Kaufman delivers Hollywood verdict on 'Film UK'

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A GROUP of MPs was last night preparing to fly home from a pounds 23,000 fact-finding trip to Hollywood, bearing a gloomy diagnosis from Steven Spielberg about the dismal state of Britain's film industry.

Seven members of the National Heritage Committee spent five days in Los Angeles gathering information from top producers and directors about the prospects for Britains's moribund movie business.

But the world's most commercially successful director, whose credits include ET and Schindler's List, was brutally frank: 'Steven Spielberg rightly said that there is no British film industry,' Gerald Kaufman, the committee chairman, said. 'We haven't got the mechanism in Britain for producing a flow of films.'

Mr Kaufman, the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton, disputed press allegations that the trip was little more than a freebie, allowing the MPs to spend a week hobnobbing with the movie industry powerbrokers in the world capital of entertainment. The MPs had an 'extremely packed programme'. Mr Kaufman blamed the poor publicity on several 'ill-informed' British newspapers. 'The way we have been received by some of the most senior figures and some of the most powerful organisations shows that the British House of Commons is taken a great deal more seriously in Hollywood than it is among one or two malicious newspapers,' he said. The MPs, whose findings will eventually be included in a report on the British film industry to the House of Commons, met dozens of Hollywood executives, including the Star Wars producer, George Lucas, who - according to Mr Kaufman - is contemplating setting up a studio in an abandoned Rolls-Royce factory in Derby. 'It was all very encouraging,' Mr Kaufman said. 'These people don't look down at British talent. Far from it. They greatly admire it.' He declined to speculate about the committee's likely findings, although it seems certain to tackle the problems faced by British film makers in raising venture capital.

The former shadow Foreign Secretary, who calls himself a 'besotted lover of Hollywood', cut an unusual figure as he and his colleagues moved amongst Hollywood's powerbrokers. He made no secret of his view that one of the few recent British successes, Four Weddings and a Funeral - a low budget hit which Hollywood raves about - was rubbish, and that The Crying Game was 'a fluke'.

But his views caused less surprise than those of John Maxton, Labour MP for Glasgow Cathcart, who told a symposium at Sony Pictures that if Jurassic Park was shown on British television, it would be beaten in the ratings by Eastenders. The British soap is unknown to most Americans, and is not usually compared to the highest grossing movie of all time.