Q & A: Do The British See Themselves As Europeans When It Comes To The Entertainment Business, Or Do They Still Look to America?

Lord Rees-Mogg, chairman, Broadcasting Standards Council: “In the entertainment business, Britain is strongly tied to the U.S. by the English language…. In sport, where the language question does not arise… we are drawn into European sporting activities as was clear during the World Cup.”

Simon Relph, producer: “We would like to be a bridge between Europe and the rest of the world…. But we would also like to continue our long established relationship with North America. I don’t think there is any question that we would see ourselves as being Europeans, who are not frightened of creative and commercial relationships with America and indeed with other countries outside of the community.”

David Norris, entertainment lawyer: “Entrepreneurial British producers are constantly seeking finance from abroad. If they find it in France or Italy, they see themselves as good Europeans. If it is found in the U.S., then that special U.S./U.K. relationship is extolled.”

John Goldstone, The Comedy House: “It is a fallacy that being part of the European community will make film production in Britain any easier…. Europe represents a combination of several different cultures and we are culturally divided in a way that makes it impossible to satisfy all of them. The common language we share with the Americans makes it more valid to continue to look to America as the first big market that we should be aiming our films at.”

Mark Shivas, head of drama, BBC: “For years we’ve made noises agreeing that we’re European, but then running off to the razzmatazz, the exposure and the money that America can give.

“In spite of that, we’re now looking for more ways to make European movies and, in particular, television as co-production…. Movies like Tavernier’s ‘These Foolish Things’ point the way forward for ways of getting round the use of different languages.”

Sir Paul Fox, managing director, network television, BBC: “BBC TV Europe is already seen in 7 million homes across the continent, featuring some of the best of BBC-1 and BBC-2 programs. It currently broadcasts for 18 hours a day. A new subsidiary, BBC TV Intl., will have the role of acquiring program material from a range of sources with the aim of transmitting a resurgent BBC satellite television service throughout Europe.”

Richard Hellman, Goldcrest: “The entertainment business is an international one. Films are a universal language today and it is the obligation of the filmmaker to entertain and educate audiences in both the European and American markets. Goldcrest’s intention is to produce films in England, on the Continent and in the U.S. A. and Canada. Hopefully whatever we produce will find a responsive audience wherever it plays.”

Graham Benson, controller of drama, TVS: “We would be very foolish not to take Europe and its market seriously now and in the future…. We can continue our warm and productive relationships with our American cousins at the same time. I intend and plan to do so.”

Richard Price, chairman, Primetime: “There is a swing of the pendulum away from the U.S.

“Increasingly, there seems to be a divergence of the American and European markets…. We have found increasingly that we have been able to finance the making of major productions without the involvement of the U.S.”

Richard Dunn, chief executive, Thames Television: “With a wholly owned subsidiary in the U.S. A. [Reeves Entertainment], a continuing sales operation in North America [through Don Taffner], a 10% stake in the ‘hot-bird’ satellite in Europe [Astra] and roots deep in British broadcasting with its London ITC license, Thames Television is at the forefront of the international aspirations of British television…. With our strong U.S. and European connections, we see our London base as a bridge between the two. That said, for English-speaking producers, the North America continent will remain the most lucrative market for the foreseeable future.”

Michael Flint, entertainment lawyer: “The British see themselves as English-language speakers rather than Europeans when it comes to the entertainment business. They therefore look to the traditional English-speaking markets and are only just now beginning to realize that northern Europe is largely English-speaking.”

Brent Hansen, MTV Europe: “America is still the financial haven in the rock and roll business, but increasingly the importance of Europe is emerging.

“Europe is less narrowly format-driven than America and the European market’s historical dance-orientation has a ready-made audience for the current excellence of U.K. product…. Burgeoning American acts, like Lenny Kravitz and the German-signed American act Snap, have looked to Europe as a spring-board to their ‘local market.'”

Michael Checkland, director-general, BBC: “The answer of course is both. We serve our viewers with the best programs we can broadcast, and they come from many sources. We care about choosing the best. The vast majority of our programs are, of course, home-made. But Britain is part of Europe, and Europe’s great strength, unlike the sometimes bland American market, is its variety.”

Cees Zwaard, m.d., RCA/Columbia Pictures Video U.K.: “All major movies are made in the English language; Australia’s becoming important through tv programming, but with exceptions, such as ‘The Krays,’ the big European successes all still come from over the Atlantic. And who’s worrying, as long as they keep coming?”

Nicholas P. Santrizos, v.p., Consolidated Entertainment: “There is the obvious language advantage. There is also the growing advantage in Continental Europe which is equally apparent…. There’s little question that British production is uniquely positioned to capitalize on these unfolding opportunities available in both the American and European markets.”

Alan Howden, g.m., program acquisition, BBC: “The British are insular. We live on an island. It’s regrettable but we seem to like to slag off ‘foreigners.’ Remember Monty Python’s famous parlor game, ‘Think of an insulting name for the Belgians’?

“America [North, not Latin] is easy. They speak English – even if we are ‘divided by a common language.’ Divided or not, Britain and the U.S. have never accepted dubbed programs. Why should we, when there are more than enough made in English?”

Kip Meek, management consultant with Coopers & Lybrand Deloitte: “A sense of European-ness is developing not just in Continental Europe, but in the U.K. also. Meanwhile the European Community has woken up to the importance of broadcasting as a potentially critical element within the process of containing Europe’s cultural heterogeneity. All this means that more than at any other period, the notion of European programming looks attractive. Even the insular British can be expected to help develop this difficult concept.”

Paul Russell, chairman and chief executive, Sony Music Entertainment U.K.: “The British entertainment business will only continue to succeed, in all the areas of the arts, by mining the creative seam of talents, the strength of which lies in its ‘British-ness.’ Talents of the caliber of Kenneth Branagh, George Michael and the Redgraves have all flourished in their respective fields. They have done so partly from their resoluteness not to see themselves as ‘American’ or ‘European.’ And because of that they are now household names around the world.”

Gareth Wardell, Jam Jar Films: “The Scots feel at home in Europe. When the English were sending Sir Frances Drake to destroy Spain’s Armada, Scottish clan chiefs and their relatives were attending universities in Madrid and Barcelona. Scots were amongst the first to trade with the Dutch. And the ‘Auld Alliance’ between Scotland and France has endured over the centuries.

“I look forward to a potential 200 million European audience. It is just a pity that we are moving closer to Europe at a time when the British film industry is on its knees.”

Cyril Howard, m.d., Pinewood Studios: “For many years Pinewood, if not the British feature film industry, has relied heavily upon major movies financed out of Hollywood.

“Since Pinewood reopened in 1946 I cannot recall one film being made here which owed its production to finance emanating from Continental Europe…. Europeans we may well be but when it comes to movies, brother, we must still look to America.”

John Hogarth, m.d., Hobo Film: “Our economy is linked with the Continent and with 1992 only a year away, the ties must become closer. However, the public has the final word and, given the shared language and the dominance of the multinational distributors, American-produced feature films will command most of the available screen time in mainstream cinemas.”

Jonathan Powell, controller, BBC-1: “The British see themselves as neither European nor American when it comes to television entertainment.

“We look to British talent to entertain this country’s public. All broadcasters know that their viewers respond better to programs made by and reflecting the nations concerned.”

Wilf Stevenson, director, British Film Institute: “We stand at the crossroads, the essential link between a Europe of which we are increasingly a part, and the United States. The western European marketplace for film exhibition consists of a population of some 325 million people compared to that of the American marketplace of 245 million. However, U.S. attendances per capita are some twice the European average, so the American market represents at least 50% of the world’s theatrical market.”

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