Monday, April 26, 2010

Challenges facing UK directors

I've also linked to this in the post on women directors, which, like many others, I keep updating when I find useful new articles.

Good detail in this article on how the careers of British directors (Lynne Ramsey), and even the fate of one of our foremost film companies (Film4), can be turned upside down when Hollywood takes interest in a project which was all set to be directed by Ramsey for Film4:
[Ramsay] read [The Lovely Bones] when it was half an unpublished manuscript. Like many readers to come, Ramsay was gripped by the voice of a 14-year-old girl narrating her murder from beyond the grave. Film4 signed her up to adapt it.
But then several things happened: Sebold delivered the rest of the story, which departed into a gooey spirituality at odds with Ramsay's vision; the novel became a huge bestseller; and Hollywood heavyweights such as Steven Spielberg began to show an interest. Suddenly, The Lovely Bones was a potential blockbuster, and Ramsay's involvement started to look incongruous.
Meanwhile Film4 was downsized under new management. Its new head, Tessa Ross, was bemused to find herself courted by the most powerful players in Hollywood, all because of The Lovely Bones. Ross eventually bowed to the logic of the marketplace, and dropped Ramsay in favour of Peter Jackson. Jackson proceeded to make an utter mess of the film, but that's another story.
The article goes on to highlight the difficulties British directors face in building a career:
Next month sees the release of Philip Ridley's Heartless, his first film since The Passion of Darkly Noon in 1995. Richard Stanley is gearing up to shoot Vacation, his comeback after his career nosedived with his firing from The Island of Doctor Moreau, also in 1995. These two don't have the cachet of Ramsay or Pawlikowski, but they illustrate the general point that sustaining a career is much harder than starting one for many indie film-makers, particularly those with a distinctive vision. That's something the UK Film Council should bear in mind, as it concentrates its production funding on new directors.
As ever, there are some insightful comments following the article:
Does Ramsey make the sort of films that people want to watch these days?
I feel that stuff like Red Riding is far more relevant, look at its success in US. Made for TV, sold as movie in different markets - cool looking, genre movie deep in story, but routed in context (70s yorkshire in this case). I hope that '...Kevin' is like that, it certainly has the scope to be.
Ramsey's films have that 90s 'film council funded' feel to them, lot's of silence bookended with gritty and staring out of windows. Is that really going to put the British industry on the map right now? [jonaent, 22 Apr 2010, 1:13PM]

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