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Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Boosting Britain at Cannes
Shakespeare in Love
Shakespeare in Love showed off the UK's skills
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas at the Cannes Film Festival

Glamour is one part of the Cannes Film Festival. The other is hard work.

Away from the flashing cameras are the movie industry professionals trying to clinch deals to make films that could be the centre of attention in future.

One such serious-minded businessman is Steve Norris, head of the British Film Commission.

The BFC was set up to promote the UK as an attractive location for movie-makers. It also helps film-makers once they are there.

Cannes
Cannes is the film industry's most important marketplace
So, Norris and his colleagues have been coming to Cannes for several years to spread this message.

"It is the place where the world's media meet. The only other time this happens is at the American Film Market in February.

"Cannes is therefore the perfect opportunity to talk to decision-makers and to identify projects that could be made in the UK and pitch it to their producers."

Most investment in the UK film industry comes from the US. Last year, says Mr Norris, it accounted for $514m-worth of overseas investment in the UK.

But, he adds, most films from all countries could now be made anywhere, given the advances in technology and design.

This means Mr Norris has to promote the UK as having the edge on the rest of the world.

"We have great actors, wonderful technicians and great scenery. I go out and explain this," he says.

Chocolat
Chocolat was also made in the UK
"But the greatest selling tool is the quality and calibre of the films that have been made here."

This includes hits such as The Mummy, Chocolat and the upcoming Tomb Raider and Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone.

Chocolat was filmed at Shepperton Studios and locations all around the UK. This came about as a result of a successful relationship between the BFC and film producers Miramax, who also made Shakespeare in Love.

But Norris is particularly proud of having secured Harry Potter for the British Isles.

"It was key to us that we landed Harry Potter, both from an economic point of view and a cultural one.

"To do this, we had to make sure that all possible impediments were removed, such as securing the desired locations."

Another feather in the commission's hat is the upcoming Band of Brothers, the World War II epic mini-series co-produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.

Rupert Murdoch and wife Wendi Deng
The biggest names in the media visit Cannes
Norris says it was a hugely complex production to stage and create.

"We had to secure Ministry of Defence support to get hold of a vast amount of military equipment.

"We had to find a site to base the production on and recreate battle scenes. No one film ever requires the same thing.

"But we can always assure foreign film-makers that the UK has expertise across every stage of production.

"This means they do not have to pay the large costs involved in bringing people with them."

Foot-and-mouth precautions in Northern Ireland
Foot-and-mouth is deterring European film-makers
Spielberg has, comments Norris, a very high regard for the UK and has made 10 films in the country.

But Norris predicts there is going to be considerably less US investment in the UK this year.

As such, his focus at Cannes this year is to work on relationships with European film-makers.

The US slowdown is, he explains, primarily because Hollywood has still got the jitters over the threat of strikes.

The Writers Guild of America may have been appeased but there are still the demands of the Screen Actors Guild to confront.

Many foreign film-makers in general are also concerned about coming to the UK because of the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

Norris knows that the European market may be a tough cookie to crack, particularly France.

The Mummy
The Mummy Returns - to the UK
It has a long and proud history of film-making in French and using French talent. But he is confident that the tide is now changing.

"What is happening now in Europe is that in order to produce big budget ventures, European film-makers are looking for co-producers.

"Increasingly there are Anglo-French productions and Anglo-Scandinavian prouductions.

"Combining resources and talent in this way means the films can find a wider audience and gain coveted international distribution - and hopefully box office success."


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