18.04 2012

THE CLUB

BEWARE THE CLUB

Jonathan Stuart-Brown  www.savethebritishfilmindustry.com

Within three years the UK Government can have 250 000 jobs and £25 billion inward investment a year in the UK film industry. It can kickstart investment in every region in the UK in other industries. Why do they not do it ?

The obstacles are that a great number of people in the film industry in Britain – especially including some of those who wave the British flag loudest when it suits them – in fact do not want it to become a mass employer like the NHS, Army, or police force. The doctors, nurses, soldiers and police do a fine job and are respected. But no one faints or falls to their knees begging to kiss the ring if a doctor, nurse, X-Ray clerk, ambulanceman, hospital porter, soldier, or policeman walks into the room.

The key is that many working in the UK film industry (who often move on rapidly to the truly global international film industry) want to keep it as small, as elite, and as closed as possible – while always claiming the latter.  It is about being the best club in London. The most exclusive club in the UK. The one where they can be treated as real Royalty (in an era in which minor Royalty are not treated as Royalty unless in the company of The Queen or close in line to the throne).  The one where people are deferential. The club people envy and dream of joining. The club where the members – not always but usually very dim – can feel superior to ordinary humans and expect to be worshipped.

The club believes in nepotism for family and close friends, and keeping non-family and non-friends out.  But at all times concealing this is the reality. At all times fooling the UK Government, most (but not all journalists) and if possible the public.

The club needs to get control of every film quango job and wants these quangos to exist to perpetuate their control of the club membership and size. The club used to work through the Unions but no longer finds this a useful tool except as additional PR and Lobbying. The club needs to control The Lottery and Government millions each year ring circled for film making.

The club is happy to be the ONLY nation in the world where there is no quota of screens in cinemas for domestic product. Every country from Argentina to Norway has such a quota except the UK. The Governments in other countries want strong vibrant film industries. In the UK the Government defers to the club. The club has no interest in five global blockbuster movies being produced in the UK every week, nor even every month.  The club does not want the revenue recycled in the UK. The bigger the industry based in the Uk gets, the more British based film jobs there are, the more the club is diluted and membership carries less cachet. Soon everyone will know personally people who have a film industry job.  The club will lose its exclusivity, its kudos, its prestige, its specialness. The club must never allow this. Never.

The club has two massive fears.

The first is that film studio sound stages (and state of the art sets) are built around the UK. These will massively increase inward investment, closeness of every home to a film studio and film production, many new people without family/connections getting jobs in the industry.

The Government or EU imposing quotas on screens in cinemas in the UK which overnight guarantee investors in Uk based production they can get access to customers revenue in their domestic market. this will turbo charge investment in UK films by people with no higher motive than wanting to make money as opposed to being kept out by the club who guarantee their films never get seen anywhere.  New investors, producers just seeking profit (not social cachet) might employ new writers, actors, directors and crew. This would mean the club losing its iron control.

The club is committed to stopping UK government money being spent on physical infrastructure (sound stages, sets) across the UK.

The club is committed to stopping quotas being put in UK cinemas guatanteeing UK produced movies get a chance to get customers. This money re-invested within three years will lead to the budgets and quality which blows away Hollywood.

Hollywood knows this and often supports the club so long as the club continues to oppose quotas in UK cinemas for UK films.

Until 2000 Pinewood Studios, Shepperton Studios and Teddington Studios were healthily competing companies. They policed each others claims in the media and to the UK Government Departments. This has proved to be vital. The moment they were merged (without reference to The Monopoly Commission/Competition Commission) after successive governments for 30 years had resisted the merger, the film industry ‘facts’ in their press releases became inaccurate. Alas this was at just the time the national and local press lost the manpower to do anything other than print press releases rather than do diligent research of every claim.

Furthermore, when Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios were separate, neither Pinewood nor Shepperton could quit The UK while the other remained.

However, now they have been merged into one company to have a near total monopoly of UK film and TV production (from James Bond to Dragon’s Den).  They have de facto merged with The BBC. They are in the same new private (secretive) company which is landlord to the BBC Media City in the North and may very soon be their new landlord in London. They also have partnerships and joint ventures in technology. In short, the success of one is tied to success of the other – at least while both choose to remain in the UK.

Any Pinewood and Shepperton Studios  (and BBC )merger  can only be in The British Public Interest if the studios are required to remain in The UK employing British based workers and to expad into each region in the UK especially those lacking media infrastructure. This is why The Government should intervene and buy a golden share if they can not persuade the Board and  leading  shareholder John Whittaker of Peel Pegasus to agree to this volountarily if 10 000 acres of UK lands and EU monies  are thrown in the pot. Lands across the UK no-one wants and no-one will use to employ anyone.

