As someone who was born and grew up in Northern Ireland, I've always been aware of the pitfalls of labelling something "British". I've been surprised many times about how messy it gets in the world of film. Everyone remembers Colin Welland's battle cry when Chariots of Fire triumphed at the Oscars in 1981: "The British are coming!"

Unfortunately, for much of my working life in film, very much inspired by Mr Welland and his colleagues, labelling a film "British" has usually been the kiss of death, both in terms of reviews and box office. "Sustainability" used to be the buzz word of choice, but the truth is that the UK film industry has been stumbling through life for many years now. Press criticism of publicly funded British films got so bad in the early noughties, people at the UK Film Council spent most of their time worrying about what the Daily Mail would think.

Of course, there have been success stories through the years. Working Title Films has consistently led the way in the UK industry, the Harry Potter and James Bond franchises are huge and the studios are fuller than ever, thanks to our excellent film tax incentives. But I know from bitter experience that it has never been easy to get a movie made in Britain and even harder to find an audience for it if you do. Recent statistics released by the British Film Institute (not the organisation's finest hour) show fewer than 10% of British films made between 2003 and 2010 have been profitable. I'm often reminded of a comparison – made, I think, by producer Steven Woolley – of the US and UK industries: it's like comparing the Nasa space programme with two little old ladies knitting jumpers in the Outer Hebrides.

But perhaps we're about to get some more wool. Things seem to be changing. It was an amazing year for British films and the UK film industry. Twenty percent of this year's Golden Globe nominations are for British films and talent. In the best actress, drama category, three of the five nominees are British. In the best drama category two of the films are British (Philomena, Rush), two others have British directors (Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave) and the other one (Gravity) was shot entirely in the UK and the director (Alfonso Cuarón) is based there.

In addition to those films and talent recognised by the Golden Globes, a decent number of home-grown films – including The World's End, One Direction: This Is Us, About Time, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, I Give It a Year, Trance, Sunshine on Leith, Filth and Le Week-End – had success at the box office. When you add the festival successes of The Selfish Giant (at Cannes), Ida (at the Toronto film festival) and Metro Manila's triumph at the British independent film awards), the picture looks even rosier.

The "British" label seems as if it is becoming even more attractive. It's time to bang the drum and fly the flag. I would particularly like to do that for my film Rush, which I've spent the last two and a half years producing. So far, it has been mostly omitted from media celebrations of UK talent this awards season. I'm guessing the main reason is because the film has an American director, Ron Howard. But that is the where the "Hollywood" connection begins and ends. Rush (a British film with an American director) is the exact opposite of 12 Years a Slave (an American film with a British director).

I also should point out that Rush is a British-German co-production. That's the way of the world these days. Pretty much every independent film, and even some big studio pictures, accessing money from two or more territories. This used to be the last resort of a struggling project, but now it's normal. Co-productions can be a nightmare to assemble, with so many – sometimes conflicting – conditions to be met in each country. It makes financing a film more complicated than ever, but the good news is we have more experience and know-how to put together co-pros better than Americans, who often find them baffling.

How useful are these labels in the film world these days? Shouldn't movies just be seen as international in our multicultural, multimedia world? They will be useful if they're good for business. I've committed most of my adult life to making British films and I would love to see that brand be successful. I'd love to see British audiences get excited about our own films in the way people did when Alexander Korda and Michael Balcon had their film production factories at Denham and Ealing in the 1930s and 40s.

Rush was produced using the same no-frills approach to film-making that myself and Michael Winterbottom have always used at our company, Revolution Film: get as much of the money on the screen as you can, work with the most exciting and talented people and have fun. So I will shout it from the rooftops: Rush is a British film. And I'm proud of that.

Devil's Advocate: director Mike Figgis argues that the UK movie industry holds British film-makers back


Andrew Eaton

The GuardianTramp

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