassroots stuff like this then no-one will ever be in a position to make the mainstream blockbusters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    I recently watched a couple of Charlie Chaplin movies and I am a huge Hitchcock fan. This country can produce great moviemakers, but Dave should stay well away. The whole 007 format btw has ran its course, just as the Mission Impossible franchise. Money should be invested in people writing original scripts. Originality sells and doesn't dumb down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Films now are generally poor in content but high in tech that few people can afford to keep up with.

    That is why SKY is making a big success out of live sport at least its for real & sometimes the underdog does win.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Just take a look at any top 100 films of all time and we don't’ seem to make much of an impression worldwide. Commercial success and the profit derived are good, but quality is even better for in the long term that is what is remembered. Where is the next Third Man?

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    I must say it would have been much better had the King's Speech not been made (I refuse to watch it - total rubbish!), or 4 Weddings, in fact anything by Richard Curtiss should be burnt!

    No, the only film makers who need fear the gov't perfectly reasonable proposal are those who make dross - and there are alot of them in the UK unfortunately.


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