Sources of FundingAs George Lucas once pointed out, true creative control comes from those who are in charge of the money. Therefore, it is worth being aware which types of companies tend to fund various types of films. This article will focus on three kinds of film within the British film typology.

By British films, we mean films that are either set within the British cultural context or films that demonstrate the experiences or adventures of British people in other countries. The source of funding for a film has no bearing on whether that film is British. However, the source of funding may very well affect what type of British film it is.

As we decide where a film should fit within the typology , there are a number of factors which we should take into consideration. We ought to look at:

  • The past record for the film’s director and actors
  • Who has been chosen as a financier, and their brand
  • Who the target audience is for the film

With these factors in mind, we end up with three major categories of British film:

  1. Specialist films
  2. Conceptual films
  3. Anglo-Hollywood films

Of course, as we look at these three types of films (which we will define in more detail shortly), we recognize that these categories are generalizations, and that sometimes films exist which cross the boundaries between categories. However, if we were to create additional categories in order to encompass these particular films, we would end up with too many categories for a meaningful discussion. Also, it can be far more fruitful to observe how a film sometimes shifts between categories during its development and release.

One example of a film that has defied categorization is the film Slumdog Millionaire, a crossover success that cannot really be placed into one specific category. Slumdog Millionaire began as a specialist auteur film when it was developed at Channel 4’s Film4 and Celador Productions. It was adapted from a novel by a primarily art-house writer (although this writer, The Full Monty‘s Simon Beaufoy, did have a track record of creating scripts that occasionally crossed over into the mainstream).

Despite its initial auteur status however, Slumdog Millionaire did still have a higher concept than one would typically find in an auteur film. This took it into the more conceptual category. The film’s director, Danny Boyle, had previously worked in all three film categories, and his budget for Slumdog Millionaire was 15 million . By the end of the film’s production, the British TV company Celador and the studio division, Warner Independent Pictures, were jointly financing its creation. This financial situation then brought the film partly out of the conceptual category and partly into the Anglo-Hollywood category.

Without further ado then, let’s take a look at the three major categories of film:

Specialist Films (also called auteur, art-house, or directorial films) – These films are director-driven (often made by director-writers), and sometimes they are even entirely auteur-controlled productions. We categorize them as specialist, because they are non-mainstream. Sometimes these films may be genre-based, but usually they are either art-house or genre-crossing.

Most of  level of realism will generally be either realistic (sometimes kitchen-sink) or hyper-reality (as a result of the artistic vision of the film). These films tend to be targeted toward art-house cinema chains and film festivals. Their production is viewed as artistic creation with the aspiration to win awards.

Therefore they are highly likely to take creative risks. Such risks are expected both by the film’s funders and their projected audiences. Specialist films audiences tend to be narrower than those for mainstream films, largely due to the challenging content and these creative risks. They will mainly be avid film buffs, sometimes aficionados. Occasionally a specialist film might have aspirations toward a mainstream market, but this is a rare occurrence.

Most specialist films are low budget and depend upon the British market and a few European territories. Specialist film directors are usually auteur or auteur-like, with a distinctive and clear vision. Examples of such films are:

  • Red Road
  • The Wind That Shakes The Barley
  • Tyrannosaur
  • Bright Star
  • Fish Tank
  • Submarine
  • An Education
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Trainspotting
  • The King’s Speech

Sub-category: Anglo-Hollywood Specialist – A small number of specialist films get funded by Hollywood studios with larger budgets. The goals of these films are generally to gain awards and recognition. These films will usually be adapted from well-known novels, will have prominent directors, or may have very auteur UK directors (such as Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam).

These films still fall into the specialist category (rather than the Anglo-Hollywood category), due to their narrow projected audiences, although there is a somewhat higher possibility of these films crossing into the mainstream than their low-budget counterparts. Examples of such films are:

  • The English Patient
  • The Hours
  • Remains of the Day
  • Never Let Me Go
  • Atonement

Conceptual Films (also called genre or high concept films) – These films have a clear-cut concept or pitch, and genre (such as horror, thriller, romantic comedy, etc.). With this type of film, the genre is its main selling point, rather than the name of its director, and this will be the focus of the film’s marketing. These films do not aspire to win awards. The target audience  for conceptual films are mainstream plus and mainstream, with a few aficionados.

Some even aim to be Anglo-Hollywood from a commercial perspective. Their level of realism is usually hyper-reality as a result of their concept or genre. . Sometimes the director of a conceptual film is a big name. Sometimes he or she is an art-house director seeking a higher budget. Sometimes the director will be a first timer (which includes TV directors and experienced commercial directors). Examples of such films are:

  • The Inbetweeners Movie
  • Chalet Girl
  • Calendar Girls
  • Horrid Henry,
  • Made in Dagenham
  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Kidulthood
  • Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
  • The Queen
  • Films for teens such as the Twilight franchise
  • Youth music films such as Streetdance 3D.

Anglo-Hollywood films – These are also conceptual films, with the major difference being that they have been primarily funded by a US studio and that their target markets are the US and the studio’s international distribution network. Their content will usually entail the merging of a British story/setting with the structure/sensibility of a mainstream US film.

Often these films will be shot in Britain with a primarily British cast (and maybe one or two US names for that marketplace). It is quite unlikely that there will be any creative risk-taking, so that the film will attract a large mainstream and mainstream-plus audience. Although there is little to no creative risk in these films, the extreme size of their budgets still causes a higher overall risk.

Most of the time, the directors of Anglo-Hollywood films have formerly been successful conceptualist or auteurist directors, and they will typically return to their established forms. Examples of such  films are:

  • A number of romantic comedies (also called Brit-coms) by Richard Curtis from the 1990s (such as Notting Hill, Four Weddings, and Bridget Jones’s Diary)
  • Adaptations of Jane Austen novels with larger budgets
  • Shakespeare in Love
  • Kinky Boots
  • Numerous franchises including Harry Potter, Narnia, James Bond, and Nanny McPhee.