I’ve been thinking about this UK Film Council thing; reading up on the pros and cons and deliberating how it all bears on me and my career.
I haven’t really reached a definite conclusion, but I suspect I don’t really care.
Obviously I have nothing to do with the funding side of any movie, but I’m vaguely convinced none of the producers I work with have ever gone to the Film Council for money. I wouldn’t swear to that, of course, because I’m wrong so often I’ve given up on certainties.
One thing I am (reasonably) sure of though is I’m a bit annoyed by some of the debate whimpering across the Internet. Several times, in multiple locations, by numerous posters, I’ve heard the name Richard Curtis bandied about as an insult/example of the wrong kind of films being supported by the Film Council.
Now, I’ve no idea (and little interest) if any or all of Richard Curtis’ films have been part or wholly funded by tax payers. I don’t care. What does interest me is the bile poured on this man for writing popular films.
A populist! Damn that devilish dastard! How dare he write films people like!
And here’s the nub for me: writers slag off Richard Curtis films for being twee or sentimental or just plain shit or some other crime which millions of normal people haven’t noticed; and yet … yet … the man is successful enough to have a mini-genre named after him.
There is such a thing as ‘a Richard Curtis film’.
We all know what ‘a Richard Curtis film’ is … even when he didn’t direct most of them. He’s a writer who has achieved a defacto possessive credit. Even if you don’t like his work, you’ve got to at least applaud any writer who can achieve that. And achieve that in the mainstream, non-writing consciousness – BEFORE he directed his first film.
Okay, so he’s spoilt that by directing a couple of films, but there was such a thing as ‘a Richard Curtis film’ before he was a hyphenate – that’s awesome. How many other writers have achieved that? The only one I can think of off the top of my head is John Hughes – we all know what ‘a John Hughes film’ is (assuming ‘we’ is a subset of the population who are over thirty and under … something).
So why the scorn and derision? I don’t like everything Richard Curtis has written, but so what? Does he really deserve to be held up as an example of what’s wrong with the British Film Industry? Successful, well received and well known?
Or are these detractors the same kind of people who sneered in contempt when Christopher Hampton mentioned (at the SWF launch) that Julia Roberts had been attached to one of his scripts? The same people, by the way, who were complaining the UK Film Council never gave them any money?
Is it possible, perhaps, that Richard Curtis isn’t the satanic, sell-out writer some of these posters have made him out to be? Perhaps he’s just very, very good at writing stuff which lots and lots of people like? Okay, so millions of appreciative viewers doesn’t automatically mean something is intrinsically good. Popular doesn’t always equal great; but isn’t it also possible it’s just not your type of thing?
I certainly don’t think it warrants personal attacks; but I do think this is a part of the industry I don’t like – the part that sneers at the bits which are successful and entertaining without necessarily being high-brow. Not every film has to be a great work of art and personally (9 times out of 10) I’d rather watch something fluffy and entertaining than serious and (the word which makes me instantly reach for the TV remote) gritty.
Richard Curtis (co) wrote Blackadder for fuck’s sake – does he really deserve to be vilified?