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  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Geoffrey Macnab: 'British film-goers don't like British films and UK distributors can't get them into cinemas'



    Thursday, 23 July 2009



    The ICA Cinema in London has just hosted New British Cinema. On one level, the season was a cause for celebration. The eight films chosen underlined the richness of independent, low- budget British film-making. On a less upbeat note, though, the season pointed to the struggles that young British film-makers face in getting their work shown at all. In a sense, these were orphan films, spurned by mainstream cinemas.



    "Selling British films to the British public is notoriously difficult because they don't like British films," says Christophe Granier-Deferre, producer of The Hide (which was screened at the ICA.) Granier-Deferre's remarks may seem perverse at a time when Harry Potter fever is sweeping Britain. However, there is a huge difference between US studio-backed, big-budget James Bond and Harry Potter movies and independent British films. All the evidence is that the latter are struggling more than ever to find traction in British cinemas. "There are a lot of films going by the wayside," says David Cox, who programmed the ICA season.



    Cash-strapped UK distributors defend their reluctance to pick up low-budget Brit movies which don't have stars or big-name directors. These distributors face a Herculean struggle to persuade cinemas to show them. Duane Hopkins' Better Things, a slice of British social realism set in the Cotswolds and touching on drug taking, boredom and the tension between the generations, is a case in point. The film screened in Cannes in 2008 to respectful notices and was then released in France on 20 screens. Back in Britain, its UK distributor struggled to find more than one cinema that was willing to show the film.



    "There is a certain amount of familiarity breeding contempt. This is true of British distributors as well as of British critics," agrees Julian Richards, producer-director of Summer Scars (also screened in the ICA Season). "We [the British] tend toward the exotic. If things are too familiar, they are often considered less interesting."



    If films aren't released in British cinemas, UK broadcasters are markedly less willing to buy them for television. They therefore risk sinking into anonymity.



    The irony is that British film-making seems to be enjoying a mini renaissance, whether in experimental work like Steve McQueen's Hunger, bigger budget films like The Damned United, or family dramas like Andrea Arnold's second feature, Fish Tank (which won a prize in Cannes this summer). There are many low-budget initiatives being hatched by the BBC, Film4, WarpX and others.



    The lower budget films that distributors seem so wary about releasing play a hugely important role in nurturing new talent on both sides of the camera. A decade ago, a UK distributor was prepared to take a chance on Christopher Nolan's micro-budget Following. This gave Nolan the platform to launch a career that now sees him directing Batman movies. Future stars like Emily Blunt (first noticed in My Summer of Love) and Carey Mulligan (who gives an exceptional performance as the precocious schoolgirl in An Education) have likewise benefitted.



    Public money for supporting British cinema is in short supply. Nonetheless, a strong argument can be made for backing distributors prepared to take a chance on Brit movies. Otherwise, we may never be able to find out whether British cinemagoers don't like homegrown fare, or whether they are simply not given enough chances to see it.

  2. #2
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    The ICA audience is hardly typical of British film audiences - even amongst people who specifically like and prefer British films



    Steve

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    I'm not sure 'Better Things' and 'The Hide' are films that would reach a mass market even if they weren't British. We get the occasional US indie crossover like Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine or Juno, but hundreds of others barely see the light of day.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Country: Europe
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    Perhaps we need "East End Story" or "Corrie: Life and Love in a Lancashire Mill Town" to bring the crowds in.



    It is very frustrating that it seems to be Catch-22 regarding modern British films.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Country: UK CaptainWaggett's Avatar
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    Perhaps we should bring back quotas!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: Vatican Sgt Sunshine's Avatar
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    name='CaptainWaggett']Perhaps we should bring back quotas!


    Would that be "quota quickies" there Cap.......................

    By the way congrats on just achieving second position in the overall postings league table..................

    Bats...............28,213.....

    Cap W............15,012..............

    Steve Crook.............14,936...............

    DB7.................8,275.............

    Windthrop............7,312..........

    Marky B.............6,831...............

    Penfold...............5,551................

    Dame Starry............4,903.................

    At your present rate Cap, you'll be king of the castle..........within 4 years.........

    Sgt S

  7. #7
    Senior Member Country: Europe
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    name='Sgt Sunshine']Would that be "quota quickies" there Cap.......................

    By the way congrats on just achieving second position in the overall postings league table..................

    Bats...............28,213.....

    Cap W............15,012..............

    At your present rate Cap, you'll be king of the castle..........within 4 years.........

    Sgt S


    Queen, Sarge - Queen!!

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: Vatican Sgt Sunshine's Avatar
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    name='Fellwanderer']Queen, Sarge - Queen!!


    Whoops.............Yes ...not me .............Cap W............

    Queen herself within 3 years..................

    Sgt S

  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: UK Brief Encounter's Avatar
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    re: quotas... I seem to recall reading recently the government did want to control the level of British films seen in cinemas!



    Oh for the days when there was a 'British film industry', and people flocked to see our stars in big budget productions.



    And the point about not being able to see films is very true. Telstar had been publicised for over a year before its release in cinemas last month. When it came out, it only managed a week at my local multiplex - when I was away. When I got back I couldn't see it!

  10. #10
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    It seems to me, that the large majority of small budget British 'indie' films have no specific right to see the light of day. Many of them are purely the particular 'fetish' of the Producer/Director/Writer et al and have little (if any) mass audience appeal.



    Geoffrey Mcnab's contention is over simplistic. He infers that all British films are disliked by British filmgoers, when in fact he's alluding primarily to niche films, which certainly would not be financially viable in British cinema. What is the point of distributing niche indie films, if it's a foregone conclusion that 99% of them will flop. Yes, there are the occasional films which become box office successes, but these are so few and far between, that overall, distributors rightly steer clear of them unless they want to guarantee losing money.



    But this isn't purely a British film problem. Many U.S. indie films don't see the light of day either for the same reasons.

  11. #11
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    The truth is, many of the indie brit films ain't good enough.



    Juno and Little Miss Sunshine were films that put a smile on peoples faces. It seems brit films are either overly serious or not 'High Concept' enough to sell.



    Fish Tank buckled this trend and has been easier to sell as a result.



    Quicker the latest generation of filmmakers release that we're bored of films about gangsters, football violence, council estates, drug addicts and prostitutes, then better films might get made.

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