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in Filmmaking
on Aug 29, 2009

We’ve envied the Brit’s public funding for feature films, government support for new talent, and innovative tax schemes supporting production. They’ve envied our culture of private equity investment for film. Now we’re both about even… or maybe not.

From a worthwhile read by Killian Fox in today’s Guardian entitled “Digital: Take a Short Cut to the Cinema”:

In [London Film School Director Ben] Gibson’s view, funding opportunities for first-time film-makers are desperately limited, and the lucky few who receive support are being hobbled by the whims of commissioning bodies, who place more weight on “the availability of a certain actor or the popularity of a certain theme” than on the promise of a new director. “Nobody is looking for the new Leigh or Loach or Frears here,” says Gibson. “And whenever a new Lynne Ramsay emerges, it is highly exceptional from the point of view of the film infrastructure. There is no intention for anybody to ever make an art film in the UK.”

Lizzie Francke, who runs the First Feature Film strand of the UK Film Council’s Development Fund, is less pessimistic. “You can see the glass as half-empty, but if I compare the situation for independent films in this country with the US, where the hedge funds that were supporting indie film-making are all gone, the glass is very full. For people who have the ability to tell good stories, there are places to go,” she says, citing regional public funding bodies such as Scottish Screen, EM Media and Northwest Vision. “If you’re a young film-maker in Britain today, you can find your hub.”

The bulk of the article is not, however, about funding politics but about the strategies new British filmmaking talent are using to jumpstart their careers. These range from crashing for a year at a noted production company to entering internet short film contests to creating internet identities for not just one’s films but the characters within them. In other words, doing the same kinds of things young filmmakers here are doing. It concludes:

[Film London director Adrian] Wootton has a similar outlook: “In this new digital age, it’s only by being really entrepreneurial that people are going to succeed. Film-makers are beginning to realise that they’ve got to have a knowledge of all areas of the business. They can’t afford to think, ‘My problem is to realise my artistic vision and then it’s somebody else’s problem to give it to an audience.'”

When you consider the stark financial realities, it is difficult to be upbeat on behalf of the next generation of UK film-makers. However, the opportunities afforded by technology and the internet have never been more exciting. That online-funded, self-distributed British feature film that seems such a blurry daydream today could be the high-definition norm tomorrow. If one thing is clear, it’s that future great British film-makers cannot wait around for the opportunities to knock on their doors. They must get out there and take matters into their own hands.

Read the entire piece at the link.

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