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British Film Presentation 2

November 28, 2010

Download Link: British Film summary

British Film Since 1990

East is East – Multicultural

Four Weddings and a Funeral – Romantic Comedy

Riff Raff – Social Realism

British Film Since 1990

Other Genres:

Gangster – Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Art – The films of Peter Greenaway

Historical – Merchant Ivory

Thriller – 28 Days Later

Can you think of any others?

British Film Since 1990 A2 Media Studies for OCR – Hodder and Stoughton

The key areas of knowledge and understanding for this topic are:

The current state of the British Film Industry

The relationship between British film and European cinema/ Hollywood

• The representation of contemporary Britain in films

British Film Since 1990

Do Hollywood films manage to be ‘universal’ or is it important that a nation has a cinema which reflects its specific social issues and its people more ‘locally’?

What is ‘Britishness’ and how does cinema reflect such diversity?

British Film Since 1990

Context: some facts

In 1989, Us films enjoyed 84 per cent of market share in Britain. In 1999, 86 per cent.

In 1945, 1583 people attended a cinema in Britain, in 1985, 72 million and in 1999, 140 million.

British Film Since 1990

Context: some facts

In 2000, 39 per cent of the cinema audience in Britain were between the ages of 16 and 24, and 29 per cent between 25 and 34.

In 1998, the average number of visits per person to the cinema in Britain was two.

British Film Since 1990

It is important that you think thematically about a time period. It is neither possible nor desirable for you to cover the output of British filmmakers or the manoeuvres of the British film industry chronologically from 1990. You need to address the way British films have depicted changes to society in diverse ways, consider the major funding and institutional contexts and look at the film audience in Britain to reflect on demographic factors.

British Film Since 1990

An interesting strategy is to project yourself forward in time to 2050 and think about how the 1990s and 2000s will be written about by film historians and theorists in retrospect. What will have been the main movements? Who are/were the key industry players? What changed, and for whom?

British Film Since 1990

What is a British film?

The industry is increasingly fragmented, many films are co-funded across national boundaries and many British directors are working abroad. Equally, there is the issue of whether we can any longer (or ever could with accuracy) group films together under the British banner.

British Film Since 1990

The idea of representing Britain cannot be understood in isolation from an understanding of context and purpose — who is being represented by whom and to whom? Hugh Grant’s awkward middle-class charm in Four Weddings may appeal to an American audience who would struggle to understand Ricky Tomlinson’s politics in Riff Raff.

British Film Since 1990

1990s Britain: politics and culture

There have been many changes to British society that will have formed the backdrop to your own childhood — new technology, the post-Thatcher and New Labour eras, globalisation, changes to popular culture consumption (or the privatisation of culture) and arguments about ‘dumbing-down

British Film Since 1990

Think about Britain as an advanced multicultural society, linked to questions about national identity in the face of globalisation, American dominance of culture and its exhibition and arguments over Europe. In sociological terms, the post-Thatcher era can also be understood as a post-industry era, with the dominance of the service economy and claims of a leisure society.

British Film Since 1990

Contemporary ownership and institution

In terms of production, most film companies in Britain are either small scale, working on a film-by-film basis, or subsidiaries of larger companies. British broadcasters moved into film in significant ways in the 1990s, with Channel 4, Granada and the BBC all involved. In distribution, Film Four were a major player, but the majority of distributors sharing the market in Britain are still American. In exhibition, those who yearn for diversity have been dismayed by the fact that the increase in the number of screens with the rise of the multiplex has done little to increase the range of films shown. Equally, the visible increase in cinemas and screens has failed to help film producers in Britain get their films shown.

British Film Since 1990

The 1990s was a period in which the internet emerged, along with other technological developments, and changed the face of all media production and consumption, not least in cinema. Film-related websites, DVD, IMAX and pay-per-view movies were all introduced.

British Film Since 1990

Alongside the technological fervour, Britain had a new government with a minister devoted to film. In 1998, Chris Smith, the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport commissioned a review called ‘A Bigger Picture’, which investigated national film policy and made recommendations for the future. The outcome of this was that film distribution (essentially marketing) was recognised as the most significant area for attention, not production.

British Film Since 1990

The Arts Council and the National Lottery shared out nearly £100 million to film producers who had successfully applied.

However, it still remains the case that there are no large companies producing films in Britain, and thus one disaster release can bankrupt our studios. The medium-sized companies that operate in Britain tend to be parts of bigger international corporations. These companies mainly concentrate on one film at a time. This means that there may be almost as many production companies as there are films produced in Britain (one or two films each, essentially) at any one time.

British Film Since 1990

Traditionally, countries have chosen between two types of film industry. A studio system like Hollywood — a ‘factory’ system with huge capital, exporting its products worldwide and where all the ‘major players operate from. Or a state-funded system where the government provides money for films that will reflect domestic life, in order to preserve national identity and resist the pull towards a ‘universal’ American culture.

British Film Since 1990

In Britain, neither system operates and our filmmakers have neither the corporate system of Hollywood or government money to support them. This is the reason why so many ‘British films’ are only British in terms of either filmmakers, artists or part-finance, and why for decades many of our most talented directors and stars have gone to Hollywood.

British Film Since 1990

An additional problem is created within the areas of distribution and exhibition. Because our cinema screens are mostly owned by large American corporations, who tend to ‘play it safe’ when booking films for exhibition, British filmmakers have trouble getting their films shown in Britain.

British Film Since 1990

In 1996 for instance, only 19 per cent of British films were released on over 30 screens, 13 per cent had limited release and the remainder were never screened! We also struggle to see foreign, non-American films which tend to be shown at independent or ‘art-house’ cinemas only. This is where most of our own famous ‘realist’ directors like Mike Leigh and Ken Loach have their films shown as well.

British Film Since 1990

Many British films have been more successful abroad than at home and they then become popular in Britain once reputation is established through award-winning and critical acclaim elsewhere.

British Film Since 1990

When looking at the British film industry since 1990, you will realise how difficult it is to find a ‘purely’ British film institutionally, and to distinguish between those that are funded and created through British creativity and money, those that are co-funded with European or international partner companies but feature ‘British content’ and those which are really foreign films with some British investment. It is useful to look at films from these institutional backgrounds and to bear in mind these factors when dealing with representational issues.

British Film Since 1990

The fall and rise of cinema in Britain

Cinema-going (as opposed to watching films at home) has survived some major setbacks over the last 60 years. Cinemas have survived the advent of television, the VCR, digital subscription services and DVD. Part of the reason for American dominance is that, in order to fend off these ‘home comforts’ and tempt people back to the cinemas, exhibitors had to create new kinds of spectacle and lure us to a ‘cinematic experience’.

British Film Since 1990

Bigger screens (and more of them), comfortable seats, lavish foyers, surround sound and special FX help this cause. Arguably, British films that are traditionally more narrative-driven are less tempting to a new audience seeking spectacle. New IMAX developments could be seen to take cinema back to its origins, when the audience cowered at the sight of an approaching train on the screen and marvelled at images moving for the first time. Stories were secondary to spectacle when cinema began, and it might be argued that the ‘multiplex age’ has a lot in common with the dawn of film in this sense.

British Film Since 1990

The British film industry is enjoying a boom period, but it is important to think about exactly what this means. Most of the top box-office hits in Britain are American. It is likely that even successful British films will be partially financed by American companies, and that the cinemas where tickets are sold will be mostly American owned.

British Film Since 1990

While the British film industry is enjoying a boom period, this does not mean that there is a growth in choice or diversity. If you look at what is on offer at multiplexes in our local area, you will probably find that they offer a very similar range of titles.

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