Ahead of a visit to Pinewood today, Prime Minister David Cameron has made comments that have set off a firestorm of controversy. He’s said the film industry should support “commercially successful pictures”. His comments come ahead of next Monday’s publication of Lord Smith’s review into the government’s film policy, which was commissioned to find out how the industry could offer better support to UK filmmaking.
Cameron added, “we should aim even higher, building on the incredible success of recent years”, while acknowledging the British film industry had made “a £4bn contribution to the UK economy and an incalculable contribution to our culture”.
It’s now expected that Lord Smith’s report will suggest the same thing, which is likely to result in the targeting of National Lottery funds to potential blockbusters and away from the indie sector. In recent years many smaller films have used development funds from the lottery to help get them underway, and this is likely to be jeopardised if the government forces the funds in a more mainstream direction (it should be noted though, that the biggest lottery fund recipients have always been potentially commercial projects).
Cameron’s comments have already sparked much comment, not least for the cart before the horse silliness of calling for funding for “commercially successful pictures”. As Ken Loach pointed out on BBC Breakfast this morning, “If everyone knew what would be successful before it was made, there would be no problem. What you need to do is fund a lot of different, varied projects and then you’ll get a really vibrant industry.” After all, The King’s Speech didn’t look like a guaranteed success when it was in development (it was turned down by nearly all the major studios) and only got made thanks to lottery funds and the support of indie distributor Momentum. Now of course it’s a boxx office juggernaut.
It’s also been said many times before that in the UK, it’s not the obviously commercial projects that have trouble getting funding, it’s the smaller, more unusual movies, which often need a bit of a kickstart in terms of grants and support. What’s also true is that rather than worrying so much about what gets made, more attention could be paid to ensuring movies find their audience, such as support for independent cinema and getting British films in cinemas.
Calling for “commercially successful pictures” sounds sensible on the surface, but in practice its shortsighted and muddle-headed and the sort of area governments are best staying clear of. Hopefully things will become clearer once Lord Smith’s report it released on Monday, but the indie film sector is likely to be very wary of what the government has planned.
General movie news courtesy of Movie Muser