Why Britain’s got talent
Screen’s annual UK Stars of Tomorrow issue is a definite highlight of my year: meeting gifted young talents who will have an impact on this industry in the coming years. It feels like a real privilege to meet these professionals at the start of their careers.
Screen’s headquarters are in the UK, so it might seem an obvious choice for this feature to put a special emphasis on British talent. But it’s more than location and convenience - Britain is a hotbed of talent, and here’s why…
» The UK offers a range of top schools and training providers. Many of the young writer-directors on these pages have taken advantage of the excellent training in the UK at institutions such as the National Film and Television School, London Film School and Met Film School. And actors have resources such as RADA, LAMDA and Guildhall. Creative Skillset supports training at all levels.
» The UK also benefits from its size. Because the film industry is smaller than in, say, Los Angeles, it’s easier to network and to meet mentors. Brits have a greater chance of getting access to someone via personal connections.
» There is fantastic overlap between film, TV and theatre in the UK. Film actors frequently start on the famed British stage and return there throughout their careers - just look at Helen Mirren currently starring in The Audience in London’s West End. Also, TV is seen as a viable way to kickstart a writing or directing career, and the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky all offer valuable training grounds.
» There is institutional support for rising talent. Creative England works regularly with first and second-time film-makers and is spearheading the development of a new regional talent network (with the BFI and other agencies). The BFI earmarks special funding for debut features and recently made its Vision Awards more welcoming to relative newcomers. Film London’s Microwave low-budget initiative has supported works such as Lilting by our 2013 Star of Tomorrow Hong Khaou. Film4 is especially fantastic at spotting and working with new directors and supporting them as their careers develop and grow.
» There are currently some great opportunities for young people. Game Of Thrones shoots in Belfast and has been a major boon for rising British actors. TV shows such as Skins, Misfits and Downton Abbey have been strong launchpads for others.
» When I moved to the UK from the US eight years ago, I quickly noticed how highly the wider community regards actors. Creative professions aren’t sneered at as dreamers or timewasters. The Queen regularly knights actors - this is the land of Olivier, not Lindsay Lohan.
» British talent travels easily - working in the English language makes it easier to be recruited into the US industry. Who could have guessed a few years back that Spider-Man, Superman and Batman would all be British? And I was recently very impressed with Emma Watson’s southern Californian pitch in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring. This Valley Girl didn’t sound anything like Hermione.
Wendy Mitchell is Editor of Screen International