The opening title cards of Makers: Our Story remind us of how big the UK film industry remains: £4.3billion is added to the country’s economy by the film business, with British productions accounting for 7% of the global box office. Not bad for a small island. In the 70s and 80s, business was booming: Hollywood blockbusters from Star Wars to Superman and Full Metal Jacket were all shot in the UK. The sound stages at Pinewood and Shepperton hosted some of the world’s biggest film stars. Even these days, the Bond and Harry Potter franchises are made in Britain, albeit with much of the profit flowing back to American studios. However, this film comes at a crossroad for the UK film industry: the Potter films –which for a decade had kept legions of cameramen, actors, designers and post-production houses in steady work– have come to an end, leaving a wizard-sized hole in the business. In addition, the coalition government has recently abolished the UK Film Council, which provided funds for producing and distributing UK features and short films.
Makers: Our Story is a documentary dealing with the next generation of film talent. Largely composed of interviews with independent filmmakers as well as industry figures, it plays out as a love letter to non-mainstream writers and directors who manage to produce films without council funding and occasionally with no money at all. We see young filmmakers of all races, gender and backgrounds cutting their teeth as directors; in a business seemingly run by old white men, it’s heartening to see a new generation of women and minorities breaking into the movie biz. In fact, it’s good to see that there is a thriving new generation at all: without the J Arthur Ranks, Harry Saltzmans and Cubby Broccolis around these days, the fear was that most British talent would go straight to America. Or even end up completely undiscovered.
The interviewees impart a lot of detail when speaking of their early works. Limits in budget resulted in many of them becoming very resourceful: begging, borrowing and stealing where necessary. Even if you don’t like the films they make (there do seem to be a lot of low budget shorts about geezers with shooters), the dedication required to make a film is obviously something to be respected.
At 135 minutes, Makers is way too long and sags under its own weight but still remains a testament to what can be achieved with hard work, creativity and a handicam.