Britain’s Greatest Cultural Exports

Throughout the 20th Century, Britain contributed much to international culture. Movie Stars such as Cary Grant and Liz Taylor became Hollywood Icons of the highest regard and Directors like David Lean and the Scott Brothers providing the epic story lines, spectacle and fireworks story lines that have enthralled the entire planet.

In recent times the world has gotten smaller and more competitive; but has Britain fallen by the wayside as other countries have risen to the challenge?
Has it hell. In fact Britain has steadily increased its pull and is second only to the USA in its global reach.

So who and what are the biggest cultural exports of the last 20 years.

Kate Winslet

One of the World’s best loved actresses, Kate Winslet has brought joy to millions and with her a selection of virtuoso and exhilarating performances she has truly become a global star.

Winslet got her first movie break in the movies with Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures in 1994. Just one year later, she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility.

Then in 1997 Titanic happened. A huge film in so many ways, it broke new ground in technical achievement, its budget was astronomical at that point the most expensive film in history. It was an absolute monster with movie goers, smashing all box office records by hoovering up a staggering $658,672,302.00, a feat only very recently been topped (Avatar). Critically lauded, it received 14 Oscar nominations, 11 of which it actually won.

Winslet, despite being one of the 3 nominated (Best Actress) who didn’t win, was still triumphant. Titanic had made Winslet an absolute star and established house hold name. If her career had stopped then she would still be being talked about now and for years to come.

Titanic was just the beginning, as from then on it seemed that whenever she appeared on celluloid, Winslet was considered for every gong going. Oscars, Baftas, Golden Globes and countless other less well known awards all came her way even though she eschewed the more obvious route of blockbusters and rom-coms in favour of art house style films, like ‘Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind’ or Allure and ‘The Reader’.

Winslet has currently one Academy Award (Best actress in the Reader) but has garnered a record breaking 6 nominations, making her the most nominated actress in movie history. Still only in her 30’s it looks like the girl from Berkshire is going to be to entertaining global audiences and winning awards for a long time to come.

Sam Mendes

Like his ex-wife Kate Winslet Sam Mendes has since the outset of his career been considered someone to watch. At the age of just 25 he became artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden, where he transformed it into one of the destination hotspots of London theatre, winning a string of awards and critical acclaim along the way.

It was his production Of Oliver that got him first noticed by Steven Spielberg, who whisked him off to Hollywood and gave him his first shot at film directing.
This first shot, a satire on the American middle classes, was American Beauty.

It was a phenomenon. Making 350 million bucks and nominated for 8 Oscars. 5 of which it won including Best Director. This broadside across Tinsel Town announced Mendes to the world and he has gone on direct many critical and financially successful films.

His recent helming of the latest Bond movie; Skyfall has brought the franchise it’s most financially and critically well received chapter in its history. Showing that his astonishing sense for aesthetics and careful movement through the emotional gears works as well in action movies as it does in more heavyweight productions. At 47, Mendes still has so much to offer and I predict grand things in his future.

Downton Abbey

Though I don’t watch Downtown Abbey, its quaint brand of period soap opera does not appeal, I knew it was successful and I knew that it was popular. However, until I spoke to the people at PACT (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television) I had no idea how bloody massive it has become.

Written by the Oscar winning Julian Fellowes Downtown Abbey is the most watched show in the UK since 2003. Its cast is stuffed with luminaries from the world of film TV and theatre and has more awards you can shake a stick at, even if that stick was a tree; whose branches were made up of more trees who just loved Edwardian dramas about the aristocratic goings on at English country houses.

It has been licensed to over 100 countries including territories as diverse as Albania, Australia, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland and Sweden and of course the United States.

Downton Abbey along with other productions such as Sherlock, Doctor Who, Spooks, and even the ubiquitous Mid-Summer Murders represent the truth behind the cliché of British TV being the best in the world.

Game shows and Talent shows

Despite its success it should probably not be that much surprise that Downtown Abbey is so big, after all period drama is something the UK has always excelled in. The world has always loved Empire (now it has gone) and revels in the costumes the, the elegant phrasing and the uptight characters. But, game shows or talent contests? Can you imagine the world going nuts over 3,2,1, Pets Win Prizes or Jim Davidsons Big Break? Let alone New Faces or Opportunity Knocks.

Well that, in the 21st Century is almost exactly what has happened. It started with Who Wants to be a Millionaire, a hit for ITV that went on to being an international smash and at its peak had 81 different versions shown around the world (39 still going) there has even been an Oscar Winning film about the Indian version.

Then it was The Weakest Link , Deal or No Deal and The Million Pound Drop all of which have being taken up and sold to the world. Even Come Dine with Me has been shown in 8 different countries, with over 30 nations licensing the format and making their own versions.

Then we have the ridiculously popular X factor and Britain’s got Talent models. They have spread through the world like a plague destroying the music tastes of a generation (maybe more) but with over 40 versions around the world it has become without doubt one of most well know shows in television history.

There are so many more TV shows actors and technicians flying the flag that’s its hardly fair to list only the smattering above but that just shows how successful the UK is. Now if only the Government would support the British Film Industry as much as it does television, we might get to see more than the one or two home produced flicks up on the big screen that is currently the case.