Monday, April 30, 2012

Revision Guide (incomplete)

A newer one will be added shortly
As Exam Brit Cinema Revision Guide

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

WT's box office history - extremely useful!!!

Source: (accessed 13.11.09)
Doesn't appear to be a complete list (missing several WT2 productions?), but not far off it

Released    Movie Name    1st Weekend    US Gross    Worldwide Gross    Budget   
4/1/1986 My Beautiful Laundrette - - - $400,000
5/19/1989 For Queen and Country - $191,051 - -
1/1/1990 Fools of Fortune - $83,000 - -
9/21/1990 The Tall Guy - $510,000 $3,510,000 -
4/19/1991 Drop Dead Fred $3,625,648 $13,746,300 - -
8/21/1991 Barton Fink - $5,726,463 - -
9/4/1992 Bob Roberts - $4,300,703 - -
4/23/1993 Map of the Human Heart - $2,806,881 - -
5/14/1993 Posse $5,311,902 $18,290,000 $19,290,000 -
2/4/1994 Romeo Is Bleeding $1,225,737 $3,275,585 $3,596,834 $10,000,000
3/9/1994 Four Weddings and a Funeral - $52,700,832 $257,700,832 $4,500,000
3/11/1994 The Hudsucker Proxy $470,949 $2,816,518 - $40,000,000
5/3/1995 Panther $2,354,847 $6,834,000 - -
5/5/1995 French Kiss $9,018,022 $38,863,798 $101,949,798 -
9/29/1995 Moonlight and Valentino $1,250,912 $2,459,766 - -
12/29/1995 Dead Man Walking $118,266 $39,387,284 $86,387,284 $11,000,000
3/8/1996 Fargo $730,265 $24,567,751 $51,567,751 $7,000,000
10/3/1997 The MatchMaker $1,378,930 $3,398,083 - -
10/17/1997 Bean $2,255,233 $45,334,169 $251,334,169 -
2/13/1998 The Borrowers $6,075,079 $22,619,589 $52,619,589 $29,000,000
3/6/1998 The Big Lebowski $5,533,844 $17,498,804 $46,498,804 -
3/6/1998 Everest $364,244 $87,178,599 $125,700,000 -
11/6/1998 Elizabeth $275,131 $30,082,699 $82,082,699 $25,000,000
12/30/1998 The Hi-Lo Country $17,712 $166,082 - -
5/28/1999 Notting Hill $21,811,180 $116,089,678 $374,089,678 $42,000,000
6/18/1999 Red Dwarf $3,976 $6,499 - -
10/1/1999 Plunkett & Macleane $244,765 $476,432 - -
3/31/2000 High Fidelity $6,429,107 $27,277,055 $48,277,055 $20,000,000
10/13/2000 Billy Elliot $215,681 $21,995,263 $109,280,263 $5,000,000
12/22/2000 O Brother, Where Art Thou $195,104 $45,506,619 $74,506,619 $26,000,000
4/13/2001 Bridget Jones's Diary $10,733,933 $71,500,556 $281,500,556 $25,000,000
5/25/2001 The Man Who Cried $93,455 $747,092 $1,790,840 -
8/17/2001 Captain Corelli's Mandolin $7,209,345 $25,528,495 $62,528,495 $57,000,000
10/31/2001 The Man Who Wasn't There $664,404 $7,494,849 $21,494,849 -
3/1/2002 40 Days and 40 Nights $12,229,529 $37,939,782 $94,939,782 $17,000,000
5/17/2002 About a Boy $8,557,630 $40,803,000 $129,803,000 $27,000,000
1/31/2003 The Guru $613,485 $3,051,221 $23,788,368 $11,000,000
5/9/2003 The Shape of Things $173,246 $732,241 - -
7/18/2003 Johnny English $9,134,085 $28,013,509 $160,013,509 $45,000,000
8/20/2003 Thirteen $116,260 $4,601,043 $6,302,406 $2,000,000
11/7/2003 Love Actually $6,886,080 $59,472,278 $247,472,278 $45,000,000
12/5/2003 Pride and Prejudice $38,330 $377,271 - -
3/26/2004 Ned Kelly $43,704 $86,959 $6,371,899 -
7/30/2004 Thunderbirds $2,766,810 $6,768,055 $28,768,055 $55,000,000
9/17/2004 Wimbledon $7,118,985 $16,862,585 $41,862,585 $35,000,000
9/24/2004 Shaun of the Dead $3,330,781 $13,542,874 $30,039,392 $5,000,000
11/12/2004 Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason $8,684,055 $40,203,020 $263,203,020 $50,000,000
4/22/2005 The Interpreter $22,822,455 $72,708,161 $164,708,161 $90,000,000
11/11/2005 Pride and Prejudice $2,865,017 $38,372,662 $121,372,662 $28,000,000
1/27/2006 Nanny McPhee $14,503,650 $47,279,279 $122,279,279 $25,000,000
4/28/2006 United 93 $11,478,360 $31,567,134 $80,567,134 $18,000,000
10/27/2006 Catch a Fire $2,026,997 $4,299,773 - $14,000,000
1/26/2007 Smokin' Aces $14,638,755 $35,662,731 $56,047,261 $17,000,000
4/20/2007 Hot Fuzz $5,848,464 $23,618,786 $79,197,493 $16,000,000
8/24/2007 Mr. Bean's Holiday $9,889,780 $33,302,167 $229,700,105 $25,000,000
10/12/2007 Elizabeth: The Golden Age $6,153,075 $16,285,240 $69,887,678 -
2/14/2008 Definitely, Maybe $9,764,270 $32,241,649 $55,148,863 $7,000,000
4/9/2008 Young @ Heart $50,937 $3,992,189 $5,876,236 -
8/1/2008 Sixty Six $9,359 $224,614 - -
9/12/2008 Burn After Reading $19,128,001 $60,355,347 $161,155,347 $37,000,000
12/5/2008 Frost/Nixon $180,708 $18,622,031 $26,870,381 $29,000,000
3/12/2010 Green Zone - - - -
12/31/2010 Lost for Words - - - -
12/31/2010 Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang - - - -
Totals $1,410,446,096 $4,309,726,686 $899,900,000
Averages $23,507,435 $71,828,778 $25,711,429

