Sunday 22 January 2012

David Cameron and the British Film Industry

This is a routine I performed at Working Title Comedy at the Big Green Bookshop on January 20th. It went down well, but because it's topical, it's one I may not reuse any time too soon - so I thought I'd stick it up here.

David Cameron said the British Film Industry should concentrate on making commercial successes. Because they're obviously not managing to do so without his help.

It reminded me of a quote by the famous screenwriter William Goldman - he wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All The President's Men, the Princess Bride...films like that, and he said "When it comes to the movie industry, nobody knows anything", and what he meant by that was that everyone's trying to make a hit, and they're trying to, but everyone makes mistakes.

But I went back to the book where he wrote that, "Adventures in the screen trade", because I was aware that sometimes quotes leave off half of what was actually said. Like in Richard III, where the line is famously "Now is the winter of our discontent", meaning now, things are bad. But what he actually says is "Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York", meaning that things were bad, but are now good. And I looked at it, and it's the same thing. William Goldman didn't say "When it comes to the movie industry, nobody knows anything. William Goldman actually says "In the movie industry, nobody knows anything...except David Cameron. He does."

Back in the eighties, Stephen Spielberg made a run of three of the biggest movies made at that point in time. Jaws, ET, Indiana Jones....then he made 1941, which was a complete flop. If only he'd spoken to David Cameron before making that film, and he'd have said "No, Stephen, know your limits and make Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

Michael Cimino made The Deer Hunter for the studio United Artists, one of the oldest, most respected film studios in the world, and he followed it up with one of the most expensive films of all time, Heaven's Gate, which ended up being terrible. Left with no options, United Artists gave it a huge, expensive promotion campaign to try and
recoup their massive losses...if it wasn't a hit, the studio would go under, but try what they made no money, and thousands of people lost their jobs.

If only they had called David Cameron. He would have said "Michael, I respect your intention to fulfil your artistic calling, but this film needs a very special dog."

John Travolta, in the mid nineties was in the worst career period of his life. He'd just finished making "Look Who's Talking Now"...(the dogs were talking)...and things were going badly enough that he was grateful for the work. Then, he bumped into David Cameron, who said to him "Have you seen Reservoir Dogs? You should get in touch with the director. Sure thing there, mate". And the two of them remained friends for years, and Travolta had a second spring....and then they fell out and we got Battlefield Earth.

If only he'd continued to listen to David Cameron.

We can presumably look forward to films like "Four Weddings and a Terminator", "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Predator", "Don't look now, but Justin Bieber is right over there" and "Corialanus 2 - The Dark of the Moon".

The British Film industry has responded in kind to David Cameron, and they've said "What David Cameron needs to do is to just make more jobs and just fix the economy. Rather than tell us that we need to make more commercial films while his government kills off the UK Film Council and blocks a Pinewood Studios extension.

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