Isle of Man billionaire John Whittaker  has de facto ownership of Pinewood and Shepperton. He has around 292 other companies (it depends which he has bought and sold that day) from gambling to airports, from retail to hotels, from transport to energy companies, from water companies to housing.  John Hemming may lawfully decide to sell Pinewood and Shepperton, or cash in on the land values, or  sell to a third party (who might be an out and out asset stripper) if a much higher offer was made for the land.

Then the he new owners could stop all film and TV production within 24 minutes let alone 24 hours. They can lawfully switch from film factory for hire TO car parks, houses, warehouses, windmills, nuclear power plant, whatever they deem more profitable.

They can just sell the land as a brown field site. Then sell the global brand names Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios to a Chinese, Libyan, French, South African company.

Pinewood Shepperton is no different to HP Sauce (which went to Holland despite standing for Houses of Parliament Sauce and with Royal warrant) and can go the same way, unless The Government intervenes urgently to address this threat.

The Government blocks obscure minor works of art leaving The UK providing countless millions to do so. Often under 1% of The UK had ever heard of these works of art.

Losing the 75 year heitage of films made at Pinewood Studios and losing Shepperton Studios to China, Malaysia, South Africa, Libya, is much more important than all these minor works of art put together.

SAVE THE BRITISH FILM INDUSTRY.com urge The Government to seize the moment to make the UK the greatest nation for film making infrastructure, investment, employment and opportunity. This can become a much greater wealth creater and employer across The UK very quickly. It can by 2020 grab over 50% of all film and TV production financed by Hollywood Studios, European and Far East  film and TV companies. All sitting MPs might want a piece of this job creator on their doorstep.

This can generate an annual inward investment in The UK of over £25 000 million pounds, yes £25 billion,  and eventually create over 250 000 jobs based in Britain. Most of these are blue collar and white collar for which most people who have worked in manufacturing, administration, IT, marketing and sales can rapidly retrain.

The Pinewood Plan was to build twenty sets which would significantly cut the cost and time (as well as carbon emissions) of making a film or TV production set  any combination of  Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Venice, New York, Chicago,  New Orleans, Lake Como, San Francisco, etc

Relocated in  Walsall, The Black Country, The West Midlands, Wiltshire,  Oxfordshire, Staffordshire, South Wales, North Wales, Scotland,…then  Pinewood Studios could build over 200 sets in different sites between Swindon and Coventry and Stoke including permanent sci-fi, ancient Rome, ancient Egypt with pyramids, Lagos, Bogota, Medieval Castle, Western, North Pole, Hong Kong, Dubai, Tripoli, Berlin, Munich, Moscow, St Petersburg, Madrid, Barcelona, Naples, Milan, Florence, Osaka, Mexico City, Rio de Janiro, Las Vegas, Miami, Marseille, Vienna, Zurich, Stockholm, Tokyo, Beijing, Mumbai, Delhi, Lahore, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Cairo, underwater sets, The Moon, Mars, Medieval Japan, dinosaur sets, etc. This would enable any film or TV investors in every nation and in every language to transfer production to The UK and to film much cheaper, much faster and to a much higher quality all in one site.

This can be constantly expanded around The UK by building more infrastructure at every ten miles or so until it stretches from Scotland to Cornwall.

No other country would have this integrated infrastructure.

This concentration of work in The UK would lead to technological and R&D advances which would (like CGI, blue screen, green screen) increase the quality of the film making while reducing the cost.

Moreover, by marrying the UK film industry skill and talent to the supreme Black Country, West Midland, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, North-West, South Wales manufacturing savvy, know-how and inventiveness, there will be rapid technological and assembly leaps. There will be a symbiotic synergy. A quantum leap.

The West Midlands, North West, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, South Wales,  have a super abundance of suitable and inexpensive industrial land, blue collar high skilled workers now enduring unemployment, and a regional hunger to share in the glamour and heritage of The Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios global brand names.

In the West Midlands alone, the NEC, ICC, Longbridge, the discarded Jaguar and Landrover magnificent factories, indeed anywhere in Stoke, Walsall, Coventry , Dudley, Birmingham , Lichfield , will gratefully house this ambitious expansion as Pinewood Studios 2.

James Bond being partly filmed in the West Midlands (with Pinewood Studios proposed new permanent sets for Paris , Venice , New York , Lake Como , New Orleans , Amsterdam , San Francisco , Rome, ), Star Wars, Indiana Jones will energise this West Midland region of high unemployment and media infrastructure malnutrition.

This will create an embryo of unique film factory  infrastructure from the South East to the Midlands to the BBC new centres in Media City in Salford, Manchester and Cardiff . In future years this can expand out from Wiltshire and The West Midlands and create integrated film and TV factory infrastructure from Cornwall,Devon, Somerset, Dorset to Cheshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, North Wales, The East of England to The North of Scotland . Britain will have a unique infrastructure lead in a global creative employer.

As with canals, trains, motorways, Britain will again lead the world in the key infrastructure of the age.

Jonathan Stuart-Brown  www.savethebritishfilmindustry.com

Screen shot 2010-08-25 at 19_23_50