Tag Archives: The King’s Speech

#oneaday11:Facebook vs The King

It’s 3.33am on Tuesday morning, 18th January 2010. It’s been bugging me, I am awake. I am thinking about films, but I am also thinking about the here, the now and the future.

In the early hours of Monday morning (GMT that is)  The Golden Globes were awarded and in 4 hours time, The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) will annoucne their nominations. In a few weeks The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) will issue their Academy Awards nominations (ie The Oscars) and we are very much into the awards season. For most it  is a tale of two films this year. The very British ‘The King’s Speech’ and the very American ‘The Social Network’.

In many ways it is a tale of two cultures. One buried in tradition, history a class structure fascinated by a reverence for past times, the there and then if you like. The other is rooted in the new, the brave ,the here, the now and the future. A tale of social division geared by class and age versus one of social inclusion, built in a class by the young. An age of austerity versus an age of excitement. A fading Empire and a growing, vibrant, democratic empire. In short one difference between  British and American culture.

Both films centre on a key protagonist, a battle for power and the importance of communication.  ‘The King’s Speech’  tells the story of a young, socially inept man thrust into the spotlight by circumstance and betrayl and his battle to overcome his own shortcomings in order to make his own mark in a world on the brink of social meltdown. He has a speech impediment and he needs to get over it. He can speak, but commuication is very, very difficult for him and the people on the receiving end.  The ‘new ‘medium of radio gives him the power to connect to ‘his subjects’ all over the world, he just has to figure out how to do that. ”The Social Network’ tells the story of a young, socially inept man thrust into the spotlight by circumstance and betrayl and his battle to overcome his own shortcomings in order to make his own mark in a world on the brink of social union. He can speak, but he finds communication very, very difficult.  The ‘new’ medium of the internet gives him the power to connect everyone up around the world from the bottom up. He  just has to figure out how to do that. Technology plays a key role in both films. Something the British used to be good at, and something that the Americans are now very, very good at.

And therein lies the rub. For all its magnificence, its splendour, its craft and its sheer class, ‘The King’s Speech’ is simply not as relevant or indeed as important as ‘The Social Network’ today. Right here, right now. History is a brilliant way of looking at the past and seeing what, if any lessons one can draw for the future. But it is only relevant if you are awake. Even if you look at the way these films have been made, you can see key differences in both our cultures but also in our relevance. ‘The King’s Speech’ would not get made in Hollywood, it just would not get past the focus testing. It was in fact supported by The Film Council and the National Lottery, which given the quality of the result is probably a good thing, thank god not every decision is down to money . However,  ‘The Social Network’ may not have got made at Pinewood, or if it did, it would be a pale version of the Sorkin/Fincher masterpiece.

But one thing in the real  world seems absolutely certain and that is that the real social network, Facebook, would never get made in Britain, not in a thousand years and not whilst the culture of conservatism, tradition,  coupled with lack of vision and innovation pervades our creative industries. We ‘do’ history awfully well, we do future a little in the past tense over here. Faded glory of the British technological genius versus the innovative disruption of the technological force that resides in America.

Culturally the clue is in our Academies, the ones that exist to foster and then recognise the creative talents both of our wonderful countries have. The British one has ‘Arts’ in the title, the American one has ‘Arts’ andSciences’. That tells you a lot and may go some way to explaining why we lag behind the Americans in the technology business.

Don’t get me on the subject of interactive entertainment and video games just yet. That comes in future blogs. I attended a high level meeting at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) yesterday where we discussed, amongst other things, how the investment community does not ‘get’ the content creation community here in the UK. The appetite for investment into technological driven content is insatiable in California and laregly bereft in London.  So, in my humble opinion if Britain is to continue to make a living in the creative arts, an industry that does produce some of the very best content in the world, then Britain as a society needs to recognise the part that science plays alongside arts in our creative economic future.

The Coalition Government who have stated that they want to effect real change and fast, should start by decoupling ‘sport’ from the DCMS and adding in ‘science’ – Department for Culture, Media and Science. No need to change the signs, just change the key word and then change the culture. Simple really.

PS – a prediction – best film at the BAFTAs?  ‘The King’s Speech’. Best film at the Oscars? ‘The Social Network’. Both films ‘of the year’ in my view – one is history and the other is about making history. I loved both, for very different reasons, that’s the great thing about culture.

