Variety are reporting that more than one month after the UK film council was disbanded by our new coalition government, a proposal is being drawn up for a new plan of action for Britain’s movie business. The abolition sparked controversy both locally and globally, to the extent that Clint Eastwood wrote a letter of protest to chancellor George Osborne.
While the 10 year old Film Council attracted much acclaim, producing many successes, it has regardless been criticised for becoming internally focussed and taking few risks with less surefire projects. Set up by Tony Blair’s government in 2000, the council’s increasingly obsessive drive to reclaim funds and alienate breakthrough talent lacked the commercial appear to draw box office success.
That said, included in the list of 900 projects the UKFC funded are hits which include Gosford Park (which earnt $87.8 million at the box office), Bend it Like Beckham ($76.6 million) and this year’s Streetdance 3D ($42.4 million).
Originally set out with a manifesto that stated the aim to “Identify the endemic problems that plague our industry and start to develop a set of policies, which, over time, can create a framework for sustained success”, the UKFC failed at a number of its primary objectives.
In The Loop’s Kevin Loader claimed that “The commercial terms [the UKFC] took were extremely aggressive”, while producer Chris Atkins believed much of the funds to have been squandered. For every $140,000 received by Optimum Releasing to help fund This Is England (which grossed $3.2 million in the Britain alone), substantially more money was spent to outfit screens with digital projectors.
Although the UKFC’s Digital Screen Network initiative might have had the best incentives – to assist struggling independent producers with a cheaper alternative to physical prints – many critics claim this to be a poorly conceived campaign. Indeed, it is predominantly blockbusters which are screened digitally, productions less reliant on the cheaper costs associated with shooting digitally.
However, “the film council is only part of the industry and it can’t change things other people don’t want to change”, arguedRobert Jones, who headed the Premiere Fund tasked with allocating £10 million annually to features.
Speaking of the plans due to be unveiled before the end of the month, Downey concludes “The industry needs to know what it is doing and know soon. There has to be a handover that is orderly and puts the industry first. If it is done – and done well – then we will be able to assess objectively the legacy of the U.K. Film Council.”
However, for an initiative that kick-started the careers of Christopher Nolan and Paul Greengrass, they were obviously doing something right.
For the moment at least, there is a glimmer of hope for the UK film industry. We will keep you updated when the new plans are revealed before months-end.