British Film and Production Companies-Working Title

Here is a list of Working Title’s most significant output. It is necessarily selective:

Shaun of the Dead (d. Edgar Wright, 2004)

Four Weddings & a Funeral (d. Mike Newell, 1994)

Wish You Were Here (d. David Leland, 1987)

My Beautiful Laundrette (d. Stephen Frears, 1985)

Elizabeth ( d. Shekhar Kapur, 1998)

Elizabeth: The Golden Age ( d. Shekhar Kapur, 2007)

Hot Fuzz (d. Edgar Wright, 2007)

Atonement (d. Joe Wright, 2007)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (d. Tomas Alfredson, 2011)

Anna Karenina (d. Joe Wright, 2012)

Notting HIll (d. Roger Michell, 1999)

Love Actually (d. Richard Curtis, 2003)

We need to narrow this down into three of four – both Elizabeth films, Atonement and Hot Fuzz have had a strong response. Please read Chapter 15 on 312 of the AS Book on Working Title Films.

In brief Working Title can be summarised as follows and revised:

Working Title Films: Resource

Working Title Films is a British film production company, based in London. The company was founded by Tim Bevan and Sarah Radclyffe in the late eighties. It is famous for its Richard Curtis scripted romantic comedies and Coen brothers films.

During the mid 1990s British film was boosted by the success of many Working Title comedies like The Borrowers, Bean, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Fargo. In 1992 Working Title Films joined forces with PolyGram, and saw the departure of Sarah Radclyffe and the arrival of Eric Fellner as co-Chairman. All its films are currently distributed by Universal Pictures, which owns a 67% stake in the company, and many of its recent films are co-productions with Studio Canal. The remaining shares are owned by the company’s founders, BBC Films and private investors. In 2004 it made a profit of £17.8 million.

Since the turn of the century Working Title has been producing some of the biggest hits at the box office with films such as O Brother Where Art Thou?, Billy Elliot, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Bridget Jones, Shaun of the Dead, Pride and Prejudice and Hot Fuzz. Or this…

The first decade of the 21st century was a relatively successful one for the British film industry. Many British films found a wide international audience due to funding from BBC Films, Film 4 and the UK Film Council, and some independent production companies, such as Working Title, secured financing and distribution deals with major American studios. Working Title scored three major international successes, all starring Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, with the romantic comedies Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), which grossed $254 million worldwide; the sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, which earned $228 million; and Richard Curtis’s directorial debut Love Actually (2003), which grossed $239 million.

Try using some quotations from the films e.g.

“I too have command of the wind, Sir. I have a hurricane in me that will strip Spain bare…” Elizabeth

“I prefer to think my office is out on the street.” Nicholas Angel, Hot Fuzz

“Another wedding invitation. And a list. Lovely.” Charles 4 Weddings and A funeral

Or Tag Lines such as:

A Romantic Comedy. With Zombies. Shaun of the Dead.


Critical Reaction

“An Instant Cult Classic, this is the smartest, funniest British Comedy for Ages” (Heat Magazine Shaun of the Dead)

“A Superior Thriller…Utterly Absorbing” Empire – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Film Studies FM2 Section B: British Film and Production Companies

You should discuss a minimum of two British films in your answer and base it on one of the following: Ealing Studios or Working Title.

1. How far do the narratives of the films you have studied for this topic communicate similar messages and values? [40]

2. ‘A production company often casts the same or similar actors in key roles, and this contributes to the overall identity of the company over a period of time.’ How far have you found this to be the case in the films you have studied for this topic? [40]

3. How important is genre in giving a specific identity to the films you have studied for your chosen production company? [40]

4. How far can it be argued that your chosen production company has a particular set of British values or attitudes? [40]

5. How far can it be said that there are particular kinds of storyline that are typical of your chosen production company? Refer to the films you have studied for this topic. [40]

6. How far can it be said that the films of your particular production company use stereotypes to communicate ideas and values? [40]

7. How far does genre contribute to the distinct identity of your chosen production company? [40]

8. How far do the films you have studied for this topic share similar messages and values? [40]

Sample Essays (It does not necessarily follow that these are model essays…)

1) How far can it be argued that your chosen production company has a particular set of British values or attitudes?

Working Title definitely seems to entertain a certain set of British Values, which help to identify the brand image as a British Film Studio, and attract British audiences who will associate with the characters and actions on screen. It also works to attract aficionados of British cultures overseas, who will enjoy seeing the many aspect of British culture, and the british values that are involved in the films. The films I will be exploring to prove this are Elizabeth, Shaun of the Dead, and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

The historic film, Elizabeth, entertains highly British values in that it explores the history of the nation- instilling a sense of patriotic pride to the audiences, regarding the English throne. The way that British values and attitudes are upheld are mainly through the language that the characters use; particularly Queen Elizabeth herself (played by Cate Blanchett), and the ‘stiff-upper-lip’ emotion, which the character of Queen Elizabeth seems to promote- something particularly english. The film aims to explore the life of Queen Elizabeth, in particular the troubles that she went through- coming out to be successful and beating the Spanish invasion. The film explores many aspects of British History, such as the trade from the west, and the arrival of foreign products such as sugar and tobacco from other countries. The exploration of historic aspects of British culture adhere to the genre of the film; a historic biopic- but also works to emphasize the ‘britishness’ of the film.