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#oneaday 3:Tax Lax

On the day that saw the UK’s value added tax rise from 17.5% of the sales value to 20% of the sales value of goods and services, with some notable exceptions, there has been much debate as to whether this is a ‘progressive’ or ‘regressive’ tax. All 3 party leaders seem to have had conflicting and changing views on this aspect, indeed a bout of memory loss seems to have been doing the rounds over the Christmas break. But hey times change and all that, and we are all rightly concerned about the ‘national interest’ so needs must, pay your part.

Today was also the day that the 38 Degrees Campaign ran its rather irreverent ‘Artful Dodger’ ads in some of the national newspapers – The Guardian, The Independent and the i. Allegedly, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and The Metro (part of the same group as the Mail) pulled the ads, or put their prices up. That is their right and their call, both the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph have shown their hands in recent times, so we all know where their allegiances lie. But we have a free press and for that we should be thankful.

This is the rather dodgy ad run by the 38 Degrees Team

However, one issue or number that I am totally perplexed about is the quoted £150 billion per annum which tax avoidance, tax dodging or working within the tax laws depending on how you view these things is supposed to cost the UK Exchequer. £150 billion – ie just shy of the deficit we are all being told must be chased down with extreme vigour and haste.  This is a serious amount of money and I for one would like know where this figure comes from – does anyone know or is it an urban myth? Have Vodaphone avoided, legitimately or otherwise, paying UK taxes to the tune of £6 billion last year? We need some facts, please.

This whole issue of tax and tax avoidance, indeed use of individuals’ or companies’ earnings to put against their tax allowances is relevant in the computer and video games industry, given our disappointment when the much campaigned for production tax credits. The Film Council has used the tax breaks system and National Lottery funding to part fund many films on the basis of cultural relevance. The net result of all these systems to offset tax against production of creative industrial output is that we have a pretty healthy film industry. Only today I watched ‘Tamara Drewe’ and ‘Another Year’, two very British films that would never get made in Hollywood, or if they did, would be dramatically altered in their final delivery. Last week I watched ‘Made in Dagenham’ and ‘The King’s Speech’ and the same observation could be made. These films define our culture both in an historical context as well as a contemporary one. They also earn the UK money, provide key jobs, and get us noticed in an ever competitive world. In short they feel like a good thing.

A quick look at the UK Film Council’s website tells quite a lot, namely:-

  • The core UK film industry now contributes approximately £4.3 billion per year to the UK economy – up by 50% since 2000, when the UK Film Council was created;
  • In 2009 UK films took 7% of the global box office and 17% of the UK box office; Independent UK films took an 8.2% share of the UK box office, the highest figure of the last decade;
  • UK film grossed $2 billion at the worldwide box office last year;
  • UK box-office takings are at record-breaking levels, worth £944 million in the UK in 2009, up 62% from 2000;
  • The overall territory box office gross for the UK and the Republic of Ireland exceeded £1 billion for the first time in 2009;
  • UK Film Council investments in British films have been hugely successful – for every £1 we have invested, £5 has been generated at the box office;
  • Over 173.5 million people went to the cinema in the UK in 2009 – up 31 million from 2000, the highest since 2002 and the second highest since 1971;
  • The UK has more digital cinemas than any other European country – 365 and counting;
  • Overall UK audiences had a far greater choice of films in 2009 – 503 films were released, 31% more than a decade ago;
  • The UK film industry directly provides jobs for almost 44,000 people, with extended employment impact of 95,000 jobs;
  • The film industry earns over £1.3 billion in export income from film rights and film production services;
  • In 2009 alone, British films and talent scooped 36 awards. 

Impressive stuff. Now, what if we could convert some of that ‘tax avoidance’ into ‘incentives to back creativity and innovation’ to produce a win win for the tax payer/avoider and the creative industries? Rather than blaming the bourgeoise or the benefit classes in some outdated class war, if we really are all in this together, let’s get creative and encourage big earners to contribute to things that can earn the UK vital export Dollars, Euros and whatever China uses as currency. After all, I actually think we could do with some culturally British computer and video games, rather than every game that is based on earth being impregnated with American or Japanese cultural reference points.

More on this in the coming weeks.

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