Recently, British Prime Minister David Cameron urged the British Film Institute (BFI) to use its funding to support more work that appeals to mainstream audiences. Comedian Stewart Lee took umbrage with that idea:
But maybe David is party to a formula for popularity, despite the fact that no art of any real value, including all Hollywood films of the past 30 years, has ever been made by pursuing one. Good artists do what they believe in and don’t merely court public approval. In these respects they are the opposite of politicians. Zing!
In the UK, the BFI doles out some £20 million ($31 million) to independent productions, some of which is public money, including earnings from the National Lottery. Per the Guardian Article linked above, the UK film industry does about £4.2 billion a year, riding a wave of £1 billion from foreign investments in the wake of successes like The King’s Speech. Cameron is asking for more hits to bolster the industry.
Lee brings up some interesting points about the creative process. The best thing for the British film industry to do is to find its own voice and not live in the shadow of Hollywood (or, ya know, the rest of Europe). When you unleash your most creative people on the cinema, the rest of the world will perk up and listen. As Lee points out, there is no formula for finding the next Danny Boyle or David Yates; you just have to support your artists and hope their voices will resonate.
For my money, the last thing the BFI should do is promote more films like The King’s Speech. What we’ll end up with is a lot of My Week With Marilyns washing ashore, which is to say uninspired anglo-fetishism for the sake of turning a buck (or a quid). I wouldn’t object to more, Attack the Blocks though; not at all.