Instead the panel recommends that the industry continues to support a range of films, from mainstream to ‘arty’ (good!) but also urges film-makers to move away from a reliance on government subsidy (bad!)
In my last post I extolled the virtues of Mum and Dad (2008), not just as a good horror film but also as a great piece of regional film-making (it was co-produced by East Midlands Media) and exemplary micro-budget film-making. With 50% of its financing provided by Film London’s Microwave Scheme (a scheme to produce feature films with a budget ceiling of £100k), it is a film that may well not have been made if it hadn’t have been for government subsidy in the form of lottery money.
Monday's report also recommends that producers forge closer relationships with distributors to ensure a healthier profit return to the British Film industry. This, of course, is easier said than done. In terms of the horror film, there was Hammer Studios whose output was handled by American distributors (Warner – Seven Arts) ensuring a healthy return to the company which enabled them (during the height of their popularity) to run a British franchise second only to that of Cubby Broccoli. Things have changed since then, sadly. Production companies of a similar size to Hammer, such as Working Title Films, are now owned by American conglomerates. There lies the reason why subsidies for the British Film industry are necessary. The American domination of the industry extends to not only to UK production, but also to UK distribution and exhibition, making it so much more difficult for British producers and distributors to take a share of the UK market. It is difficult for a UK feature film to find English-language distribution without an American-distributor, and even an independently produced hit like The King’s Speech – well, good luck getting your net profits out of the Weinstein Company accounts, boys.
Ironically, the epitome of Tory film policy was probably Pete Walker. He funded his films himself (from the profits of his previous films), kept his production budgets low and production values high (through sheer competence and a good crew) and didn’t need to rely on funding bodies or financiers. He sold his films to the American drive-ins, and when the drive-ins closed down in the late 1970s/ early 1980s, his market dried up.
The domination of the multiplex has now made such independence almost impossible.
|Pete Walker: show 'em how it's done|
The answer is – we can’t. Not in the face of American domination. The British Film industry is likely to remain a cottage industry - a niche industry. This is why government subsidy is a necessity.
This perhaps suits horror film production well enough, as horror is a niche product; as long as budgets remain low, the horror film, by virtue of its appeal is likely to remain profitable – the key issue is to make sure those profits are returned to the film-makers so that they can keep producing.
To read the Chris Smith’s report on the British Film industry – if you can get through the buzzwords and the blah – follow this LINK