US rules Europe'sscreens

Film-makers who face extinction makers face

BERNARDO Bertolucci was disgruntled - not to say disgusted - when he appeared in the foyer of his Brussels hotel. He is, after all, a member of an endangered species: a European film director without a role.

There are two problems facing the European film industry, according to the Bertolucci analaysis. The first is the failure by European governments to protect their own culture - as reflected in their failure to protect their film industries.

The second problem, he says, gritting his teeth in a pained grin, is the addiction to American "sheet".

"I can't tell you why people eat cheeseburgers instead of spaghetti. But it's not because they choose to. They are just addicted. They don't really chose this sheet," he says.

"We have been invaded by the illusion of the American dream. It is commercialism. You know Italians know more about American wallpaper than Italian wallpaper? They know more about American clothes than Italian clothes.

"It all started with Dynasty and Dallas. That is how the addiction began. Now it has become a kind of cultural genocide. It is smothering the world."

That Mr Bertolucci should be lashing out over his morning coffee seemed a little over the top - but was not altogether surprising. He had come to Brussels, along with other disgusted director dinosaurs to lobby on behalf of the European film and TV industry, which believes it is facing extinction.

And with the death of European film and TV, comes the death - so they say - of European culture as we know it. The argument goes that TV and film sell a way of life. So when they watch American films Europeans are buying into the USA.

To Hollywood the complaints of the European directors are just "envy" - because Hollywood does it better.

The British product sells in the US today as long as it is about those comical British people (Benny Hill - Four Weddings and a Funeral) or as long as it is "kind of historic" - as one American put it. But all the French can do nowadays is make those intense little French films which only appeal to the French.

"We don't force people to watch our films. People like them. The fact is that European films don't travel well," says Michael Bartholomew, lobbyist for the Motion Picture Association of America.

As Bartholomew points out, not only do European films not travel well across the Atlantic (with notable exceptions), they don't even travel much within Europe. The only universal film culture that circulates freely in free-market Europe is American.

It is no exaggeration to say that a sense of panic is gripping European film makers. That panic has been evident in Brussels this week where US multi-media giants have been gathering at a conference on the so-called "information super-highway" to promote a new wave of American media wares to pour down the throats of ravenous European customers.

For over a decade the Europeans have sat by as Hollywood domination has grown. The figures speak for themselves. In the past 15 years the number of US-made films in European cinemas has grown from 35 per cent to 80 per cent while today European films account for only one per cent of the US market.

The US controls European film distribution networks. It controls most satellite and cable TV companies broadcasting to Europe. And it is now ready to dominate the rapidly expanding media market in new tele-visual products.

The profits from one sector feed into the next, killing off competition. Hollywood has targetted a market, won over an audience and penetration has been achieved with Europeans tied hand and foot.

For any new TV channel, it is 10 times cheaper to buy an American product than a European one, because the US dealer has already covered his costs by distributing the programme on the American market before being re-distributed in Europe.

This commercial advantage is almost unique to media products which can be re-sold over and over again.

At the same time Hollywood has been fiercely promoted by successive US governments - film is the second biggest US export after aeronautics - while European governments have treated culture as an optional extra in policy terms.

For these reasons - and many others - most European film directors support the French idea of tough European TV quotas as well as financial support to protect their industry.

European governments, however, largely distrust quotas, saying the "free- market" must prevail.

"When they talk of the free market, they mean putting a free fox in a free chicken hutch," said Denys Granier Deferre, the French film director in Brussels this week.

European directors know, however, that they too are to blame. And they know that if they are to win back their audiences they must make films which compete.

"Easy to watch - easy to forget. That is the American film," is how Mr Granier Deferre, summed up the competition. "As life has become more and more difficult people don't want anything serious, anything intense. Hollywood gives distraction, escapism."

Other directors spoke of the difficulty of competing with Hollywood's "factory packaging". Nowadays American movies are ready-made for the TV viewer as their "cuts" are short to prevent the habitual channel-flicker getting bored in front of the larger screen.

The Americans build scripts like building blocks, said Pennant Roberts, the British producer. "They always have a climax at a certain point. They spot a mood and they exploit it. Now it is all about feel-good, so all American movies are feel-good movies."

Bertolucci says that the Europeans must develop a European voice and then they must fight back by "re-invading" America.

"We have to show them there are other cultures apart from theirs."

The dynosaurs of Pinewood, Billancourt and Cinecitta know that their fight-back is probably too little too late.

Their only other hope is that Europeans will eventually get bored - and, then, perhaps, they may simply switch off the "sheet".

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chief Engineer

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chief Engineer is required to...

Recruitment Genius: Web Marketing Specialist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading Renewable Energy compa...

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?