A failure to communicate

Brits, Americans don't always speak same lingo

Brits and Americans are working more closely than ever thanks to globalization. But their biz dealings do not always translate in both countries.

Showbizzers from both sides of the pond addressed the communication gap at BritWeek’s Film & TV Summit Friday at the Beverly Hilton. Simon Mirren said he realized he would have to ditch pubs for drag racing in order to adjust to writing for American auds on “Without a Trace.”

When I came here I assumed we all spoke the same language, but we don’t,” said Mirren, now exec producer of “Criminal Minds,” adding that he worked very hard to adjust to American ways.

Director Taylor Hackford related his dismay upon learning that British crews had eight breaks a day while shooting his first film there. Also a cultural shock: How much more credit writers receive for authorship of films than directors.

I don’t think they’ll make a reality show over here without a Brit involved,” 19 Entertainment producer Nigel Lythgoe told Variety president Neil Stiles in a keynote conversation. But that doesn’t mean Americans will heed British advice, Lythgoe went on to say, citing his experiences on “So You Think You Can Dance.”

He said his company’s advice fell on deaf ears despite the fact “we’ve made it for six years.”

“It was extremely frustrating,” he added.

Lythgoe, one of several U.K. reality kings speaking at the confab, predicted further interactivity in smallscreen programming. He noted that texting wasn’t popular in the U.S. when “American Idol” integrated it into the show, and that was only nine years ago.

The next big step, “Dancing With the Stars” exec producer Conrad Green said during the summit’s unscripted panel, is tapping into social networking. But the trick to that, according to Mark Koops, managing director and co-head of production at Reveille, is figuring out a way to accommodate East and West Coast feeds. Both cannot be interactive at the same.

It will take a creative leap by a producer and especially a network,” Koops said.

He said that unscripted programming has translated so well from the U.K. to America because “reality shows tend to hit basic human emotions. They are tapping into people’s hobby or desire to change your life” whether it’s a cooking show with Gordon Ramsay or shedding weight on “The Biggest Loser.”

Collaborations can also work on the feature side. Thunder Road producer Basil Iwanyk said he’s been advised to set up a project about the Lockerbie bombings as a co-production of the BBC. “Hopefully that will counterbalance the lack of enthusiasm at studios for adult dramas,” said Iwanyk, a Warners-based producer who is also preparing a “Clash of the Titans” sequel and a Welsh version of “Sleepy Hollow” for U.K. lensing.

Other panels at the summit examined next generation production, digital distribution and financing. The day’s festivities concluded with a Helen Mirren interview taped for British archives during which she recalled the thrill of filming her first American pic on the MGM lot. “It was so exciting for me,” she said. “It gave me a taste of American films in that grand tradition.”

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