But – and this is the crucial point – not by sending us in on our terms. In addition to the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, there is an almost invisible collection of golden raspberries – one for any confident British claim that we are now in the game.
You can still see poor Colin Welland now, him Chariot of fire Screenwriter whose 1982 Oscar acceptance speech contained the collective cry that “the British are coming”. Goldcrest, Chariot‘Production company just didn’t have the reserves to make three flops (which hardly remembered) revolution, The mission and Absolute beginners) and was sold almost bankrupt in 1987.
Working Title Films – what gave us Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’ diary and love Strictly speaking, as well as film versions of Ali G, MR Bean and the Lloyd Webber musical Cats – grew out of the death of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment in 2000. The next great UK independent film hope, Film4, collapsed in 2002. We get knocked down, but we get up again … and the Americans are always there to pocket the broken pieces.
At the moment the British manufacturing sector is booming – probably thanks to the tax breaks introduced by Gordon Brown and improved by George Osborne. In the first half of this year, the UK spent a total of £ 3.6 billion on film and high-end television production from 300 productions, according to the British Film Institute.
Last month the owners of Sunset Studios in Los Angeles where people like When Harry met Sally and La La Land were filmed, announced they had bought 91 acre property in Hertfordshire and planned to turn it into a £ 700 million “world-class” film and television studio. Pinewood Studios announced a $ 450 million expansion earlier this summer.
We are opening new studios. We’re making more movies and high-end television than ever before. The next explosive part of Tom Cruises Impossible mission The franchise was filmed with mostly British crews in locations as exotic as a Yorkshire vintage railroad and a disused quarry near Stoney Middleton in the Peak District. The Lightning, a new superhero film from DC Comics, is the latest Hollywood blockbuster filming in Glasgow, in the footsteps of Indiana Jones and Batman, with Merchant City being a reasonable replacement for downtown New York.
The demand is so great that we lack crews and equipment. It’s like we’re literally living in Hollywood, but with no sunshine or excellent food.
And yet it is mostly US studios that fund the good times; In 2019, American networks and streamers launched 532 new scripted shows. In 2020, in the middle of the global pandemic, they still managed to bring out 493 brand new series. They’re still pumping it out – and yet it’s the British who get the gongs (if not the money).
Why? The US training system simply does not provide consistent quality for demanding TV storytelling in long form.