Some thoughts on the Digitisation effect

Across the Media A-Level, so at both AS and A2, the ever-growing issue of digital media, and what impact the digitisation of media is having on the industry (and culture more generally), is a central issue. When we look at British Cinema in AS, for example, this raises issues around how films are produced, distributed, exhibited ... and consumed.
So, Warp X is set up explicitly to foster the development of digital film-making (PRODUCTION) in the UK, which in general terms creates the prospect of more low-to-zero budget filmmakers entering the fray. Even comparatively high budget films, such as WT's Atonement, are being produced using digital film-making techniques. A quick look on Apple's web pages for Final Cut shows you just how many major productions, not just Indie efforts, are switching to digital film-making, and editing through software which once would have been a step down from industry level.
Distribution of movies becomes potentially much cheaper, as film prints (costing millions for any hit movie) become obsolete; a portable hard drive can be used instead - the problem being the lack of digital projectors in cinemas as of 2009! See The wiki on this notes:
Digital distribution of movies has the potential to save money for film distributors. A single film print can cost around US$1200[citation needed] (or $30,000 for a 1-time print of an 80-minute feature[8]), so making 4,000 prints for a wide-release movie might cost $5 million. In contrast, at the maximum 250 megabit-per-second data rate (as defined by DCI for digital cinema), a typical feature-length movie could fit comfortably on an off the shelf 300 GB hard drive—which sell for as little as $40 (retail price, volume prices are even lower) and can even be returned to the distributor for reuse after a movie's run. With several hundred movies distributed every year, industry savings could potentially reach $1 billion or more.
What this doesn't say, however, is that marketing costs remain, and without the clout and financial muscle of the big 6 especially, able to secure expensive advertising and favourable puff-pieces in the press and on TV in return for some access to their stars, Indie distributors continue to be at a huge disadvantage. Cinema chains are also discouraged from looking much further than the big 6, as EasyJet's Stelios found. Viral marketing is a possibility here of course...
Bringing us to the use of the web for exhibition, and consumption. This is potentially a great leveller; if the terrestrial TV channels are closed off, why not try the likes of Propellor TV? Or a MySpace page? Or YouTube? Or just straight-to-DVD using some of these as marketing platforms? Although we talk about you always thinking of yourselves as hypothetical film-makers, operating in the real media industry,for the purposes of your blogs and the marking of these, in effect you already are! The Co-Op Festival, for example, wasn't a mirage! Many of you have posted your work on Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites, and we've even seen copies of Twis'hite changing hands for actual money!.
For the big boys, though, this brave new world of cheap production, distribution and exhibition isn't viewed so brightly...they continue to dominate largely through this rather crass tentpole strategy; churning out high-budget spectacle movies which prioritise SFX over narrative, the recent Terminator Salvation and Transformers films being 'good' examples of these appalling character traits! It remains to be seen whether the much-hyped upcoming James Cameron project, Avatar, is more like Terminator 2 (technology married to a great narrative and convincing performances) or the 3rd and 4th installments of the franchise - which is now up for sale, if you have a few million burning a hole! Any democratisation of the film industry is straightforwardly a nightmare vision for them. Colin, the £45-budget (not a typo!) Brit-zombie flick (maybe you'll see a similar story about a Mr E. Clark before too long?!), is everything they fear. Blurring the lines between audience/consumers and producers is an exciting prospect (strike that; its a reality - look at the various YouTube re-workings of any hit movie; we've looked at Bridget Jones spoofed as a political thriller for instance), but not one that necessarily ensures the ongoing domination of these lumbering great conglomerate giants.
Can they even get us to pay?! BitTorrent and similar file-sharing technologies are used by most of your generation to some extent, leading folk your age to grow up with the at least partial expectation that you can access media for free. The big boys are trying to fight back through iTunes, and more specialist ventures such as Hulu, but could well be going the same way as the music business, which has seen profits plummet since Napster brought the prospect of free music to the world. The court case against The Pirate Bay, a BitTorrent search engine, seems to be an indication that the industry is determined to use the courts to combat online piracy, despite many commentators viewing this as pointless, futile and possibly even counter-productive. New laws have been proposed by the current government following high-profile lobbying by the film biz. You can see a range of articles on this here.
The reason I wrote this was simply being recommended watching a lecture... Exciting stuff I know, but you would benefit hugely from watching the lecture, described as follows:
Anthony Lilley, recently appointed by The Centre for Excellence in Media Practice as a Visiting Professor, delivers his inaugural lecture: Paying Attention: the changing value of media in the Internet age.
I haven't had time, yet, to watch, so perhaps you could comment with some observations based on your own viewing of it, and what can be learned from it!!!


