LETTER:British film-makers should not join Hollywood

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The Independent Online
From Mr Alexander Walker

Sir: Hamish McRae ("Several funerals and an opportunity", 9 June) proposes that we become subcontractors for Hollywood film-making. We already are, to some extent, tailoring films - Shopping, Rob Roy, Four Weddings and a Funeral - to what we perceive Americans want, and placing American stars in films made here - Sylvester Stallone in Judge Dredd, Julia Roberts and John Malkovich in Mary Reilley, Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire, et al. All in the interest of maximising profitability here and, particularly, in the US.

But what good comes of such pragmatism? Even if the films are hugely successful, the money does not return to these shores: it stays where its financial home is, usually in Hollywood. Letting in more and more American artists to film here simply adulterates further British cultural character. We should not regard ourselves as a pull-up diner for Hollywood stars, still less a filling station for Hollywood producers.

Mr McRae errs badly if he believes that one gets rich producing films. One gets rich distributing and exhibiting them; and so long as the ownership of global distribution and cinema screens is American-dominated, the profits will not go to the tenants, but to the landlords. As there is no way of breaking into this system, except Mr McRae's "solution" of becoming its hired Helots, we should cultivate what strength we have in films that reflect, for good or ill, Britain and British culture. Many do extremely well in smaller markets, and would be accounted financial successes were we not afflicted by the curse of unrestrained bigness that has led one British production company after another to try to "crack Hollywood", and go bust in its efforts.

I do not believe in state hand-outs for British producers. Filmmaking is a gamble, a lottery, and private finance is like individual citizens: its fingers itch to take a risk with its discretionary cash. There is plenty of that around without re-channelling National Lottery funds into the pockets of producers. When the needy charities in the land eventually go belly-up - as some of them are showing signs of doing, now that the state lottery is siphoning off their funds - it will not be pleasant to think that pounds 84m of lottery money was given to film-makers to back their commercial fancy.

Yours sincerely,

ALEXANDER WALKER

London, W9

9 June

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