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Channel 4 Films/Film on Four/FilmFour

Production Company

Main image of Channel 4 Films/Film on Four/FilmFour

Launched in 1982, the UK's fourth terrestrial television channel is widely credited with keeping the flame of British filmmaking alive in the 1980s at a time when successive Conservative Governments refused any kind of state support for the industry. The public Channel Four Television Corporation established a separate films arm - Film On Four. Its remit was to cross-subsidise British film production with television money to create not only a stream of high quality film drama for the Channel to screen but also throw out a much-needed life-line to the struggling British film industry. Under the leadership of David Rose, Film on Four funded films first for cinema release, prior to subsequent television transmission and some of its early successes were spectacular, including Peter Greenaway's The Draughtsman's Contract (1982), Neil Jordan's Angel (1982) and Stephen Frears'/Hanif Kureishi's My Beautiful Laundrette (1985). The '90s saw a more commercially orientated policy but one which often paid box-office dividends in terms of international hits like Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Trainspotting (1996). In the late '90s, FilmFour, as it was now called, gained its own dedicated subscription TV channel, screening both its own fare and a range of independent, 'challenging' cinema from around the world. However, by July 2002, retrenchment had set in as Channel Four regained control of its independent film subsidiary, slashing its annual budget for film production largely as the result of a general downturn in TV advertising. Channel Four's contribution to contemporary British cinema had been immense but the demise of FilmFour raised uncomfortable questions about the involvement of television money in film production: for example, to what extent the priorities of commercial television would always in the end take precedence over film and to what extent the scale and ambition of British filmmaking would always inevitably be reduced to that of low-budget 'television movies' to the detriment of the overall health of both British cinema and arguably, indigenous British television drama.

Ansorge, Peter, From Liverpool to Los Angeles: On Writing for Theatre, Film and Television (1997);
Pym, John, Film on Four: Ten Years of Film on Four (1992).

John Cook, Encyclopedia of British Film

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Bhaji on the Beach (1993)Bhaji on the Beach (1993)

Intelligent, witty film about Asian women on a day-trip to Blackpool

Thumbnail image of Draughtsman's Contract, The (1982)Draughtsman's Contract, The (1982)

Peter Greenaway's typically idiosyncratic breakthrough film

Thumbnail image of East is East (1999)East is East (1999)

Comedy about a Pakistani chip shop owner living in Salford

Thumbnail image of Handsworth Songs (1986)Handsworth Songs (1986)

Experimental documentary exploring race and social unrest in '80s Britain

Thumbnail image of In Fading Light (1989)In Fading Light (1989)

A young woman throws a small fishing community into turmoil

Thumbnail image of Low Down, The (2000)Low Down, The (2000)

Engaging comedy about love and responsibility

Thumbnail image of My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

Surprise box-office hit about a gay Pakistani/National Front romance

Thumbnail image of Raining Stones (1993)Raining Stones (1993)

Jobless Bob struggles to buy a communion dress for his daughter

Thumbnail image of Sexy Beast (2000)Sexy Beast (2000)

Unusually inventive addition to the late 1990s gangster cycle

Thumbnail image of Touching the Void (2003)Touching the Void (2003)

Mountaineering documentary, as gripping as any action feature

Thumbnail image of Trainspotting (1996)Trainspotting (1996)

Film about Edinburgh junkies that became a cultural phenomenon

Related Collections

Thumbnail image of Channel 4 at 25Channel 4 at 25

The first quarter-century of Britain's provocative fourth channel

Related People and Organisations

Thumbnail image of Rose, David (1924-)Rose, David (1924-)


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