Yesterday, the Prime Minister made yet another bold and typically Tory statement- that the UK’s film industry should produce more “commercially successful pictures”, proving once again that he has some kind of allergy to creativity and originality. Not only does the statement make me worry that the UK will lose the majority of the artistically talented independent film producers who make our industry so exciting and diverse, but also, surely the fact that everyone’s favourite Prime Minister fails to understand that you cannot fully predict commercial success is worrying for the economy as a whole?
The timeline of British film successes is littered with fantastic independent films. For example old favourites such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Billy Elliot still manage to captivate an audience with revitalising modern translations in theatre and TV. Horrors such as Blair Witch Project, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Paranormal Activity are effective because of their low budget which adds a raw and subsequently almost believable element to the obscure plot line. More recently, an unassuming novel by Vikas Swarup, Q&A, telling the story of an Indian boy who miraculously manages to win Who Wants to be a Millionaire was translated into a piece of cinematic beauty. Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire managed to effortlessly scoop 8 Academy Awards and 7 Baftas, receiving universal critical acclaim. A.R. Rahman’s fusion of indie, R&B and classical Indian beats also became an instant hit as soundtrack to the film, the combination of film and music serving to inspire and revitalise Western tastes from everything from music to art to fashion.
Indie fims are what bring innovation to the industry. They push boundaries, exploit obscure ideas and take risks, which subsequently drives change and inspires all types of new media. It is this freshness and originality that audiences crave- take new film, The Artist, for example; the idea of a black and white silent film in a world overwhelmed by vibrant HD, imax and surround sound may seem to some like a guaranteed fail, but its fresh and exciting, bringing a classic model out of the highly popular vintage closet and revealing it to a new era of viewers.
Mr Cameron, you cannot command films to be massive commercial successes, it doesn’t work like that. However, you can invest in the fresh young minds with wild and wonderful creative minds to generate the ideas feed and stimulate the industry. We can increase chances of success, but not demand it.