in focus


A brace of separate news items grabbed headlines recently, providing much-needed boosts to industry confidence here and its perceived position in the global industry as 2007 dawns.

The first item saw the U.K. Film Council publish annual production level figures for 2006, posting an upsurge in cash spent from abroad on these shores.

The second fanfare came when the British Academy of Film and Television Arts announced its lineup of nominations for its film awards in its now-embedded pre-Oscar slot.

The nominations, according to the press and commentators alike, showed the industry here is "in rude health" and that by embracing international partners, moviemakers can marry skill with commercial success.

Cash flowing into the British film sector from overseas in 2006 rocketed 83%, an upswing for the first time in two years, hitting ?569.6 million ($1.13 billion), up from ?312 million in 2005, according to Film Council tallies.

Such an upsurge is, according to analysts, "a vote of confidence" in the U.K.'s ability to attract international and Hollywood productions to shoot here.

And with the introduction of the new-look tax credits on Jan. 1, council chief executive John Woodward suggests "that the U.K. stays as one of the best places in the world to produce a film."

Big-budget productions that have recently shot here ? including "The Golden Age," "Miss Potter" and "His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass" ? will likely end up on the British Academy Film Awards nominations list next year.

Paul Greengrass' "United 93," from the Working Title stable, and Stephen Frears' "The Queen," backed by French-owned but London-based Pathe, made it onto the best directors list this year while Kevin Macdonald's fiction debut "The Last King of Scotland," made by Slate Films with backing from Fox Searchlight and DNA Films, and "The Queen" will battle for this year's best film nod.

This from an awards show revamped over the past three years or so to ensure British efforts compete against the best the rest of the world can conjure up on celluloid in an attempt to underline a BAFA's worth.

Much was made in the press of the fact that "Casino Royale" garnered nine nominations including the first-ever best actor nomination for an actor playing the superspy, this time by Daniel Craig. Everyone agreed Craig's inclusion reflects his spread of recent roles as well.

The coming months will see the awards dished out and the Council crossing its fingers that an unusually positive start to the year can be continued throughout the next 12 months.

Stuart Kemp can be reached at