'British film industry has never been better': Director Paul Greengrass opens London Film Festival 2013

The Bourne Supremacy director said Britain is regularly attracting the best filmmaking talent

The best filmmaking talent in the world is now regularly coming to London to make movies, according to the award winning British director Paul Greengrass.

Speaking at the official launch of the BFI London Film Festival at the Odeon Leicester Square today, the director of The Bourne Supremacy and United 93 also said the British industry has never been in a stronger position. The 58-year-old described it as a “huge honour” that his latest film, Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks and based on a true story of the 2009 hijacking of a US container ship by Somali pirates, will open the LFF on 9 October.

Greengrass said: “British film is on a very positive journey. If you look at the biggest movies in the world, like Star Wars, Gravity – a hugely cutting edge movie - they’re being made in Britain. British technicians are world class and audiences are queuing up to see these films. Distinctive British voices, like Stephen Frears, and all the emerging voices on show here highlight where the industry is. Strong leadership from the British Film Institute helps too. There’s a real vibrancy among British filmmaking and all these elements have been growing for the last 10-15 years and it shows no signs of stopping.”

Taking place over 12 days, the LFF’s 234 fiction and documentary features will be shown at venues across the capital. There will also be screenings of 134 live action and animated shorts before Hanks stars again in the festivals’ closing film, Saving Mr Banks, co-starring Emma Thompson and telling the story of how Mary Poppins was brought to the big screen.

Greengrass began life as a director for ITV’s current affairs show World in Action in the 1980s before breaking catching Hollywood’s attention with the 2002 film Bloody Sunday about the shooting of Northern Ireland anti-internment protestors. Now established among the Hollywood elite, does Greengrass think independents are still being overshadowed by too many blockbusters?

He said: “Obviously in any system you devise you’re going to have commercial films that have to earn their audiences. But today films are delivered in so many different ways. When I started out, cinema was about getting your film onto a screen somewhere – that’s still an issue, but it’s not as big an issue I suspect as it used to be.

“Getting distribution, getting noticed, is a core issue, but that’s a situation that will always face independent filmmaking but technology is working in its favour as you can deliver a film in so many different ways. Digital projection has made it infinitely cheaper to make prints and get films out. Film education is now an increasing part of it. As we look forward to the next generation people don’t just want the multiplex movies, there’s a much more balanced diet.

“There are huge and profound issues, of course, but we have a vibrant culture and there’s no reason why we can’t solve those problems, not overnight but we’re doing well.”

Among the British-made films that will premiere at the LFF is Hello Carter, the debut feature by writer-director Anthony Wilcox, who started out in the industry as an unpaid runner in his gap year before getting a paid position on a feature film earning £200 a week. Fifteen years on he is delighted at how far he has come.

“I think I needed that experience to get the confidence to make the step up to director”, he told the Independent. “There’s no set route into the industry. Teenagers are shooting their own film at home now and perhaps it’s easier now than it was in the 1990s. I can’t stress how important it is for Hello Carter to be at the festival, it’s the lifeblood for us. It’s such a London film and we were over the moon when we found out.”

The BFI London Film Festival, October 9-20, bfi.org.uk/lff

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