I haven't seen Four Weddings and a Funeral Yet. I was in the middle
of exams when everyone I know went to see it. I shall give you my
considered opinion about its representation of national culture in
due course, however.
Bill Forsyth is the director. I am sure that he would work if he
could. His early films, great. Local Hero is generally considered to
be an American film set in Scotland. That is what is now called a
heritage film where European culture is sold in a similar manner to
our tourist attractions.
The key issue about British films, or any other national cinema in
contrast to American, Hollywood product is the access to finance.
Fw&F had a $15 million marketing budget and $5 million for production.
Returning to the discussion on vertical integration, US companies
currently monopolise distribution and rarely take non-US product on
economic grounds, it will not be popular in the US... However,
success in the US market is vital for world-wide success for two
1. Kudos, having entered the vast US media, publicity is much easier
2. Funds, a film which is successful in the US will cover its
production costs making it a much safer bet for export, because
prices can subsequently be set to undercut local production anywhere
in the world while still achieving a substantial return on investment.
You can see the effect of this in stats showing % non-US product in
the US (less than 10%) compared to very high US product in other
countries, ie. in Britain more than 80% of screenings of US films.
Thus... for investment potential, investors are always looking to
succeed in the US market, wondering what will succeed there, what
representations are acceptable.
As a side-note to this I remember a discussion concerning social-
class-coding in American films. Apparently US audiences are aware of
a whole range of social differences implicitly marked in films which
do not travel outside of America, in much the same way I assume that
social-class is read instantly in Britain but invisible to other
audiences. Furthermore, although this is only based on personal
experience, European audiences appear to becoming more resistent to
US Utopian products, which may mean in the medium term that the
European market will actually become important for US films.
Obviously it is these issues were at the heart of the recent GATT
(Uruguay round) negotiations. European-based companies, eg Polygram,
Neue Constantin, are now making attempts to break into international
production and distribution and the European Commission has suggested
founding a European distribution network to create the kind of
internal market of the same size as the American one to give our
films the same kind of chance. It would be nice to see every one
being given an equal slice of the action. Somehow however I can't
quite see it being allowed to happen.
University of Glasgow
Department of Film and Television