Empire magazine critic Angie Errigo makes an interesting defence of the state of modern movie-making against claims that its filled with mega-budget tat that ignores narrative in favour of sheer spectacle (Inside Empire (2009) "They do make 'em like they used to", pp. 18-19).
A voice and a vision, and a reluctance to do what is expected are what's wanted in aspiring filmmakers. A-list stars and million-dollar explosions are completely optional if there's a story to be told, an emotion to be felt, a mood to be captured. Far from being a downbeat era of pap, these are wildly exciting times for all of us, rich with possibilities. Having entered the digital age with web access for all and an array of technology that gets cheaper by the minute, it's more possible than ever for movie brats to make their own productions and make them more ambitious and sophisticated than the Super 8 kids managed in their backyards. For every Hollywood film that costs upwards of $150 million, thousands of 'home movies' can be made and hundreds that are good to go in cinemas. It isn't naive to believe that 'talent will out'. The next Shane Meadows, Steve McQueen and Duncan Jones are out there at work within and without 'the System'.
 Super 8 is an old-fashioned format of video camera. If you've ever seen Son of Rambow imagine you were making your coursework with the same technology, a VHS video camera and two VHS machines linked up for editing (no digital technology at all, no computers even!).

ADDITION 8.3.2010
A lecture from UKFC on digitisation in film

The article this is taken from contains strong language; cult TV writer Karl Sutter writes, in a piece in which he bemoans the fate of his own movie project being stuck in development hell:
The world is in a media/content upheaval. Digital has changed the game. Everyone is grasping at what they thing might be the next big thing (that handful of WTF was the major reason for the WGA and SAG strike). But the truth is no one f*****g knows. TV, internet, movies -- it changes every day. The good news is that no matter what it looks like, how, when or where they get it, people want entertainment. So there will always be a need for content -- writers, directors, actors. [asterisks added by DB]


See this PowerPoint file.

Also have a look at this - I started writing this as paragraphs, will start again using bullet points (this doc)

Biggest movies of all time

You can find a full list at (it goes down to 445). The billion+ range has expanded recently ... but you can also see WT on this list at number 269 (BJD)

HISTORY OF WT's Impact on UK Film Biz

An Assessment of the Work of Working Title and It’s Effect On The British Film Industry

Working Title films was founded in 1984 by Sarah Radclyffe (Who would later leave the company to be replaced by Eric Fellner in 1992) and Tim Bevan. The company’s first notable success was the 1985 film My Beautiful Laundrette, a story of a young Asian man’s battle to ‘make it’ in London during the Thatcher years. The film stars Saeed Jaffrey and features a breakthrough performance by Daniel Day Lewis and was both a critical and commercial success for the fledgling studio, picking up two BAFTA nominations, and an academy award nomination for best screenplay. The success of My Beautiful Laundrette enabled Working Title to establish themselves as a serious production company and attract the attention of backers Polygram in 1992, and also the attention of the major American studios who were interested in distributing Working Title’s projects internationally. 

BJDiary 3 looms

Sad news...

Renée Zellweger weighs up lean Bridget Jones

Renée Zellweger has reportedly agreed to star in third movie – which could hinge on a pregnancy love triangle – on condition she can keep her figure

Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary
Big star ... Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary – a third film could be on the way with a more slimline Bridget. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex Features

A third Bridget Jones film is on the way to cinemas after producers promised Renée Zellweger she would not have to pile on the pounds to play the hapless singleton, reports the Sun.


The website - run by the Film Distributors' Association - contains useful info on the process of film distribution in the UK (the stage after production, involving marketing and negotiating with exhibitors to gain theatrical (and, later, DVD, pay-TV, premium channels and free-to-air screening) release. They publish a pdf guide on this.

This doc briefly summarises some key points on distribution.

Some key points:
  • look closely at the issue of distribution; the doc above gives a brief summary of this, with links for further reading; I'll add to this if I get time (distribution co's pay a flat fee and/or a % of potential profits for the rights to sell a production co's film to exhibitors - cinema, TV, DVD etc. Distributors pay for the marketing of a film, not the production co - tho' WT are unusual as they insist in being involved in the marketing campaign - use BJDiary as a case study, but also ref Love Actually)
  • do focus your answer on the case study of WT, but put this into context with reference to Warp Film/X as a more typical Brit production co (working on much smaller budgets than even WT's 'Indie' arm, WT2; social realist films; genre films 'with a twist'; working with Optimum Releasing and Film4/C4 for distribution; tho WT was sim to Warp when it started out) AND some specific comparison too to a Hollywood producer (use Universal, obviously part of the NBC-Universal conglomerate)
  • how do these sometimes giant corporations go about targeting an audience? Marketing is key to this (BJD cleverly taps into a wide aud thru its soundtrack etc), but so is the use of stars (Richard Dyer's star system), setting/accent (focus on white, S.Eng, m-class?), and the trend of hybrid genres (rom-COMs reach out to males thru comedy aspect; LActually makes this explicit with its 'ironic' sexist music vid with Bill Nighy, a parody of Robert Palmer's 1980s 'Addicted to Love' music video. For a company like Warp X, use of stars generally won't be an option; they focus on working within familiar genres - eg the slasher Donkey Punch taps into the wide fanbase of horror/slasher movies, featuring a 'final girl' - a tough, resourceful female character who overcomes the typically male killer - to reach out to a female audience for this primarily male genre
  • British and Indie production companies will typically begin initial development then try to sign advance distribution deals that will in effect finance the production. WT used this strategy very successfully to build the company in its earliest days, before the tie-ups with first PolyGram then NBC-Universal. Slumdog Millionaire failed to win any financial backing in the US initially, British companies Celador and FilmFour stumping up most of the initial development funding, but did manage to get the last $5m of its budget by pre-selling distribution rights to to Warner (having rejected a $2m bid from Fox Searchlight - see wiki)
  • this route to funding a production is becoming more difficult, with distributors increasingly reluctant - or simply unable - to make payments in advance of production being completed (see Gdn article)

What are the main issues around 'British' Cinema? From Social Realism to Cultural Imperialism via reindeer jumpers...

