Don’t believe the hype…

Recently the UK Film Council has been trumpeting the fact that Hollywood has recently outsourced several blockbuster, such as The Dark Knight and Warner’s ‘Harry Potter’ to UK production facilities as being somehow a triumph for British Cinema.  And this trumpeting reached a farcical volume with its now ex-chairman, Stuart Till’s wild claims that British films had 15% of the box office. When there’s that much noise it makes you wonder what they’re trying to cover up with the racket.

And the bare facts are nothing short of appalling. The Film Council invests soft loans in British films, but it does have a target to make back around 30%. The trouble is it’s now nowhere near this target – which is hardly surprising given how for British filmmakers Film Council policies things made things go from bad to worse, with now maybe forty-nine out of fifty British films losing money.

Ah! But then they point to ‘Slumdog’. OK, so its UK revenues go to Pathe, and the rest of the world to Fox; but, as Screen International terms such films, it was made ‘outside of the US’. The ‘Slumdog’ effect was to boost independent film’s box-office returns by more than 6% in the first half of this year. But take Slumdog out of the equation and you discover that the indie box-office share has plummeted by over 25%.

There’s a recession going on, private investment has dried up, soft money’s being cut, and it’s Hollywood with the resources to clobber the rest of us with 3D blockbusters we simply can’t compete with. Already this year Hollywood’s global market share has jumped by a third to over 66%. 

But has all this caused the Film Council to grapple with reality, campaign for similar quotas to France, Germany –  and anywhere else that wants to preserve its own filmmaking, to call for a quota for British films on terrestrial TV, to advocate the introduction of an optional ‘un-rated 18’ as in America which would be of real benefit to no and micro-budget filmmakers and to UK distributors as well? No it hasn’t. Instead they chalk all this up as one great big bloody success.


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