Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Thailalaland - and UK movies need bigger box office in Kent.

The Oscars were livened up with the shenanigans over the duplicate envelopes for the Best Picture. PWC had one job...

And compared to the fuss last year over lack of BAME films and actors there were far more this year.

And new records with the youngest director, and the first Moslem Oscar winner.

And record-equalling 14 Oscar nominations for La La Land. Maybe one way to cool down in the worsening Bangkok traffic jams is to get out and dance on the highway? Perhaps best to leave that just to La La Land.

And the UK did OK with three Oscars including for The Jungle Book Special effects. But perhaps a slightly lower haul than usual for the home of the Star Wars and James Bond and Harry Potter franchises amongst much UK film expertise.

Indeed the LucasFilm sale of the Stars Wars franchise to Disney is spurring on one of the greatest expansions of UK movie making-in years, with new Star Wars spin-off stories such as Rogue One in film and animation and television and books and comics.

And apt that Fantastic Beasts the Harry Potter franchise spin-off picked up an Oscar.

While Christopher Nolan taking on the mantle of Britain's greatest living film director could well be in the running for Oscars for the mega-blockbuster Dunkirk and Ramsgate Little Ships this Summer.

One of the greatest pre-war movie stars in the comedian Will Hay living in Ramsgate and commemorated with a Blue Plaque, film and television star of Dad's Army, John Le Mesurier. And much-loved Bagpuss cartoon of Small Films in Canterbury, rivalled only by Aardman Animation, and Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep and Chicken Run.

And perennial Michael Caine (two Oscars and smuggled into UK via the now-defunct Ramsgate hovercraft at RAMSAR/UNESCO site Pegwell Bay in The Black Windmill, alongside Broadstairs' Donald Pleasance, and Blofeld in the movie of Kent 007 writer Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice).

And here in East Kent two Oscar/Cannes nominees/winners and residents in Brenda Blethyn , two Oscar nominations and Timothy Spall a Cannes for the Turner movie. I've got a Cannes too for an advertising film with Ken Russell for Audi.

But beyond the glitz and glamour of the movies, a crunchy point for UK and Thailand - the 7 hour time difference between UK and Thailand and Hollywood is perfect for speeding up the special effects and green screen processes now crucial to almost every movie.

It takes a lot of effort to make the stars shine bright whether in Hollywood or elsewhere.

UK Ambassador Vicki Treadell in Malaysia recently launching the Moneypenny secretarial service that uses that time zone difference to great effect by swapping digital files for continuous 24/7 working.

Far more though could be done with Kent Film Office and Screen South to make Kent a movie magnet and to diversify beyond just Chatham Dockyard.

Thailand needs few lessons in movie-making with classics such as Tears of the Black Tiger, King Naresuan and Uncle Boonme and burgeoning investment in cinema and digital infrastructure, but wouldn't Thailand UK be stronger together in securing investment, location shoots, translations, technology and so on?

The UK Trade Envoy to Cambodia and Thailand, David Puttnam Oscar-winning producer of The Killing Fields with East Kent writer Bruce Robinson is banging the drum for reform of the BBC and film and television industries. And Puttnam is prescient in developing Eire's digital telecoms infrastructure for education and movie content. With 5G rollout beginning in UK and capped EU mobile roaming costs now, and every EU town with free wifi before 2020, unlimited digital infrastructure will create a content boom not seen since the talkies took off.

While the new BBC Scotland channel will require further content as no doubt will a Wales channel plus increased Gaelic content for Ireland too.

Surely expanded UK and Thai, and ASEAN, Free-to-Air broadcast channel swaps are an easy step to make.

A bit of extra Premiership football would be a nice gift for Thailand, as well as Sports Diplomacy, and could even form the basis of an overdue dedicated BBC Sports channel and Film channel.

While abolishing the outdated BBC licence fee for the simplicity of a ringfenced annual budget would free up millions of dollars to reinvest back into excellent programmes such as Thailand Earth's Tropical Paradise, rather than jailing little old ladies - and 10% of all UK court cases - for watching Coronation Street.

And I'm developing the East Kent Film Office and Studio (EKFOS)to promote film shoots in East Kent and funding for movies and animation, especially the digitisation of the British Film Institute archives.

Old films by British greats such as Chaplin and Hitchcock and newsreels are literally crumbling into dust and disappearing unless they're digitised. Even the dangers of old film stock combusting was an accurate plot point in the Quentin Tarantino and Brad Pitt WW2 movie Inglourious Basterds.

Instant downloads, with multi-channels and formats through cinema, television, games, outdoor, VR, tablet, phone and PC will be demanding more, and expanded, films.

UK shows 700 films a year in cinema, and still a spasmodic cottage industry with only 2.8 nonUS cofunded UK films, will need to raise its game beyond ad-hoc content, every two or three years, to create a Sporting Superpower equivalent for the Creative Industries.

And exponentially grow its c.5% in jobs and GDP contribution to the UK economy and 8% in UK exports.

Thailand through language is insulated to some extent from Hollywood or Chinese or Indian content, but as with France a cultural quota could safeguard and expand the Creative Industries from Rocky 27 or Fast and Furious 58.

And surely a contender for next year’s Oscars will be Angelina Jolie's First They Killed My Father, on the 1975 Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, and the premiere held at Angkor Wat, the Canterbury Cathedral of Cambodia if you will, last week.

Hopefully it will be a feature of the revived Girl Summit on women's rights in London launched by Angelina and former UK PM and Foreign Secretary, William Hague.

It's an astonishing resurgence of the Cambodian film industry (Jolie also starring in Tomb Raider with a pre-007 Daniel Craig one of the first movies using Angkor as a location) with only Khmer spoken in the film and all-Cambodian cast.

As with the almost-total destruction of Khmer dance and ballet, and desecration of Angkor, and Climate Change logging of the surrounding jungle, a reminder of how thinly-held is civilisation.

And with the new Paramount theme park and Dreamland amusement park, East Kent deserves more than the occasional passing reference to Chatham Dockyard for locations. You might have seen it in the Les Miserables film with Russell Crowe and popular TV show Call the Midwife.

Perhaps apt for Frontline Kent - and the tsunami of heroin, cocaine and cannabis from the Golden Triangle of Europe - the only film set in Ramsgate so far was the WW2 actioner Contraband.

While Erin Brockovich the Oscar-winning true story starring Julia Roberts and the Hinkley pollution coverup, similar to Flint and Cato Ridge and Klity Creek apt for Margate given the Infratil-KCC-TDC toxic scandal.

And this week the London Mayor announced the first new film studio in London for 20 years.

Surely Thailand with discussions around the Bangkok Film Studio and numerous film festivals in Bangkok and the provinces should partner with UK?

And Thailalaland?

Well, congratulations for the foresight of my friend Issaree Suwunnavid of Heffernan Capital in launching the Hua Hin Film Festival a few years ago and opened by an up-and-coming film star called Ryan Gosling - narrowly pipped to the post last night for the Oscar for Best Actor in La La Land.

Shouldn't Thailalaland be a feature of UK and Thai film and Creative Industries working closely together?


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