In looking at 'British' Cinema several issues come to mind:
  • the overwhelming dominance of Hollywood and the 'big 6' conglomerates in particular. How many British (or filmmakers from any other nation) companies can compete with the 2008 $185m budget spectacle movie Dark Knight, an example of the 'tentpole strategy' of a small number of mega-budget releases underpinning the big 6's release strategies (which hoovered up $533m in the US alone, getting a brief 2009 re-release to take it over $1bn worldwide? (WT are increasingly coming close to the $100m mark, but this is only possible as a subsidiary of NBC-Universal - e.g., the 2004 smash BJones: The Edge of Reason cost $70m)
  • the ongoing dominance of the social realist genre - at least partially a reflection of British filmmakers inability to attract funding for UK-set action/fantasy/sci-fi films (Harry Potter and Bond franchises excepted), but also the popularity of such films in Europe, where our few auteurs (Ken Loach, Mike Leigh especially) generally look to for funding. The British social realist tradition, growing out of the 1920s-40s British Documentary Movement, was a key influence on the French New Wave and Italian Neo-Realism movements of the 50s and 60s - both themselves a reflection of pragmatism in the face of limited availability for funding.
  • there are occasional exceptions to the rule that US audiences have no interest in social realist films (WT2's Billy Elliot; The Full Monty; Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies; arguably Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaires), social realist films' whose underdog protagonists triumphing against the odds neatly reflects the 'American Dream' ideology that any and all US citizens can be winners in their extremely uneven society. Interestingly, Shane Meadows' £1.5m 2006 Warp Films drama This Is England was seen as an arthouse movie in the US, where it took just $300,000 in 4 months, averaging a mere ten screens a week! There was a niche ABC1 audience for the film, but it had no prospects of wider commercial success
  • if we look at the fortunes of Hammer, there is a degree of irony here: Hammer briefly lead the world in the horror genre, establishing the likes of Christopher Lee as global icons in the process - but found their slightly camp, theatrical and gothic productions were left looking out-moded alongside low budget Indie productions from the US, such as Wes Craven's $90,000 (that's not a typo!) 1972 proto-slasher The Last House on the Left (ironically, banned in the UK until after the 1999 retirement of long-time BBFC head James Ferman). Craven, and his many subsequent imitators, took a leaf out of the social realist handbook, making films on a shoestring with that distinctive documentary feel (shaky camera work, kinetic cinematography [lots of cam movement instead of static set-ups], low-key, naturalistic lighting etc) that gave a heightened sense of realism.
  • WT began as a low-budget Indie producer of social realist films: 1985's My Beautiful Laundrette (with its challenging themes of class, race and homosexuality added to its counter-hegemonic critique of Thatcherism wedded to the company's belief in introducing new talent: Daniel Day-Lewis), a TV movie that won a cinema distribution deal after doing well at The Edinburgh International Film Festival, and 1987's Wish You Were Here which made a star out of Emily Lloyd and her 'up yer bum' catchphrase!
  • Warp Films is comparable to WT in its early days, an Indie producing generally social realist films on low budgets (like the early WT, it has links with C4/Film4). Warp X is more comparable to WT2, though, aiming to produce genre films "with a twist" (WT2's motto: "Humour, Horror, Heart")
  • its clear that following the (hybrid) genre path is the way to make serious money: if the US market is usually disinterested in British social realist dramas, often with an overt focus on social class (most Americans, rich and poor, have the self-perception of being middle-class), wouldn't any sensible business follow the WT path of churning out sickly rom-coms with their A-list American star to help tap into the lucrative US market? Look at the figures (using Guardian or IMDB): the $150m budget (Paramount, big 6!) Star Trek film took $75m from just under 4000 screens in its opening weekend stateside; almost £6m from 499 screens on its UK opening weekend. The US has 5 times the UK population and is wealthier to boot; UK filmmakers who don't attempt to build in cross-over appeal to the US market are limiting their potential profit.
  • ...however, is the bottom line all that matters in the film industry? Isn't it one of the much-mooted cultural industries [aka the knowledge economy; cf. Will Hutton] that underpin the UK's post-industrial economic future? Consider the mission statement of the UK Film Council, the quango funded by direct government money as well as Lottery funds, which in turn finances regional arms (eg Screen Yorkshire & EM Media, co-financiers of TisEng): "The UK Film Council is the Government backed lead agency for film in the UK ensuring that the economic, cultural and educational aspects of film are effectively represented at home and abroad." [emphasis added]
  • so, lets ask another question: which is the more important film: Indie Warp Film's (co-produced with UKFilmCncl, EM Media, ScrnYorks, Film4, Big Arty Productions and distributor Optimum Releasing) This is England (£1.5m budget, no stars, modest UK box office of £1.3m) or big 6 conglomerate subsidiary WT's $70m rom-com sequel (co-produced with Miramax, Universal, Little Bird, Studio Canal and Atlantic Televsion) Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (took £35m in UK, and a disappointing $40m in US - BJD took $72m)?
  • we could also ask whether either of the BJones films are actually 'British' films, considering the importance of funding from the European Studio-Canal - itself, like WT, now a mere subsidiary of NBC-Universal - and American big 6 member Universal
  • which do you think speaks to you most about YOUR identity (there's no correct answer here - I'm asking you to reflect a little on your personal consumption of films)?
  • you could argue that TiE's focus on class and race is itself a little cliched by now, although the key argument here would appear to be over the extremely narrow, stereotypical depiction of Britishness seen in both BJones films: white, middle-class, southern English characters, and various shots of Britain as quaint, rural - and even akin to a Quality Street ad when it comes to representing the teeming metropolis that is London. The BJones films rely heavily on their use of an American star, and the use of stereotypical representations of Britain that will be familiar and thus comfortable for an American audience - who would surely feel bewildered and alienated by the council estate mise-en-scene we see throughout TiE, and the broad northern accents its characters employ.
  • Indeed, BJD only became a hit in the US after Miramax supremo Harvey Weinstein noted the US test audience, confused at early mentions of Xmas turkey curry, broke into laughter at the visual humour of Colin Firth's reindeer jumper - a scene notably used in both trailers and music videos for the film's marketing. Without this, it may not have got funding for US distribution and marketing. [I'll blog separately about 'Curtisland'...]
  • 'Channel 4 is one of several bidders – also believed to include Channel Five owner RTL, Time Warner, BSkyB and NBC Universal – for Virgin Media's seven pay-TV channels, which include Living TV and Virgin1.' - The big 6's grip on our culture could soon be tightened further it seems
  • You will hopefully have noted an incongruity in discussing 'British' cinema and representation of Britishness here: we're looking at two films set in England...
  • If Hollywood's dominance of our screens, large and small, can be said to constitute cultural imperialism, with even our foremost film production company (WT) prioritising satisfying a potential US audience over its domestic market, and churning out work even within its low-budget, Indie wing (WT2) that focusses on familiar genres (as does Warp X to a lesser degree), what about the internal UK position? As northern English viewers, do you think the British film industry represents yourselves satisfactorily; do you, at the basic level, see sufficient reflections of yourselves on screen? Does the dominance of S.Eng representations bother you?
  • The position is even more stark if we look at this from a Celtic perspective: there have been some breakthrough Scottish-set hits (Trainspotting), but not for some time; can you name ANY Welsh-set films (consider how Rhys Ifans' character portrays the Welsh, as a binary opposite of the suave HGrant, in NHill); and for the N.Irish, we only seem to see ourselves represented endlessly as violent, drunken terrorists/psychopaths (even the controversial Hidden Agenda [rem Chomsky's propoganda model: flak as 1 of 5 filters], with the main cast being entirely American, Scottish and English, saw an English policeman emerge as the hero, with Ken Loach deploying some crude stereotypes along the way)
  • So... if it makes commercial sense to target a US audience through a S.Eng setting, and a narrow focus on white, middle-class characters (using a US star if funds allow - around half of the $42m budget for Notting Hill went on A-lister Julia Roberts' salary! - contrast this to Donkey Punch's £1m budget being mainly taken up by hiring the boat its set on!), with a narrative framed in a genre familiar to a US aud, and we can consider this cultural imperialism ... then does the same apply within the UK?
  • Look at the contrasting fortunes of Son of Rambow (Garth Jennings, 2007), a £4m Indie production that made its money back at the UK box office on 300 screens a week, adding another $1.8m in the US (you can add DVD and TV sales to these figures), and WT2's $5m Mickybo & Me (Terry Loane, 2004), which was released for just one week in N.Ireland on 28 screens, taking just £172,000 and failing to gain funding for a UK-wide or even US distribution. Both have comparable narratives centred on two young boys with obsessions about a specific film, but while the former is set in S.Eng, the latter is set in N.I. and inevitably brings in 'the Troubles', with our two leads eventually engaging in a near-fatal knife fight (because the tribal Irish can't do anything else but fight, as Ken Loach pointed out with Hidden Agenda!)
  • So, British cinema is in thrall to two commercial factors: cross-marketing potential to a US audience will greatly increase potential profits, which generally means a S.Eng setting/characters; but even within the UK setting the action anywhere outside the South risks poor returns also, as even the domestic 'British audience' can be reluctant to take on characters with Scottish, Welsh, N.Irish or Northern English accents (and even 'the South' is narrowly conceived: the likes of Bristolian accents aren't part of this concept, with the Midlands also somewhat excluded)
  • perhaps then we should applaud the existence of the UK Film Council, its regional arms, and Channel 4 (its production arm with a measly £10m budget is under serious threat though), all of which make films like TiE, which don't compromise for commercial ends, possible
  • although if we simply condemn a film like the BJD (chick-)flicks as candyfloss, we step into new arguments about the notion of high culture v popular culture, and the demonisation of any cultural form primarily consumed by females (rom-coms, soaps, celeb mags etc)...
Hopefully food for thought, which you may want to continue by looking at and

Britishness = miserable?

Interesting article here on the Ricky gervais Britflick Cemetery Junction; here's an excerpt which may help you think about yourselves as British filmmakers yourselves. This is a brief excerpt:

Our cinema doesn't depend on lavish, feelgood reassurance; it revels in seedy grittiness. That's the way we like it. We're not a nation of optimists who're certain we'll be redeemed. We're glum and suspicious. We quite like misery and are more at home with grunge than glitz.
Some interesting reader comments follow too, e.g. this:


19 Apr 2010, 11:32AM
It's interesting the feelgood romantic comedies that characteristed British cinema since the 1990s - Four Weddings, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones, Love Actually and the like - have disappeared. Even Richard Curtis's last film - The Boat That Rocked - was set in the 1960s Ditto Cemetery Junction takes place in 1973. For British filmmakers, we can feelgood about the past but not the present. Too many recent British movies - Fish Tank, Harry Brown, Eden Lake - present a thoroughly grim and despairing vision of the country. The odd exception was Mike Leigh's 'Happy Go Lucky'.
It's interesting that 'Four Weddings' opened in Britain in May 1994, on the very week John Smith died and Tony Blair emerged as the future leader of New Labour. There were a lot of parallels between Hugh Grant in that movie and Blair. Now, we have 'The Ghost' opening in the last days of the New Labour government - almost like a final nail being hammered in the coffin.
I often think that anyone who lived through the 1970s wouldn't want to return there. Films like 'Bloody Sunday', 'The Damned United', 'Control' and the 1974 segment of 'Red Riding' capture the grimness perfectly. Strikes, the Troubles in Ulster, football hooliganism, police corruption, drab provincial cities and raging inflation (just try going through newspapers of the period and you'll see how expensive everything was). It wasn't all bad, but on the whole I do prefer now.

Why does Hollywood dominate?

The Hollywood Effect
Despite Flourishing Global Film Industry, Hollywood Remains Movie Capital of the World

More Reel Rants

Many countries produce their own movies reflecting a culture distinct to its unique background, but why do Hollywood films have the largest take on export? Simply because, American cinema has an overwhelming effect on the rest of the world. If you really think about it, revenue generated from box-office sales all over the world come from mainly movies made by US film studios, in particular, studios from Los Angeles, California. So in this regard, is it safe to consider that Hollywood productions form one of North America’s main exports? Why do I think that is? The answer is simple. From childhood to old age, everyone likes a good story. From late night camp fires, high school plays, amateur theatre productions to high grossing block-busters, there is always a story teller and there is always an audience. For an in-depth study into this topic, we have to go way back to the infancy of film making.

Although still a subject of intense debate, the first moving pictures to be projected on a screen were from the British film Incident at Clovelly Cottage in 1895. The film was made with a 35mm camera and celluloid film using a technique invented by William Greene in Hyde Park, London in 1890. Right after the success of this film, several British film companies started to flourish, capitalizing on the basic economics of supply and demand. A few years later across the Atlantic, D.W. Griffith filmed the first ever American short film titled In Old California, in a small village called Hollywood. This was soon followed by the first feature film in 1914 called The Squaw Man. Within a year, various studios started popping up like mushrooms, making mainly gun slinging westerns. By the 1920s, Paramount, MGM, Warner Bros. and Columbia were founded and went on to become major production and distribution studios. During this silent era of films, British studios saw major losses due to heavy competition from their American counterparts. Until, that is, the emergence of one of the biggest names in cinema history, Alfred Hitchcock. Not only did he produce and direct the first British film with sound, Blackmail in 1929 was the work of pure genius and would revolutionize the art of story telling for decades to come. Within five years, Hitchcock made The man Who Knew Too Much and The 39 Steps, establishing himself as the “master of suspense”. He made another British film called The Lady Vanishes in 1938 before moving to Hollywood. Although the rest as we know is history, Hitchcock maintained strong ties with the British film industry while going on to become one of the first and greatest legendry film makers in the world.  
Alfred Hitchcock
The Master of Suspense, British filmmaker and producer, Alfred Hitchcock
The point I am trying to make is that Hitchcock could have easily continued his work in the UK and still would have become the greatest British film maker ever. What lured him to Hollywood?  Was it fame and fortune? Or was it a profound film making phenomenon emerging in the form of Hollywood productions?
As both British and US film industries continued to boom, a third emerging market was the Indian film industry. Incredibly, the first Indian motion picture was a silent film called Raja Harish Chandra released in 1913, which historians confirm was just a few years after the US venture into film making. Believe it or not, with a post-production figure of over 10,000 titles, India independently stands shoulder to shoulder with major film producing regions like North America, Europe and Far-East Asia. But quantity does not always mean quality.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Green Zone: WTs $100m flop

As IMDB seems to be shifting much of its content to IMDB Pro (which you have to pay for), some data may be getting harder to access, but we can still see enough to appreciate the level of funding WT can access, which places them way above any competitor (outwith the franchise producers of Harry Potter, Bond etc - essentially American productions

Managed a mere $35m in the US, and was a notable flop BUT initially ran on 3,000 screens, reflecting the confidence that Universal had; the expense of producing that many prints, and advertising in so many US cities is not undertaken lightly. It managed £5.4m in the UK on a peak of 419 screens (see IMDB). Critics argue the marketing focussed to much on the lead, Matt Damn, and tried too hard to play on the intertextuality he brings (if we apply Richard Dyer's star theory) to action films as the star of the Bourne franchise.
Centred on US marines in Iraq, there is little to suggest this was made by a UK company targeting a UK audience.
But we should note its British director, Paul Greengrass (who made his name with Bloody Sunday and went on to make a major impact with United 93)
YT trailer (-rated)

Greengrass' Bloody Sunday was highly controversial inside the UK, but won multiple awards across the wider world. It is seen as a masterpiece of the docudrama genre, which is broadly similar to the social realist style but specifically seeks to accurately reflect past events by re-enacting them.
Here's the trailer:

Greengrass would bring this approach to United 93 [IMDB], a symbolic movie in many ways: here we have a British company + director producing one of the most important filmic statements about 9/11, such an emotive issue for the American audience. By this time he'd directed Bourne movies, the extremely successful action/secret agent franchise. The $15m, low-budget production was a hit, making $30m in the US, an astonishing £28m here, and much more worldwide. It ran for a long time in the UK (5 months) on a peak 276 screens, but just 2 months stateside on a peak 1,795 screens.
Here's the trailer:

More on Green Zone marketing:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

WT2 Films + Britishness

Bulding on today's lesson, here's some links + useful points on WT2 + their films, some of which you might want to use for your presentations (+ general exam prep).


Working Title 2 / WT 2: Making the Small Budget Feature

As Working Title became more bound up with larger productions it became more awkward to deal with smaller ones so WT2 was established to deal with low budget titles.  
Despite its famous name, the structure at Working Title is pretty lean. It employs just 42 full time staff, split between the main Working Title production arm and its low-budget offshoot WT2, run by Natascha Wharton, which since 1999 has produced films like Billy Elliot and Ali G Indahouse. (My emphasis, from Skillset )
WT2 has had a good success rate and clearly the whole organisation is run very effectively.
Other films it has produced are the less than well received Calcium Kid starring Orlando Bloom.
Lucy Guard, Head of Development for Dragon Pictures and Natscha Wharton  who co-runs WT2 share with us their secret to developing talent..
How did WT2 come about?
When I was at Working Title we set up a New Writers Scheme to develop new talent. Normally we do not accept unsolicited material (scripts that do not come from an agent or producer) but for the scheme we had to relax a bit and open the doors. The problem was that at Working Title, smaller films would inevitably get less attention than the bigger budget projects so we decided to set up WT2 to give proper attention to those smaller films. Quite a few of the writers we were developing on the Scheme we are now working with us at WT2 while others have set up their projects with other companies, which is great.

Its generally bad practice to reproduce such long quotes as the one above and the one that follows, but in this case I think they're useful enough to justify this:
The success of Working Title’s formula (Notting Hill grossed $374,089,678 worldwide) of using slightly romanticised depictions of Britain and British life coupled with the use of international stars such as Julia Roberts and Renee Zellweger to appeal to an international audience has, in some ways both being of great benefit and great detriment to the British film industry. The company’s success has lead to Working Title being able to invest more money into British film production, at both high and low budget level with the creation of WT2. This has lead to young British talent such as Lee Hall (writer of Billy Elliot) being able to get more of their projects off the ground. However, the success of the Working Title formula has distorted the amount of revenue coming into the British film industry at large. Far too much money is making its way to Working Title, and many other British production companies are struggling to survive as a result. Working Title’s commitment to funding larger scale projects has had an effect on the company’s commitment to its lower budget productions, WT2 in particular has suffered greatly as a result of its parent company’s funding policy, to the extent that WT2 has produced only one film since 2004’s ‘Inside I’m Dancing’. However, other factors, such as Britain’s economic downturn have also had a negative effect on WT2’s funding. The fact that in the last five years Working Title has only produced one film through the production arm which the company claims gives the British film industries finest young talent the opportunity to bring their visions to life, is a terrifying situation for the British film industry’s largest production company to find itself in, and is an extremely worrying state of affairs for any young British talent trying to get a project off the ground, without the presence of an international star attached to the project. This is supported by the fact that WT2’s last project Gone, had no recognisable names attached to it, and the film was barely even noticed. Working Title’s lack of commitment to WT2 in recent years has worrying implications for the British film industry in general. Given Working Title’s size and influence on the British film industry it is perfectly plausible that other major British film producers such as BBC Films and Film Four may also cut back on their output, especially in the low budget production area, and given the current gloomy economic climate in Britain it is perfectly plausible that these cutbacks could have a catastrophic effect on the funding of projects involving young, British talent. Although this situation is clearly not all Working Title’s fault they, as Britain’s biggest film production company, have to take their fair share of the blame, and have to help spearhead the recovery of the British film industry at the base level, and help the filmmakers and writers of the future make their dream projects become a reality.
Again, usually its better to make the link into words, but in this case the link enables you to see the nature of the wider article this (poorly paragraphed!) quote comes from. The article is certainly worth reading in full, a very useful resource for your exam prep.

A QUICK SUMMARY OF THE ABOVE! (+ a few extra points)
  • WT2 emerged from WT's determination to foster new British talent
  • specifically, it was its New Writers Scheme that sparked the idea
  • the company were receiving interesting screenplay ideas from new writers, but didn't feel they could justify the $20m+ production budget that has become their norm (and don't foget they've gone as high as $100m with Green Zone)
  • so, it represented a partial return to WT's roots working with limited budgets
  • despite initial success (Billy Elliot was a global smash, while Hot Fuzz + Shaun of the Dead also did well), the WT2 offshoot (or subsidiary) has been largely inactive since 2004, producing only Sixty Six (2006) + Gone (2007) since
  • WT's typical budget has risen dramatically over the last decade, seeing its pseudo-Indie arm once more squeezed out of the picture, and its right to be proclaimed as a British company producing British films for a British placed into doubt
  • then again, many of these WT2 films also showed the trademark WT enthusiasm for attracting wider audiences than just the UK, not least through generally using genres recognisable to a US (+ thus, given Hollywood dominance, much of the global audience)
  • even when it didn't - Billy Eliot was essentially a social realist film in the tradition of its earliest productions (MBL/WYWH) - the narrative conveniently echoed the ideology or message of the 'American Dream': that anyone, no matter how humble their background, can make it to the top
  • remember, WT announced that WT2 would be a genre subsidiary focussing on Humour, Horror, Heart
  • budgets typically set to £5m or less
  • ...and didn't stretch to US stars, a basic part of the main WT strategy
  • we can largely say: UK settings, UK cast!


