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British films to be pitched as a global brand

An official review says that the quality of UK movies should be promoted to compete with Hollywood

A major review of movie-making policy is set to call for an annual film week and a series of celebratory national film days, in an effort to promote a British brand to compete with the cachet of French cinema and Hollywood. According to a draft of the review, seen by the Observer, “British Film” is a desirable label that should be deliberately marketed.

Last week David Cameron caused controversy ahead of a visit to Pinewood studios by stating that the UK film industry should financially support “more commercially successful pictures”. Directors such as Ken Loach and the former chair of the British Film Institute, Joan Bakewell, expressed fears that future subsidy for film-makers might be based on predicted box-office success. Instead, former culture secretary Lord Smith, head of a panel examining the film industry, is expected to suggest that “British film” be marketed as a kind of quality assurance for cinemagoers.

“This country has been making intelligent films, films that are different to American films, for some time,” said Stephen Frears, director of The Queen. “If Lord Smith is now to say we need to keep doing more of the same, rather than trying to recreate Hollywood over here, that sounds eminently sensible.”

Britain’s most commercially successful films cover a wide variety of subjects and styles, from Trainspotting to The King’s Speech, from The Inbetweeners to An Education, from Shame to Johnny English. Nevertheless, industry experts who helped Smith draw up this review of government policy believe that, for the public at least, all share a trademark sensibility. The new brand could be could be promoted by setting up an annual British film week or a series of special film days that would highlight the UK’s strong back catalogue of homegrown hits. The panel is likely to recommend that the British Film Institute, which has taken over the responsibilities of the now defunct Film Council, will be charged with developing the idea.

The Smith review was commissioned by Ed Vaizey, minister for the creative industries, last May and Smith has led a panel of eight, including Lord Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, and Tessa Ross, head of film at Channel 4.

The positive findings of a recent BFI survey were given significant weight in this area of the report. A survey of more than 2,000 cinemagoers aged between 15 and 74 was conducted online last year and found that more than half of those asked said they were more likely to watch a film if it was British. And 95% of those replying to the survey thought that British films were of high quality, while 93% felt the same way about Hollywood fare.

“In supplementary interviews, respondents described what in their view makes a film British. Two elements were dominant: cast (‘actors are the thing that make it most British’) and story,” the BFI survey found. “Interviewees also highlighted British humour – ‘a sort of dark humour’ – and authenticity – ‘gritty, more like real life’.”

The location of a film, respondents told the BFI, was also important.

The review, which will be unveiled on Monday , is also likely to propose a system that allows the profits from successful films to be fed back into the industry. Such a scheme would see a percentage of box-office receipts paid back into the lottery fund in cases where producers had received an initial grant.

A crackdown on copyright infringements is also expected, with criminal legal penalties for those who secretly record inside cinemas, and a concerted attempt to sort out the cinema distribution restraints that can hamper independent British films from reaching their widest potential audience. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds