Hunger for Brit hits

BritWeek panelists share their thoughts

From “The King’s Speech” to Harry Potter, “Pop Idol” to “The Office,” the U.K. crafts some of the world’s most successful entertainment properties, many of which wouldn’t be possible on the scale they’re produced without a global aud hungry for the fruit of British imaginations. Below, heavy hitters from the Variety-sponsored BritWeek Summit’s Movers and Shakers of Mainstream Breakthroughs panel share their thoughts on why international auds find Brit fare so appealing and the reason foreign sales are so essential to sustaining such quality output.

Lloyd Phillips
Producer, Kava Prods.
“The export market is vital for the British film industry for a simple reason: the relatively small size of the audience in Britain dictates a certain level of cost and budget, and when the director’s vision or the subject matter requires you to spend more, then you need those international markets. What makes British films so appealing to the rest of the world is the high quality of the writing and acting, and they do have a knack for coming up with very, very good stories and memorable character studies. The ones that don’t do so well abroad probably start off by saying, ‘The Americans will love this!’ “

Rebecca Kearey
Senior VP Intl. Marketing and Distribution, Fox Searchlight
Fox Searchlight has a long history of supporting Brit film and filmmakers, going back to 1997’s international hit “The Full Monty.” “Britain has always been great place to make movies because of all the fantastic talent — acting, writing, directing, as well as very experienced crews and a good infrastructure. Obviously it’s ideal for period pieces because of all the stately homes, castles and so on, and films like ‘The King’s Speech’ just can’t be done nearly so well anywhere else,” says Kearey. “We have an ongoing relationship with DNA, and we just hired a development executive in the U.K. to develop British properties.”

Lynette Howell
Producer, Silverwood Films
“The global market is a two-way street. Financially, it’s essential for any movie or TV project no matter what country is originates from. Most individual markets are not enough to make a project financially viable on their own. The more appeal the project has internationally, the higher the budgets can be; therefore, the higher the production value. I also feel like in reverse, there is so much talent that comes from the U.K. — writers, directors, actors and producers that work in the Hollywood system. In order to keep British talent making British movies, they need to be able to have the resources in the U.K. to do so. British comedies have always traveled well – ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ ‘The Full Monty,’ the Hugh Grant years of comedy.”

Stuart Ford
Founder and CEO, IM Global
“While people tend to associate the British film industry with smaller, award-winning classy fare like ‘The Queen’ and ‘The King’s Speech,’ don’t forget that they’ve also always done well with big-budget mega-franchises, stretching from Bond to Harry Potter. They have the experience and resources to do a great job,” says Ford, who cut his teeth at Miramax (“Harvey was a huge fan of British cinema”). Though IM Global also champions smaller, quirkier fare (an upcoming film version of the hit Brit sitcom “The Inbetweeners” in partnership with Channel 4), the company and partner Reliance are aggressively moving into bigger budget projects, including “Dredd,” a $40 million 3D sci-fi epic.

Alex Walton
President of Intl. Sales and Distribution, Exclusive Films
Referring to Daniel Radcliffe starrer “The Woman in Black,” set for release from the newly resurrected Hammer Films, Walton says, “It’s a well-known U.K. play and book, and the U.K. sale was pivotal in bringing the film to life. However, it was crucial we then packaged it for global sales, and we co-produced with Alliance.” He adds that “Woman,” a period piece set in the early 1900s, is another example of what Brits do best: “The U.K.’s long been known for doing great original and interesting stories, especially dramas, with great production values and superb acting, which explains the global success of ‘The King’s Speech,’ ‘Atonement’ and shows like ‘Downton Abbey.'”

Lisa Wilson
President, Intl. Distribution GK Films
“I think the appeal of British product is very often cast-driven, rather than subject matter-driven. Look at ‘Top Gear’: It’s huge worldwide because of the presenters and personalities, but the American version is horrific and doesn’t work on any level. There are certain British actors who are big stars internationally. For instance, we have Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley in ‘London Boulevard,’ a gritty thriller due out here later this year. And we had ‘Young Victoria,’ a U.K. film that was nominated for three Oscars. When that happens, it then has a big impact on the other foreign territories.”


8-9 a.m.

9-9:15 a.m.
Welcome remarks

9:15-10 a.m.
The Movers and Shakers of Mainstream Breakthroughs

10-10:45 a.m.
From the Trenches: Film Finance and Distribution Tips

10:45-11 a.m.
Networking Break

11-11:45 a.m.
Branded Entertainment and Boosting TV Revenues (also, concurrent workshop: Film Incentive Session)

11:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Keynote Q&A with Ian McShane

12:30-1:45 p.m.

1:45-2:30 p.m.
What Does It Take to Make International Cross-Over TV

2:30-3:15 p.m.
Navigating Digital Tools for Production and Distribution Success

3:15-3:30 p.m.
Networking Break

3:30-4:15 p.m.
The New Reality Show: Attracting Today’s Viewers

4:15-5 p.m.
Interview Q&A with Ben Kingsley

5 p.m.
Cocktail reception

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