BILLY ELLIOT (Stephen Daldry, 2000) [IMDB] [Wiki]
The tale of a Leeds lad bullied for taking up dancing doesn't seemly greatly promising in terms of wider, non-UK box office appeal .. until we consider the point on how its ultimately uplifting narrative matches the American Dream concept so neatly. Its success followed other initially grim, social realist movies that ultimately provided the feel-good ending that Hollywood largely adheres to: The Full Monty being the prime example.
Nonetheless, it broke out of the narrow middle-class/Southern English mould of most UK-set WT films, and featured a challenging regional accent (which generally appear for comedy value, and signify backwards, unsophisticated stupidity in most WT productions - eg the comedy Welsh character 'Spike' (Rhys Ifans) in Notting Hill or the Scottish character in Wild Child who nobody can understand). Like all WT2 films, its budget came in well under £10m (indeed, £5m or less is the typical WT2 budget).
A modern-day Kes with box office appeal?!
It made a star out of its young lead, Jamie Bell, just as WT have launched the careers of Daniel Day-Lewis (MBL), Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth) and many others before.
YT trailer:

The US trailer makes a firm link between this film's narrative and that of the 'American Dream'; the voiceover says: "Inside every one of us ... is a special talent ...waiting to come out" ... while the familiar Rocky theme tune plays, helping to defuse any confusion or alienation a non-UK audience might experience when hearing such unfamiliar regional accents. The comedy aspect of the film is as heavily pushed as the drama; this is both humour and heart.

LONG TIME DEAD (Marcus Adams, 2000) [IMDB] [Wiki]

If BE was a WT2 'heart' film, this was horror - but, as with most teen-targeted horror, there was the requisite dose of 'heart' in terms of a romance sub-plot. I've not seen this one, but appears to be set in S.Eng and centre on safe middle-class Caucasian characters. 
UK/US appeal? Genre picked for US/global appeal, and seems to use recognisable S.Eng, but the lack of a major US star always reduces the likelihood of a UK film achieving 'breakout' status abroad, and this one failed to get cinema releases here or in the US, despite WT's relationship with the major distributor Universal.
YT Trailer (15-rated):

ALI G INDAHOUSE (Mark Mylod, 2002) [IMDB] [Wiki]

The £5m budgeted comedy (so, the 3rd H: Humour) managed over £10m at the UK box office, but failed to get a US release despite an obvious strategy to appeal to a non-UK audience (perhaps, overall, the cultural references were just too British for a wider audience?). It was a satire on a genre the US (and global) audience would recognise (gang drama), with a postmodern spin given that the lead was a white Jewish actor playing a black gangsta-wannabe (the joke being that many po-faced politicians and celebrities responded to him as if he was black, unconsciously associating his idiotic behaviour with a negative racial stereotype).
The US-friendly touches included an opening scene shot in LA which accounted for a quarter of the entire budget [the montage of LA cityscape shots that open the film makes a neat binary opposite with Warp Film's TisEng opening]; the gangs/genre it satirized; iconic US rap songs like NWA's "Straight Outta Compton" that opened the movie [tho' of course rap culture/music has become a globalised icon of US cultural dominance]; and even very British signifiers such as the jungle/drum'n'bass track made less alien for a non-UK audience by adding in a hip-hop phrase (boo-ya-ka!). The film made heavy use of iconic London landmarks (Ali G is chained up outside the Houses of Parliament for example).
NB: I surmised this film didn't get a US release because I found no US data on IMDB. As it seems to have started pushing a lot of info onto IMDB Pro only, I double checked using the site The Numbers - I was right! (The film made $26m worldwide but zip in the US) See
YT Trailer (15-rated):

The marketing for this film was aimed well beyond the UK: WT/Universal managed to get a starring role for the Ali G character in the video for Madonna's "Music":

MY LITTLE EYE (Marc Evans, 2002) [IMDB] [Wiki]

A £2m horror flick that made its money back at the UK box office, but failed elsewhere, despite the Big Brother theme. Set in US, US characters (but not stars), hardly showing a commitment to developing new British talent.
YT Trailer (18-rated):

SHAUN OF THE DEAD (Edgar Wright, 2004) [IMDB] [Wiki]

A £4m horror (actually, an innovative hybrid: zom-rom-com that hit all 3 of the WT2 Hs) that proved a minor US hit, launching Simon Pegg in particular (he went on to co-star in the mega-budget Star Trek remake), and would eventually lead to the $45m WT production Paul with Pegg + Frost reunited, this time in the US. Raking in £6.5m in the UK, it was given a major marketing push, with the distributors funding prints for 369 screens at its peak (roughly double this, 672, at its US peak - far short of the 4-5,000+ of most US box office no. 1s, but it still made  a very respectable $13.5m ).
Most of the intertextual references were to US movies, which obviously helped, and the bottom line is that without the backing of a US distributor (Universal), a major (part of the 'big 6' no less), it wouldn't have had much of a chance, but you could debate over how much it compromised itself to appeal to a US audience. It is simply a very, very well made production with an innovative script. 
And was directed by someone who got their first break at the Co-Op's Young Filmmakers' Festival...
YT trailer (15-rated)

Orlando Bloom flop (£64k in UK!!!!).
YT Trailer (12-rated)

MICKYBO + ME () [IMDB] [Wiki]
NI-set £4m flop.
YT trailer (15-rated)

NI-set comedy.
YT trailer (15-rated)

SIXTY SIX (Paul Weiland, 2006) [IMDB] [Wiki]

YT trailer (12A-rated)

GONE (Ringan Ledgwidge, 2007) [IMDB] [Wiki]

YT trailer ()

HOT FUZZ (Edgar Wright, 2007) [IMDB] [Wiki]
The West-Country accent must have been a hard sell for US audiences; instantly recognisable to a UK audience though. 
YT Trailer (15-rated)