Today, UK prime minister David Cameron has urged the UK film industry to make more “mainstream” films. Though overall, what he says seems to completely ignore the fact that when it comes to entertainment, no one can be completely sure of what will be popular before it comes out. In all, his dull, ill-informed thinking on the subject seems to suggest that we could end up with a tick-box system for UK indies trying to pursue funding in the UK.
Now, I do actually enjoy quite a bit of Hollywood’s output, but even I have to admit that things have been stagnating somewhat, especially since the recession has come down to bite and made potential investors wary of investing in things that may not necessarily sell. Yet producing entertainment products from films, to music, to TV shows, to novels and to videogames in line with perceived market demands means that you end up with a load of very samey crap that completely ignores the fact that the public will risk watching/reading/playing/listening to anything, so long as the marketing message works – regardless of how bloody awful the product may be.
Producing entertainment products wouldn’t even be so risky if certain areas of the budget weren’t so obscenely large when it comes to producing things for the mainstream. Again, things such as marketing are involved and have a huge role to play in eating up budgets, but so too do top level positions in the production team.
But getting back to the UK producing more mainstream films. I don’t particularly like obscure social commentaries that pop up on the UK’s indie scene (for instance), but at the same time I wouldn’t want to see funding from them taken away in favour of the next The King’s Speech. The King’s Speech offers a perfect example of the kind of mainstream film I wish the UK were making less of. It was popular because it was about quintessential Britishness due to focusing so much on the royal family, which the US loves.
Making more films like The King’s Speech will just help stereotype the UK internationally even more and not help our image or our creative industries. The UK is more than just the royal family, Dickens, Austen, the Brontës, Shakespeare, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. We need more films from filmmakers who are like Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, Danny Boyle or Shane Meadows.
Earlier today, Ken Loach discussed UK film funding and urged variety rather than the country producing the same old tat.
And on the other side of the coin: Hollywood and the US mainstream don’t make films mainly with the idea that it will sell well internationally, they make films for their own national audiences and export them regardless. Why can’t the UK just make films that will sell well in the UK first and then export them?