The British film industry dates back to the very start of the 20th century with the establishment of The Gaumont company and Pathe amongst others.
Other key events from the early days of the industry include the establishment of the British Board of Film Censors in 1912 and the first studios opening in Twickenham and Elstree in 1913 and 1914. Early pioneers include Birt Acres who directed mainly documentaries such as ‘The Derby’ and ‘The Opening of the Kiel Canal’.
Today the UK film industry contributes around £5billion a year towards the UK economy, employs over 40,000 people and is the largest exporter of films in the world after the USA.
To show the importance of the British film industry we must first decide what makes a film British. In my opinion a British film is a film that is directed by a British person for example 28 Days Later. Some films are dominated by British actors and are in a British setting but the director may be American or the funds may come from a Hollywood studio. So it is extremely difficult to find a successful British film. This may be because people in the British film industry move to Hollywood to become successful, so this shows us that there is a British influence on some Hollywood films, some examples of this are World War Z, Kick-Ass 2 and Red 2.
In 1989 Warp started up as a records company, they were seen as pioneers and exclusively involved with electronic music. The film side of Warp started in the year 2000 and their first film by Chris Morris. The film was shot in 2002 and won the best short film award in the 2003 BAFTA film awards. Later Warp films needed distribution funds, so they partnered with Optimum. In 2004 a film was released called Dead man’s shoes directed by Shane Meadows. This was the first film directed by Shane Meadow that was funded by Warp films.
Dead Man’s Shoes later was ranked 180th in Empire Magazine’s ‘201 greatest movies of all time in March 2006. It also came 27th in the ‘Best British Films Ever’ in October 2011. Paddy Considine won ‘Best British Actor’ in the 2005 Empire Awards, beating Daniel Craig in Layer Cake and Simon Pegg in ‘Shaun of the Dead’. This shows us that the film was only successful when picked up upon later. This indicates that British films lack the funds to promote their own films and rely upon the quality of their film to be good enough to be shared by the viewers. An example of this is Breaking Bad where the viewers claim that it is the ‘best thing on TV ever’ and are willing to talk about the show to others for free.
In 2006 the British drama film ‘This is England’ was made. They story centres around a boy whose father was killed in the Falklands conflict. He becomes a member of a skinhead group during the summer of 1983. The film educates us as to what British culture was like at that time. It teaches the world about issues such as unemployment, conflict and racism in this country. The film is an example as to why the British film industry is important; it highlights our social problems and contradicts the typical stereotype.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian symbolises a huge part in the importance of the film industry. It is an iconic film, due to the controversy it caused, because it was deemed blasphemous and heretic. The film would not have been made without George Harrison’s, who started Hand Made films, help in financing the cost of the film which amounted to £3million.
The storyline follows a young man (Brian Cohen) who is mistaken for the Messiah. He unintentionally gains a following of locals who hang on his every word. He speaks out against Pontius Pilate and joins the People’s Front of Judea. He is eventually captured by Pontius Pilate’s soldiers. The final scene shows Brian on the cross where he, and others, break into song with ‘Always look on the bright side of life’.
This film was banned in Norway and Ireland and many councils in the UK. This boosted the publicity and the film gained notoriety. Christians believed the film mocked Jesus and his suffering by using crucifixion in a comical way. This form of comedy was breaking new ground and gave it the stamp of individuality which is common in British films. The film was a Box Office success.
The British film industry has many differences to Hollywood. One of these differences is realism. Drug use in Trainspotting is the harsh reality, whereas in Pulp Fiction it shows us, in a very powerful way, how drugs can affect a person. Trainspotting shows us that although things may seem different to the character, it is actually different in real life. This also allows us as average people to relate to the characters and empathise with them.
British film also allows people in our society to understand how others live and exist in their environment. They may find having a film set nearby is more effective or interesting. American and other cultures may find that a British film puts variation in the films you watch. Whether that would be a different type of person or a different setting.
In my opinion, the British film industry is very influential in the world arena. It has a wealth of creative and forward thinking people. We may not have the finance like the United States to put on an epic film, but we have the ability and skill to produce high quality movies.