When Sir Richard Attenborough sought permission to film in the streets of south and east London for his biopic of Charlie Chaplin he met with a stone wall.
The attitude of the London boroughs was unhelpful, “with no concessions in terms of traffic, policing or access to buildings,” the vet helmer said. Result: Attenborough decided to recreate old London on the streets of faraway Liverpool.
If Britain’s most respected filmmaker, shooting a pic about Britain’s (and London’s) most venerated comedian, couldn’t film in the capital, what chance is there for directors from the U.S. or elsewhere?
Answer seems to be none. At least, not now.
But if filmmakers can afford to wait awhile they may soon find the situation transformed. For film commissions of one kind or another are springing up all over Blighty.
Liverpool City Council has established a Film Liaison Office within the Department of Arts and Libraries. Office is supported by local production company Mersey TV.
Birmingham is developing a Film Liaison Service as part of its Media Development Agency. Birmingham is the first European city to become a member of the Assn. of Film Commissioners Intl.
Scotland already has a film commission in the form of Scottish Screen Locations, which is part of the Scottish Development Agency.
Edinburgh District Council and the Lothian Regional Council have joined forces to set up a Screen Industries Office to assist film and tv crews in and around the Scottish capital.
The North of England is soon to have a Northern Screen Commission, part of the government-backed Northern Media Forum.
Yet-to-be published research undertaken by the British Film Institute points to the need for a British Screen Commission to facilitate filmmaking across the country. Insiders believe the government could look favorably on such a scheme and provide it with financial backing.
At a recent gathering of industry worthies Attenborough noted that it was an odd state of affairs to have a London office of the Florida State Film Commission tempting filmmakers to go Stateside while there was no assistance available locally to keep Brit filmmakers in the U.K., let alone to attract foreign filmmakers to these shores.