Now in its fourth year, BritWeek has well outgrown its name. “We know it’s a monthlong celebration, but we’re still calling it BritWeek,” says power producer and BritWeek prexy Nigel Lythgoe. “Basically a week simply isn’t long enough to celebrate everything that Britain has to offer.”
After kicking off Saturday with an L.A. Galaxy soccer match, BritWeek continues through mid-May with a focus on all things entertainment — just one facet of a showcase that highlights California’s myriad Blighty connections in such fields as culture, music, business and fine arts.
Without the reminder, Americans have a way of taking British contributions for granted, says Lythgoe, who is himself responsible for bringing such hits as “Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance” to U.S. auds.
“We’re a huge investor in Southern California — its biggest, I think — and there are so many business and cultural links,” he says. “In the television industry alone, we have the biggest shows — ‘American Idol’ and ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ to name just two.”
New this year is a dedicated Film and Television Summit, bringing in such speakers as DGA president Taylor Hackford, BBC Worldwide exec VP Jane Tranter and Variety prexy Neil Stiles to share their thoughts on Stateside resources available to U.K. filmmakers and vice versa. “It’ll really be an across-the-pond give-and-take and will examine why British projects succeed or fail over here,” he says.
Lythgoe’s ambitious vision for the event is enabled in part by the fact that he was named chairman of BAFTA/LA earlier this year. “That position has also allowed me to spread the word about BritWeek,” he says. “The British Academy is sponsoring the Film and Television Summit, and we’re also hosting a British film event for inner-city kids, so heading up BritWeek and BAFTA/LA work hand-in-hand for me in a way.”
Between the two organizations, Lythgoe insists he is determined to do “a lot more” for British film in America. “I’d like to see us pursue a much more aggressive approach in representing British films that don’t have a U.S. distributor and getting them out there,” he says.
But film is just one facet of the overall BritWeek program, which also touches on such fields as fashion and food. In addition to the Jeff Beck and Peter Gabriel concerts, British music exports are being highlighted at the Musexpo Intl. Music, Media and Technology conference, being held — appropriately enough — at the London Hotel.
Other additions to the BritWeek program include the British American Business Council conference, which will host a Young Entrepreneurs Who Are Changing the Face of the World event at the Paley Center. “Within that, we also have the Business Innovation Awards, a joint venture between BritWeek and the U.K. Trade and Investment Agency, which celebrates British technology, design and service companies,” with the winning entries selected by James Dyson and Ken Robinson, Lythgoe says.
The event has become so popular, Lythgoe is having a hard time containing the festivities to L.A. “Orange County is also part of BritWeek, which is growing every year,” he sums up. “In fact, it’s so successful that San Francisco is now starting, with our advice, its own BritWeek. And now New York has applied to us as well. So we’re gradually taking back the colonies.”