Why doesn’t England’s North West make at least as many films as DenmarK? (Text of press release)

Denmark has about the same size population as England’s North-West. Denmark makes more than 20 feature films per year which are more popular at the box-office than all other films except the biggest US block-busters. Most of the world speaks English. Most of the world does not speak Danish. Name a famous Danish football team. In fact name anything famous from Denmark besides bacon and a brand of lager. But, despite all of the North-West’s advantages, why aren’t we making more films than the Danes? Why is it that pretty much the only people making North West feature films are doing it completely outside of the system. Something is wrong somewhere.

What films are on at your local multiplex? American films, or the occasional apparently British film which was actually produced and is owned by one of the American majors which just happened to pick up a nice big fat subsidy to make it in England. And what’s on at the multiplex down the road – the same films. Non-American ‘British’ films, even when they have well-known stars like Robert Carlyle or Brian Cox, get screened in a few mainly independent cinemas and then disappear. Could all this be because most of the multiplexes are owned by American money and that they are all programmed by film buyers based in London?

But what about the independent cinemas? Well, most of these are actually parts of chains. 35 are members of Europa Cinemas and they receive, on average, more than 500,000 euros every year from the EU to show non-British European films! A most of these cinemas are also programmed from London by such as the ‘Independent Cinema Office’ or ‘City Screen’.

Add to that the fact that more than 90% of all film-funding goes to London and the South-East and maybe as little as 1% goes to the whole of the North-West and you start to get the bigger picture.

But there are two things that the cosy southern arts administrators and their Brussels cronies over-looked. The first is our Northern spirit – push us too far and we’ll start fighting back – and the second is that the equipment you need to film a story (rather than the effects-laden trailer that’s going to be re-packaged for you X-Box) cost maybe even less than what you need to spend to take a band out on a tour of the local pubs and clubs circuit. You don’t need money, you need talent and whether you’re a band of musicians or a band of filmmakers, you’ve still got to get out there on tour.

Blackburn’s Pleased Sheep Films set the ball rolling with their uncompromising ‘jet black comedy’ “Diary of a Bad Lad”. It was developed, written, produced and edited in everyone’s spare time, so it took several years to complete. In fact the full special edition DVD with more than two hours of extras (and more besides) won’t be available for another couple of months. But, as both the Director, Michael Booth, and the producer, Jon Williams, say: “As far as no-budget films are concerned we set out to raise the bar, to show what you can really achieve when you refuse to compromise.”

“Bad Lad” has quite literally been praised to the roof-tops by many leading film world figures, and it’s in increasing demand on the world’s festival circuit where it’s been playing to packed houses. But what Michael and Jon really want to do is take the film to audiences throughout the North West.

Bad Lad stars the Bolton-based actor and writer, Joe O’Byrne, whose latest play, “The Bench” has been getting rave reviews for its Manchester performances. Hopefully it’ll be coming to Liverpool soon. Inspired by Bad Lad Joe set about getting his film script “Looking for Lucky” into production with the aid of budding director, Chris Leonard. “Lucky” had a preview screening at last November’s Salford Film Festival where it was compared with Shane Meadows; it’s now had that final last polish in the edit suite and it’s ready to go.

“Bad Lad” and “Lucky” have now teamed up with the mega-talented you musician and filmmaker, Baldwin Li, whose first feature, “21gs” starts of making you think that you’re going to be in for yet another one of those awful British gangster films, but soon leads you into the sort of labyrinth that David Lynch used to make before he completely lost his marbles.

These three filmmakers have unleashed a movement. It’s spreading and there are already several more truly independent features in the pipeline. But as Jon says, “This movement needs a circuit. These are films for people who want something other than the popcorn experience. So right now we’re planning a tour of the whole region, taking in everywhere from the few truly independent cinemas to arts centres, to film clubs and societies, to universities and colleges, and even to wherever anyone wants to hang a white sheet on a wall and set up some decent speakers! We’ve just started and we’ve already got some provisional dates penned in. Now we’re looking to get some sponsors on board to help drive things even further forwards.”

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