Wednesday, January 11, 2012

David Cameron and the Future of Intelligent British Film

I thought the latest comments from Cameron on film funding would provide for some interesting debate. He recently stated "Our role should be to support the sector in becoming even more dynamic and entrepreneurial, helping UK producers to make commercially successful pictures that rival … the best international productions." He seems to be suggesting that the country should back big budget, commercial success, as oppose to any intelligent narratives or important social comments.

This could be a big problem for the future of the British film industry. It is already near impossible to get a film made, and with this new strategy it seems even less likely. These comments suggest to me another failing of the Conservative party to understand the importance of art in society. They continue to demonstrate that they have no wish for a more intelligent nation, filled with critical thinkers and understanding thought. Instead, they suggest that we should only care about financial success. Personally, I think Cameron's ideas and comments are ill-informed, unenlightened and just plain stupid. Demonstrating just how different he and his Bullingdon club pals are from the normal person.


  1. I've been pissing and moaning all day about this latest outbreak of rampant philistinism from that cabinet of dunces crammed with objectionable pink-faced toffs. I love a popularist movie like the next guy - maybe more than the next guy - but what is so stupid about this announcement is the way it demeans audiences too and caps opportunities to be surprised or shocked or initiated into different sorts of viewing experiences - i.e., that unless a film is somehow crassly or pointedly 'commercial' it won't be watched or liked or admired by 'the plebs'. There are lots of terrible 'arty' movies out there too, but a good film is a good film regardless of its mission statement or cultural DNA. Box office is fickle and no true gauge of a film's worth or cultural value or emotional shelf-life in the emotional and imaginative lives of its audience. The Shawshank Redemption bombed at the box office originally, but now rates constantly in critics' top ten. If somehow the studios could have foreseen those first receipts, that film would never have been made (and all the many others like it that took time and effort to find their audiences post-opening weekend).

    Besides, nobody knows anything when it comes to the magic ingredient that makes a film resonate with audiences - you can put a spaceship in it, a pair of breasts and Brad Pitt's arse and it's STILL a pile of shite. This is like anointing Simon Cowell as sole custodian of musical innovation and purveyor of our national 'soul food'. Within this model of funding, David Lynch etc. would be denied representation and Brokeback Mountain shelved for being 'too minority'!

    It's so nakedly about the f**king economy - if it doesn't make money it's invisibilised - great. Now, if you want to take a risk or challenge prevailing norms/fashions/modes you'll have to find the money yourself from the 'big society' - sorry - the what? Oh yeah, that euphemism for a government withdrawing further from the electorate, and having the utter temerity to call it a clarion call for philanthropy. Bloody double-speak.

    I'm reminded of the famous Kinnock quote: 'If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday, I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old.'

    Maybe we could change this accordingly to 'If David Cameron remains in power, I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old, and I warn you against trying to make an original, challenging film...'


  2. At least in 20 Years we can travel quickly on our new £30 Billion train-line and get home quick enough to watch Transformers 9: The Other bit of the Moon

  3. I couldn't agree more. What worries me most about these comments from the conservative party, is the lack of respect and understanding that our society has for the arts. We are raising a society of people who only ever see money as an important driving force. Which is a big shame, as that tends to people living vacuous lives that have little effect on anyone. It also demonstrates how far removed the party running our country is from the normal person. I would have thought a man raised on Oxford education and Black tie dinners would understand the importance of art in an ever evolving world, but apparently he only understands money and wealth. I don't know what else I expected from such a vapid, plastic faced individual. If these plans go through then we will loose everything that is important to British film making.

  4. You forgot the new cable car going up in london, a quicker way to get home and watch another piece of generic hollywood cinema. Hopefully the british film industry will get a little extra funding for some good films and hopefully there's someone in charge there that will make sure some decent, thought provoking films get the green light

  5. Thanks for highlighting this news Jordan. It matters hugely. Stewart Lee makes a very good point in the radio clip - not to engage with fighting the battle on the enemy's terms, but to insist on the value of art for the sake of itself & its ideas rather than try and argue for the arts' commercial viability. I like the way that he uses the term 'trickle-down' to describe the relevance of non-mainstream art. It's a phrase which is usually used to advocate the accumulation of vast wealth by the 1% (i.e. that the very wealthy's money trickles down to the 99%). Writers like David Harvey have argued persuasively that trickle-down economic theory has produced the opposite of wealth for many, but perhaps we don't need much persuading, looking at headlines over the past couple of years. In using that phrase to describe the importance of culture I think Stewart Lee has got it spot-on... non-mainstream art and culture that is cutting-edge generates new ideas, is hugely influential, and enriches life through its re-generative newness.

  6. Thank you Chris, I think the trickle down effect that Lee describes is completely true and something that politicians seem to forget. For example, one could argue that without Argento's Suspiria, there would be no Black Swan. The small, artistic works that find a small but dedicated audiences have a far reaching effect. Cameron cites Slumdog Millionaire and The Kings Speech as the type of films he thinks should be backed. But both of these examples could not have been predicted successful. Slumdog Millionaire was extremely close to being released straight to DVD and today it has become a huge success. So his plans would prevent films such as those from getting any further than a DVD shelf.

    Also, for anyone interested the full Stewart Lee interview can be seen here. Not only a very clever man, but also very very funny and a talented singer...