In Shaun of the Dead, there are also many numerous British references which are used, to enforce the British values of the film. For example, the importance of family and friends, which makes up a large part of the plan for safety within the film- constantly referred to through the ‘plan sequence’, wherein the plan of action is played out in front of the viewer as Shaun (Simon Pegg) narrates the plan. Through the use of language and actions, such as going to the local corner shop, getting a cornetto, having a cup of tea, etc, very British values seem to be communicated. And this is something we see recur throughout several of their films, catalyzed particularly through the repetitive use of these actors.

In Four Weddings and a Funeral, British values are entertained in much the same way. The depiction of England often plays to the idealized Christmas Card england, with middle class heroes living in luxurious houses in London. The way that they are presented showcases britain’s comedy talent- for example, Hugh Grant. Other aspects of British life which are conveyed are things such as fashion and music – for example, in Working Title’s Love Actually, the musical work of Bill Nighy (or Billy Mack, in the film) is used, and reveals a certain aspect of Britain’s musical historical culture. The mise en scene almost always reveals famous british landmarks, or the best of London’s georgian architecture through this. The values in these films; romantic comedies, all seem to revolve around love, but are done so in particularly British ways- emphasized by the use of famous British actors, such as Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, etc.

Overall, I think that I can easily say that Working Title films seem to focus their work with a set of British values, or at least with the idea of promoting British culture. There are some things which act against this analysis, such as the prevalence of certain American actors, such as Renée Zellweger, who was cast in Bridget Jones’s Diary- although this certainly reflects the necessity of films to include American culture in some sense, seeing as it so dominates the Global Film industry. Despite this, Working Title is easily definable as a British film company, identifiable through the values which their films seem to instill.

2) How far can it be said that the films of your particular production company use stereotypes to communicate ideas and values?

There do seem to be a particular set of values and ideas in Working Title films which make use of stereotypes to communicate their ideas. Most of the stereotypes used at to create particular characters, many of which recur throughout several different productions. The use of stereotypes creates a brand image. This is likely to create a fan base, and continuous success through characters which audiences find popular. The films which I will be using as a basis to observe these stereotypes are Shaun of the Dead, Paul, and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

One stereotype that is explored, and recurs throughout many of their films is the stereotype of the ‘nerd,’ character. The typical nerd comes in two forms- one of whom we see in the character of David, from Shaun of the Dead (played by Dylan Moran). He helps to communicate some of the ideas and values of the two main protagonists, Shaun and Ed (played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost respectively). While they communicate images of laziness and mundanity, the audience holds sympathy for them, the character of David acts as a contrast to the two main protagonists. The character of Ed shows the other type of ‘nerd’ characters- that of the video game nerd. This type of nerd is closer to the youth generation of today – part of the demographic of audience which Working Title aims to attract with these types of comedies- the video game nerd. Ed is overweight, and enjoys playing video games seemingly above anything else (apart from perhaps going to the The Winchester Pub). This type of character recurs in the film Paul, wherein the type of nerd is repeated, with the slight variation: he prefers comic books – which catalyses the extraterrestrial the basis of the film. This is just one type of stereotype which Working Title makes use of.

Another stereotype which is prevalent in Working Title Films is that of the shy, unassuming, attractive young male – often played by the same character, Hugh Grant. In Four Weddings and a funeral, this is the character stereotype who he portrays, named Charles. This stereotype is often used in this kind of film – romantic comedies, and is popular in getting across the ideas and values which the film tries to communicate. This type of stereotype helps to get across the ideas of love and fulfillment – that attractive young males will in fact have these sorts of qualities. The values which are prominent in Working Titles romantic comedies are that of destined love- something which the presence of the shy young male stereotype helps to communicate. Hugh Grant also helps to give the films a sense of british pride, something which is prevalent throughout many of Working Title’s films.

The British stereotypes used within Working Title’s films also help to communicate the films’ ideas- sometimes the ideas of the films are that of being British itself, and so the presence of these stereotypes does the job of reinforcing these British values. In Shaun of the Dead, there are numerous stereotypes which are utilized in such a way- such as the corner shop owner, the texting teenager, the pub-goers. Each of the characters, in a way, embodies british values, through their idiolect and mannerisms. There are also many conventions of british culture, which are repeated throughout Shaun of the Dead, which acts as motifs- such as the action of having a cup of tea.

Equally, in Paul, there are American stereotypes which are explored throughout their travels across America. One example of a stereotype which adds to the message of the film is of the fanatical Christian, who is one of the characters who they pick up along their journey (played by Kristen Wiig). The fanatical Christian character helps to reinforce the extraterrestrial theme as she is converted to believe in evolution, through the help of Paul’s knowledge transferral techniques. It is also quite funny, and adds humour to the film, which increases the film’s success, as it is a comedy. Further American stereotypes which help the film to be more humorous are the Cops and the FBI agents.

In conclusion, I think that Working Title films, similarly to many other films, make extensive use of stereotypes in order to reinforce the messages of their films- increasing the humorous aspects of the comedies, and the romantic aspects of the romantic comedies.

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