Flipped classroom lesson 3 - the british film industry
The British Film Industry
What you need to know
British film industry
What you’ll learn in this flipped classroom lesson:
Brief history of British film
British film as ‘cottage industry’
Hollywood versus Britain – how do we compete?
Funding in Britain
What we expect you to show us for the first lesson of
British cinema timeline
Notes on key players in British industry
Answers to the box office questions
Notes (maybe a mind-map) about the different funding
avenues available for UK film-makers
Brief history of British film
Screen online is the BFI’s educational hub. Check our
their timeline of British cinema.
Create your own timeline on A3 paper which includes:
When major film studios set up and closed their
doors. Why did they stop producing films?
Significant film releases in each decade
Major changes regarding censorship, tax and funding.
What are the five most interesting things you learned
from this timeline that you didn’t know before about
Review your notes, have you mentioned the following key points:
Primitives and pioneers of British Cinema
Check your learning
Key early studios: British Mutoscope and Biography Company, and The Gaumont
Company (both set up in late 1890s)
Cecil Hepworth – key player in early British film published first manual of
cinematography. He set up a lab and production house in Walton-on-Thames,
G.A.Smith and Charles Urban patented Kinemacolor in 1906 which allowed them to
make the first natural colour films.
Turbulent modern era
Decline in cinema attendance as television licences increase
1975 – introduction of Dolby Stereo optical sound
1907 Balham Empire became the first theatre dedicated entirely to film screenings.
Goldcrest Pictures formed
1909 Cinematography Films Act gives local authorities censorship control over
screenings in their area.
1981: Rank closes 29 cinemas
1912 the British Board of Film Censors established (now called the British Board of
80s – video nasty moral panic as horror films become
available on video
Several film studios, including Twickenham and Elstree are set up in the mid- 1910s
1982- Film Four set up
1984 – introduction of the Video Recordings Act
Palace Pictures begins production
Thatcher abolishes the Eady Levy
British Screen Finance Consortium set up with £2 million
government funding to support industry
Historical epic ‘Revolution’ (1985) is a massive flop putting
Goldcrest at risk
1992 The Crying Game is released despite the bankruptcy of
Palace Pictures during production
Finance (No 2) Act introduction to accelerate tax relief
Palace group goes into receivership
1995 – Lottery Film Found established
1997- DVD introduced
FilmFour Ltd becomes a separate company focusing on higher
Launch of UK Film Council 2000
2002 massive cuts to FilmFour
2010 abolishment of UK Film Council
BFI take over UK Film Council’s responsibilities
Cinematography Act establishes quota for film exhibitors
Alfred Hitchcock releases the first British sound feature Blackmail (1929)
BBFC introduces the ‘H’ certificate for Horror
J.Arthur Rank (key player in British Cinema) forms British National Films
1947 Government decrees 75% tax on US film profits
Hammer Horror set up
Nitrate film begins to disappear with the introduction of Eastman Color positive and
Eady Plan imposes levies on box office takings to support British film production
Introduction of the ‘X’ certificate for adults
Obscene Publications Act revised introduces a defence of artistic merit.
British New Wave – Kitchen Sink Dramas and documentaries
Release of several large-scale projects such as Ben Hur (196) and Lawrence of
James Bond franchise begins
Key players in Britain
Check out the profiles of these key players in
Why did some of these studios close down whilst others
survived? Make notes from the links provided.
MGM British Studios
The Rank Organisation
Working Title Films
Who are the UK’s main competitor?
Check out the all-time most successful films at the
UK box office
How many of the films are British?
How many of these films were co-productions?
Which country dominates the UK box office?
Should we really be saying ‘hooray
Hollywood dominates the international film market.
There are six major studios who are owned by international mass media
Sony own Columbia Pictures
Time Warner own Warner Bros. Pictures
The Walt Disney Company own Walt Disney Pictures
Comcast and NBCUniversal own Universal
News Corporation own 20th Century Fox
Viacom own Paramount Pictures
There are several mini-majors who are also owned by conglomerates.
The conglomerates own a number of different organisations in different
industries across the world. They are vertically and horizontally integrated
(meaning they have several companies in production, distribution and
exhibition) which allows films guaranteed distribution and exhibition
internationally and opens doors for lots of cross-media projects and
synergy to increase profit.
Hollywood versus Britain – how do
When British studios have tried to
Hollywood film studios are owned by
compete with Hollywood with highlarge global media
budget productions they have
conglomerates. These are big
companies who own lots of smaller
often failed causing studios to go
(or subsidiary) companies in
The best way for Britain to compete is
This enables Hollywood film studios to
to offer something different.
benefit from vertical and horizontal
Therefore we focus on indigenous
integration. They also benefit from
productions with specifically
synergy because they can make
British themes. These may
lots of other media products as
emphasise minority voices or
spin-offs of their films.
The majors tend to produce highbudget, high concept films. They
British producers have to find
tend not to invest in risky
independent distributors for their
projects, preferring safe
films because they are
productions which can easily be
independent therefore cannot
marketed to a global audience.
Feeling adventurous? Read more here
benefit from vertical and
Social realism, heritage films (great
exports), romcoms and British
Not sure what some of
the words in this
Check them out in the
industries glossary on
British film as ‘cottage industry’
British film is a small-scale industry in comparison to Hollywood. It is a ‘localised’ industry which tends
to target British audiences primarily. It’s very easy to think of British cinema in very one
dimensional ways though. See how different these examples are:
Colin (2008) was made for £45. The producers advertise for zombie extras in the national press. The
independent production was picked up by a distributor and shown at Cannes Film Festival in 2009
and made $798 in the opening weekend in one screen in the UK.
This is England (2006) is a film focusing on 80s skinheads in the Midlands region. It was a coproduction between several companies and was a likely contender for national and regional
funding schemes because it focused on an under-represented British region and was directed by a
British auteur. The regional funding body Screen Yorkshire; the national funding body UK Film
Council and private regional funding body EM Media all invested in the film. It was also supported
by Channel 4’s film subsidiary FilmFour and the spin-off series was screened on the television
channel. Warp Films was also involved in the film, an independent production house who originally
focused on music and music videos but have gone on to produce highly successful UK films,
including This is England, Four Lions and Tyrannosaur.
Harry Potter (2001- ) – it can be difficult to think of the Harry Potter series as British because they
have all the trademarks of Hollywood high concept films. However, all of the films feature a large
British cast and crew, and were filmed in the UK. While the productions were supported by Warner
Brothers, the Hollywood major worked in co-production with British company Heyday films (set up
by ex-Warner Brothers employee David Heyman) and American production company 1492
Pictures. For large scale productions like this, Britain often has to turn to the US for collateral, but it
pays off. Harry Potter has brought enormous tourism and employment to the UK.
Funding in Britain
1) One of the main sources of government funding (through the lottery fund)
was the UK Film Council. Their funding schemes now exist in new formats
through the British Film Institute.
2) There are also a number of regional screens which support filming in local
areas. Screen Yorkshire and Film London are examples of these.
3) European Council’s MEDIA programme supports European productions and
co-productions between companies in different European countries
4) British television channels BBC and Channel Four have film subsidaries as
we have seen
5) Co-productions with Hollywood studios can help large scale projects get off
the ground. Working Title’s relationship with Universal means the British
production house is perhaps our most successful.
6) Raindance support independent filmmakers with support, training, funding
and an annual film festival.
7) Creative Skillset are the first port of call for most producers looking for advice
8) Filmmakers can also raise money through private investment and crowdsourcing websites like indiegogo.
Click on the links above and make notes about the different funding sche
available to British filmmakers.