03 March, 2009

"'Slumdogs' have to be nurtured"

Tessa Ross, The Times:

" I greenlit, optioned and developed the script of Slumdog Millionaire. On Sunday in the Oscars auditorium, I closed my eyes and as each award was read out thought it couldn’t get any better — and it did. The morning after I was still elated, but was thinking, “Gosh, imagine if it hadn’t gone our way. How awful it would have been to come this far and not to win all that”.

My favourite moment was meeting Peter Gabriel, a hero of mine. I’d met him at the Golden Globes and he remembered me. He offered me congratulations and I told him I had every one of his albums.

I’m a little uneasy at saying Slumdog Millionaire marks a renaissance in British film. It is wonderful that everybody is proud of it, but you get this kind of success only if you’re given the money and time, to take risks. Slumdog started as a very small seed and had to be nurtured.

We’re not going to win Best Picture every year. We shouldn’t be making films to win Oscars. Slumdog is an original film, made on a far-from-big budget. But it had big themes — a love story, a boy who had nothing who gets everything in his dreams — which reached out.

We first saw its magic on festival audiences at Telluride and Toronto film festivals. And it had a wonderful director in Danny Boyle. But he has worked for years, in theatre and film. He has evolved to this point.

Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary, and the Government should not throw money at the film industry to somehow try and magic up the next Slumdog. There needs to be a protected fund set at a particular level to nurture all kinds of talent — directors, scriptwriters, actors, ideas people. That fund should remain fixed in good times and bad. Everyone in film is suffering at the moment: commercial broadcasters are suffering because of falling advertising, the BBC is having to cut costs and in a couple of years time the UK Film Council will be up for review.

It is vital, especially now, that film-makers feel emboldened to take risks — that’s how Slumdog began, and if we want to find the next Slumdog and the next one after that we must think long-term.

Investing in film is the key and the real challenge for Government and broadcasters if we want to build on the success of Slumdog Millionaire."

— Tessa Ross is controller of film and drama at Channel 4


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