Blogged by Sanjay D’Humieres.
The family film industry was at the heart of this debate, chaired by ‘Gruffalo’ producer Michael Rose and there was a long and passionate discussion as to whether British family films had managed to gain international popularity – or if they were doomed to stay within the confines of the British Isles forever!
Heavyweight panelists took part in this lively exchange with Ben Roberts, Director of the Lottery Film Fund at the British Film Institute, who explained his mission and his impressions of the state of the industry.
He highlighted the struggle for British Family Films to be box office successes across the pond in an already very crowded market. He also explained that the American audience sought films with more action that acting, as a form of escapism rather than bringing people back to the harsh realities of everyday life.
Charles Gant (Film Editor of Heat magazine) outlined the relative box office success or failure of UK-produced films in recent years.
Joe Oppenheimer, Executive Producer at BBC Films echoed Ben’s view of the film market and the power of American distribution, and he gave examples of films that BBC Films produced but failed to take the world by storm. These included ‘Billy Elliot’ released in October 2000 and more recently ‘Street Dance’ one of the first features in 3D in the UK.
The floor was opened to questions and as expected many participants expressed their worry at the fact that austerity may mean less or no funding for the industry in the future.
Ben Roberts talked about the film funding consultation currently under way at the BFI.
Anna Home for the Children’s Media Foundation contributed from the audience, to make the points that previously the UK Film Council had failed to stimulate children’s and family film through development or production funding, that films were as much a child’s right as adults’, and that it was important to differentiate between films made specifically for children and those made for the family audience – and that both needed stimulus. What was needed was some radical thinking.
Ben Roberts acknowledged the importance of family and children’s film and looked forward to discussing it in more detail at a consultation meeting with the Children’s Media Foundation shortly.
Ben also wanted to be realistic on what might be possible, and emphasised the need for content creators to look beyond UK funds for help.
Dave Sproxton from Aardman commented from the audience that productions with UK sensibilities could succeed in the family market – though he acknowledged they still struggle in the States.