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News: UK Film Council to be abolished

Robert Weedon | Film | Monday 26th July 2010

About a year ago, we ran an article outlining how the British film industry was doing rather well. Of course, it is commercial films like the Harry Potter and James Bond series that make the big money, but those are ultimately bank-rolled by American investors and studios who know they'll make a lots of money at the box office.

Many independent films, especially those made by Film4 and other smaller companies will probably appeal to a much smaller audience, or be a proving ground for a new director or screenwriter. As a result, they won't have the budgets of these blockbuster films, and often will not be able to afford the distribution, promotion or even production costs. This is where the UK Film Council come in to their own, in that they allow smaller films to be produced which would probably not find investment otherwise.

The UK Film Council was founded in 2000 as an independent body to oversee budgets given to them by the National Lottery Fund, meaning that ultimately, everybody who takes a chance on winning lots of money on a weekly basis through an ultimately random number selection machine has indirectly assisted in the production of a home-grown British film.

Like the lottery, it can be a gamble. Sometimes they've got it wrong, with films such as the terrible Sex Lives of the Potato Men (2004), other times the films they've funded have simply disappeared. However, in other cases, they've funded some of the most acclaimed British films of the last decade - Last King of Scotland, In the Loop, Man on Wire, This is England, to name a few.

Today, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has outlined that he wishes to close the UK Film Council as part of a cost-cutting measure, apparently to "cut bureaucracy".

While it would be an over-reaction to state that this announcement could spark the end of the British film industry, it does herald something of a new dark age; if one looks at British film in the 1970s, 1980s and even 1990s, films struggled to get funding, and the industry was in the doldrums. In the 1970s, funds were so bad that the most successful home grown film of 1974 was Confessions of a Window Cleaner.

If the money isn't there to support smaller, less commercial but more intelligent productions, then the investment won't find its way up into generating talent for big-budget films. This will certain curtail the number of non-commercial projects being produced, but will possibly also directly hinder the whole industry. Lets hope the proposal will turn out to be another 6Music.

RW



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