LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - They’re the brains behind some of the most successful U.S. television shows and movies. In fact, Britons have a finger in almost every slice of the American media pie, sports (David Beckham), business (Virgin Group) and fashion (Jimmy Choo shoes).
Now they are celebrating their success with a “BritWeek” in Los Angeles, showcasing British influence both in Hollywood and in the development of Los Angeles for more than 50 years.
“We are not going around saying we are better than you. We are saying we are complementing what is going on here. Although we love being here, I think they love us being here too,” said BritWeek organizer Nigel Lythgoe, president of 19 Television, which is responsible for “American Idol.”
“From Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel to Simon Cowell and David Beckham, the Brits have firmly cemented their footprints in Hollywood...and we are here to stay,” Lythgoe said.
A British comedy festival, UK film retrospective and a celebrity soccer match hosted by Beckham’s new Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team are among the festivities for BritWweek being launched at the British consulate in L.A. on Thursday.
Posh accents, bad teeth jokes and a love-hate relationship aside, Britain is by far the largest foreign investor in Southern California. Oil companies BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell, banks HSBC Holdings Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, telecoms giant BT Group Plc and supermarket group Tesco all have a presence in the region.
There’s no official estimate of the number of Britons living in Los Angeles and Southern California, but organizers said the numbers could be as high as 500,000.
Early settlers include William Mulholland, the engineer who brought water to Los Angeles at the turn of the 20th century and Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, who left the city a vast public park.
But it’s in TV that Britons have enjoyed some of the biggest influence in the last 10 years.
Producers like London-born Mark Burnett, the creative force behind “Survivor” and “The Apprentice,” and other Britons have revolutionized reality TV in the United States with shows ranging from “Dancing with the Stars” and “Supernanny” to “American Idol” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
“The Brits have mined a vein that wasn’t really there for America before,” Lythgoe told Reuters. “Because the UK doesn’t have a major film industry, our talents went into factual entertainment.
“In the U.S. (TV industry), they write scripts first and then put the pictures together. We had to rely on ourselves to get the story, film it, write it, edit it. Our culture is so different. It spawned more ideas,” he said.
Lythgoe expects British influence in Los Angeles to expand beyond music, movie and TV stronghold in the future and into soccer and the computer games industry.
“I think Brits will be at the forefront of (an expansion in) computer games. And soccer is going to take off in the United States now that David Beckham is here,” he said.
Lythgoe has lived in Los Angeles for six years and although he has no plans to return to Britain, he says he will remain a Brit at heart.
“I’m not one of those people who will become a Californian. My hair and teeth have become Californian, but I am remaining British,” he laughed.