There has always been an overlap between art and film. From surrealists such as Man Ray, Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dali to Cindy Sherman (Office Killer), Matthew Barney (Cremaster) and Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell And The Butterfly), a steady stream of artists have crossed over into film-making.
In the late 1990s a generation of young British artists - including Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Sam Taylor-Wood - assumed the status of pop stars under the 'Britart' handle. Several have subsequently made a move into film-making, but for some it has not been easy.
'As I have now discovered in the film world, it takes five years not to make a film,' says former Turner Prize nominee Taylor-Wood. She and actor Ray Winstone announced Jerusalem, a film about visionary poet William Blake, in 2003. But after years of development, the film is now on hold. 'It became such a huge project, and both Ray and I became overtaken and overrun with so many other things, that we lost our focus on it,' Taylor-Wood says.
At Cannes in 2005, equally celebrated Britart figures Jake and Dinos Chapman announced plans to make a horror film. But like Taylor-Wood, they too seem to have been waylaid by other projects - at least for now.
Turner Prize-winning artist Steve McQueen has likewise had feature projects which failed to materialise: in the late 1990s, he was attached to direct a film called Timbuktu. However, McQueen is about to start shooting his first feature in November. Hunger (working title), backed by Fil^m4 and sold by Becker International, is about IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.
Meanwhile, Taylor-Wood is to embark on Love You More, a Fil^m4-backed short which is being made through Anthony Minghella's Mirage Enterprises. Scripted and co-produced by Patrick Marber (Closer) from his short story Peter Shelley, the story follows two teenagers losing their virginity to a Buzzcocks record. Shooting begins in November.
Some Britart figures have already made the move into film. Tracey Emin's debut feature, Top Spot, about adolescent traumas, screened in official selection at the Berlinale in 2005. Last year, Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon's Zidane, A 21st Century Portrait screened at Cannes and was sold widely by Katapult Film Sales.
But recognition in the art world does not mean funding for features will follow. 'It's not guaranteed you are going to get money, even if you are a very famous artist,' says Revolution Films' Melissa Parmenter, who produced Top Spot. Emin shot the film for less than $300,000, backed by BB^C3. In hindsight, says Parmenter, it might have been easier to fund from art world sources. 'Although Tracey loved doing the film with the BBC and going the proper route, she did think she could have raised the money in a second in her own world,' Parmenter says.
Turner Prize-nominated artist Isaac Julien, who won the Cannes Critics' Week prize for his 1991 feature debut Young Soul Rebels, argues that artists do not always appreciate the difficulty of financing and making a feature film. 'There is a certain amount of naivete,' he says. '(Artists) may not be aware of the work they have to do.'
Julien believes British funders rarely know how best to harness the talents of the artists. 'They're clueless about how the (art) sector, which is thriving, is working. They would like to have a cut of the action but they're clueless about how that's going to happen,' says Julien, who is finishing a feature-length film about artist and film-maker Derek Jarman.
In the early 1990s, Julien argues, the British Film Institute's now-defunct production arm encouraged 'the notion that there could be a British art cinema'. He questions whether such an art cinema exists today or whether public funders are interested in supporting the kind of work British artists are likely to want to make.
Others point out that funders are generally lumbered with a 'recoupment millstone'. They can't invest in films by artists without assessing whether those films have a chance of reaching an audience.
Some leading British artists may be able to finance their movies without going down conventional funding routes. Some may be able to follow the example of US artist Matthew Barney, whose Cremaster cycle and Drawing Restraint were reportedly funded through selling limited-edition videos and artefacts from the films to collectors.
The hostility with which UK critics have greeted Barney's Drawing Restraint 9, a feature-length film being shown in London alongside an exhibition of his work at the Serpentine Gallery (September 20-November 11), hints at the difficulties artists still face when they try to cross over to the feature-film world. So why do so many wish to make the transition'
'It seems like a natural step because I work a lot with actors and film crews,' says Taylor-Wood. 'In my case, it felt like a straightforward extension of my work. With somebody like Tracey (Emin), she is a storyteller. She writes so well and a lot of her writing you can visualise. For her also, it was a natural thing to try.'
'Film and art are so linked that it is almost expected of artists to at least do short films,' suggests Parmenter.
Nonetheless, most artists continue to regard film as an intriguing diversion - not their main commitment. Moreover, artists generally like to work quickly. 'I have an idea and I make it,' says Taylor-Wood. 'With film, you have an idea and then it takes three years to make it. It is something to run alongside everything else you are doing.'