Dependency and Independence in British Independent Film

Knudsen, Erik orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8361-6975 (2015) Dependency and Independence in British Independent Film. In: Independent Filmmaking Around The Globe. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, pp. 53-70. ISBN 978-1-4426-4948-4

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Ever since the birth of Hollywood, British cinema has lived in the shadow of its successful transatlantic friend. A common cultural heritage, a shared language and close commercial ties have cemented an inextricable connection between the cinematic cultures of the two countries. Unlike the French, the British establishment never really fully accepted film as an art equal to, for example, literature or theatre and to this day, film practice is most commonly referred to in the context of the ‘film industry’. The term ‘independent’ is often used to describe a film which is independent of Hollywood, yet the institutional structures created to build a sustainable independent film culture in Britain often suffer from hidden aspirations to mimic Hollywood.

During the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, there was a recognition of the need to support independent filmmaking in the United Kingdom. The establishment of the British Film Institute in 1964 and Channel Four Television in 1982 are examples of institutions that emerged from this need and they were specifically charged with encouraging and nurturing independent film through an engagement with small and medium sized production companies and independent film workshops. The subsequent rise in independent film production activity during the 1980s created a culture of dependency on centrally derived film policy which has, until recently, had a powerful effect on British independent filmmaking culture.

This chapter builds on a personal experience of more than 20 years of working as an independent filmmaker in the England to explore, from a highly personal perspective, the relationship between the independent filmmaker and the institutions established to foster independence. In particular the chapter explores, first, the notion of independence from largely policy driven agendas of film institutions such as the British Film Institute, Channel Four Television, The UK Film Council and a number regional film bodies; second, the chapter looks at the aesthetic independence in relation to the dominant role of British drama and literature in the film sector; and, third, the chapter explores recent trends and opportunities enjoyed by independent filmmakers as a consequence of developments in technology.

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