At a debate chaired by Stewart Till, top industry names urged the next generation of film-makers to take inspiration from the succes of low budget UK hits Monsters and Streetdance 3D.
These are not glorious times for the British Film Industry. That was the narrowly reached verdict of a debate chaired by Stewart Till at London’s Goldsmith College last night (Feb 3).
Head of BBC Films Christine Langan and independent producer Robert Jones were pitted against Ruby Films’ Paul Trijbits and marketing and distribution expert David Livingstone in a debate titled “these are glorious times for the British film industry; True or False?”, with the 200 strong audience ultimately deciding against the motion.
Referring to British films like Streetdance3D and The King’s Speech breaking box office records, “internationally celebrated female auteurs like Lynne Ramsay and Andrea Arnold” and “British film makers like Gareth Edwards [director of the 2010 low budget UK film Monsters] leading the world with new technology”, Langan said “we have a lot to celebrate.”
However, in what became the common thread of the debate, Langan urged the next generation of film-makers “to think about making films in a more resourceful way for less.”
“Film-making can get lazy, and it’s a hierarchical business, so anyone who can come up with good ideas for changing the model, like Gareth Edwards, is onto a winner. I do think there is an appetite for niche entertainment,” added Langan.
Producer Robert Jones, whose credits include Run Fatboy Run and Dirty Pretty Things, also backed the motion by referring to the wealth of UK talent, and the positive impact of technology becoming more affordable.
“It has lowered the barrier to entry in what was a very difficult industry to get into. If you can shoot in HD, cut on Final Cut Pro and play to international commercial audiences, it’s only your imagination that is holding you back.”
Although he did concede that the film industry in the UK was “always going to be boutique industry and we have to be realistic about where we stand.”
Taking the opposing view, David Livingstone accused the British film industry of being “a little bit too middle class.”
“We need to get better at being more populist. There is a real difficulty in engaging the public in going to see British films and there is a kind of shame amongst the Brits about trying to make something that can possibly attract an audience around the world. I think Streetdance is a really good example of what you should do. It’s worked all around the world,” he added.
Paul Trijbits, whose upcoming credits for Ruby Films include a new adaptation of Jane Eyre, referred to what he called “worrying statistics” such as a 2010 study by Oxford Economics, which showed that the total value of film to the UK economy was £4.5bn, but of that, independent British films only represent 1.3%.
“We are an English-speaking country and yet only 1.3% of that value comes from British films. There are not glorious times for the British film industry.”
He added: “In France 10% of the turnover of every single broadcaster has to be spent on French film production and film acquisition. If we compare ourselves to our fellow European countries, we are not doing very well.”
The debate was chaired by Icon Chairman Stewart Till, who has already organised a series of talks at the college from film-makers such as Alan Parker, Noel Clarke and Danny Boyle, as well as sponsoring one female student on the MA Scriptwriting course, in memory of his late mother, Olive, who was a secretary at the college.
The debate was the first in a series of events at Goldsmiths to celebrate the opening of its new media centre, with the next debate – What Is The Future Of Documentary in the UK? – taking place on 17 February.
“Stewart has a sentimental attachment to the college, and it’s wonderful for the students to be able to meet these people who have so much experience in the industry” added Goldsmith’s head of the media department Dr Gareth Stanton.