Prime Minister David Cameron doesn’t like movies. He’d rather watch sequels and remakes than anything new or interesting. Because as we all know, something only has value if it comes with a price tag.
He’s down at Pinewood Studios today to talk about the future of film funding. Ahead of his visit he made comments that praised the UK film industry’s “incalculable contribution to culture” but said that future funding should be directed towards more “commercially successful pictures”.
“Our role, and that of the BFI, should be to support the sector in becoming even more dynamic and entrepreneurial, helping UK producers to make commercially successful pictures that rival the quality and impact of the best international productions,”
He went on to say, “Just as the British Film Commission has played a crucial role in attracting the biggest and best international studios to produce their films here, so we must incentivise UK producers to chase new markets both here and overseas.”
His comments are likely to reflect the allocation of future National Lottery funds – rewarding those that have box office success while neglecting those who don’t – not great news should you be a fan of films like Tyrannosaur or The Guard, both of which received substantial grants in 2011.
If funding is diverted away from independent film, then these films simply can’t get made which would be a substantial blow to UK culture. And if money is given to films which are successes at the box office, then you’re giving money to those who don’t need it. It’s the little guys and the first-time independent film makers that need funding, not box office smashes.
Cameron also seems oblivious to the fact that it’s often impossible to predict which films (to an extent) will be financially successful before they’re made – The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire, both of which were lottery funded, were unexpected financial monsters.
Even more worrying is the message that this sends out about priorities. The underlying message of his statement is that the purpose of British films should be to make money; that it’s not worth funding something that has intrinsic cultural, but not financial value. The British Film Industry contribution to culture doesn’t seem so “incalculable” now does it?
Only rewarding commercially successful films will inevitably lead to a homogenisation of British films and a stagnation of creative and cultural talent. Expect more sequels and the recycling of old ideas instead of anything new or creative; expect less risk taking and more safe but dull filmmaking. That’s not to say that films shouldn’t be commercially viable – the money has to come from somewhere – but exclusively rewarding box office success is folly.
Independent films make life a hell of a lot more interesting but they also set the bar for the landscape of British talent in the future. There are talented filmmakers out there who deserve our support – and what we support today determines the make-up of tomorrow. To do anything less is to encourage mediocrity and let the dreary spectre of boredom into our lives.