So all the rumours of elitism and cronyism within the british film industry are true as per the evidence introduced in the doc I saw at The Prince Charles Cinema recently.
Quota Film’s The British Film Industry: Elitist, Deluded or Dormant is an eye-opening look at this incestuous disease that is deep rooted in the British Film Industry. Let’s be honest it’s like any institution whether it is the Banks or the BBC and the cronyism at the top level keeping the top jobs within their gene pool.
And to think with all this talk of diversity and closing the class divide, the industry is at a low point for people who want an entry. Don’t take my word for it, many news articles are pretty much saying the same thing where the BAME and working class actors/ filmmakers are increasingly shut out. All the advances in the 80’s with Channel 4’s brave agenda have pretty much gone with television preferring safe programming which is why you won’t see many real ground breaking films.
One other not-very-surprising-in-hindsight issue is conflict of interest with some Regional Film Council heads diverting funds into THEIR OWN production companies. Isn’t that a teensy bit illegal? When one has a privileged position they shouldn’t be able to line their own pockets but then again why am I surprised? All these initiatives need overhauling and even with the demise of the Film Council and the BFI taking over, we shall see if they step up to the plate.
As someone who reads a lot about the British Film Industry, this is a fine companion to Icons on Fire: The Decline and Fall of Almost Everybody in the British Film Industry by Alexander Walker where the few people in power totally screwed it for everyone else. Shame really as there is an abundance of talent out there waiting to be recognised. At least for the ones that haven’t hoofed it to the States.
The main reason I found this eye opening and writing from a personal level, I applied to a great many funding bodies over the years and had I known then what I do now I wouldn’t have bothered. What’s the point if the cards are marked against you? What is the real point if the funds are going to their friends? Energies are best spent going after private funds like Kickstarter, especially if you are far from privileged or connected.
I know there are some people who will shout Kidulthood but these are in the minority (pun city!) and more films such as this should be championed. All said and done the shining light in all this (among a slim few) is Warp films making truly British films and creating a filmic legacy that will last years. What is needed is more of that.
The roll call of respected Industry Professionals that have been interviewed is impressive and all speak of the problem and this documentary is one big action plan for change.
The sequel to the not-exactly-acclaimed short documentary about the Lebanese crime fighter working for the Metropolitan Police.
In this follow up we delve further into the past of everybody’s favourite Dick as he tries to make sense of his ever evolving lifestyle.
Green Glasses and dodgy criminals will never be the same again.
To see the original short, click here
I am a big fan of Spike Lee and totally understand the constant battles he has to take in trying to get his films to screen but his latest attempt in trying (and winning) in the crowd funding battle leaves me in two minds on the overall landscape.
For Mr. Lee, rather than go hat in hand to the studios he can make his films sans interference and get his vision out to the public faster with total freedom for the kinds of stories he does. This is a plus as i don’t think Do The Right Thing would get the green light today and films such as this need to be made. Also to mention that Spike has been honest about his intentions including the obvious question, why crowdfund when he is rich and successful already? Read his page to get the answers.
I feel the downside is that the studios/ Distributers will now wait for these established filmmakers to get their films crowd sourced and then do a ‘Negative Pickup’ and push it to market without having put up any initial outlay at the beginning. Esentially the fast money to production with a slight feeling that the entire enterprise is being hijacked. Where does the money go?
That said, i am in Spike Lee’s corner as he deserves the money and it’s better that it goes to him than a Michael Bay-esque mindless travesty.
……And what the UK can learn
I read a recent New York Times article where in 2013 no less that 13 films made by and starring black talent are coming to a cinema near you. It doesn’t sound like a lot but is a significant improvement and no longer a marginalized festival friendly niche playing in small markets with the only mainstream fare being serviced by Eddie Murphy, Spike Lee and Denzel Washington among the steady few. Hopefully you will longer get a middle-aged white women directing such trash as Driving Miss Racism or a return to 70 exploitative Blaxploitation films.
Why are the studios suddenly making a judgment call that there is a wider (read: profitable) market for these films? It has to be the recent successes of the lowbrow but money making Tyler Perry franchise among others that has made them look closer.
The point I am making is that producers in the UK readily assume there is no long-term market to cater to Black and Asian audiences and such cinematic hits as Bend it Like Beckham and Kidulthood are seen as exceptions to a rule. Their way of thinking is that making similar themed films will not amount to any large box office returns in their eyes to warrant the investment in talent. The ones that are released and do dismal box office are generally down to the fact that they are poorly made and deserve to be on the Morrissons 99p aisle and dare I even mention any of them. Do people read scripts anymore? I have personally read scripts written by two Asian talents that are good as anything that has come out.
Now, I have a script that I am writing that has an Asian and British Lead. Even though the story is predominantly about the Asian lad I have to have an equally large contribution of his friend so it is considered a saleable commodity. Bend It and East is East is East applied the same rule. This does make sense so the British audience has somebody to connect with. We will neglect to mention Goodness Gracious Me, which had very few white characters and was a cultural phenomenon without conforming to these rules.
There is always a market for a good story. The Americans are seeing that but when will the UK look at it in the same way?