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Will the UK Film Council closure leave British films out of the loop?

August 12, 2010 |  2:22 pm


How much of a tragedy is the closure of the UK Film Council? Like so many things in indie film, it depends on who you ask.

You may not have head of the British group, but you've almost certainly seen the fruits of its efforts. A slew of acclaimed movies over the past decade -- James Marsh's Oscar-winning documentary "Man on Wire," Mike Leigh's quirky character drama "Happy-Go-Lucky" and Armando Iannucci's sharp government satire "In the Loop," to name a few recent ones -- all were made possible with money from the council, which explains why British luminaries (and a few non-British ones) have been up in arms about it.

In a piece in today's Times, we and several colleagues explore reaction to the news that David Cameron's government will shut down the group that funded a host of indies over the past decade and also facilitated studio productions in the U.K.

Clint Eastwood reacted frustratedly last week, and a letter to the Daily Telegraph signed by more than 50 actors, including Emily Blunt and James McAvoy, expressed a sense of loss for the film world. "We all owe any success we have had in our acting careers, to varying degrees, to films supported by the UK Film Council. For some of us, it was the breakthrough role. For others, it was the dream part in a critically acclaimed and successful film."

The British government, for its part, says it will still fund film projects but wants to eliminate the overhead that comes with the Film Council.

Not everyone in British film circles laments the loss, saying that it's just the bureaucracy, not the money, that's going away. “I’m not sure that people  are necessarily focusing on the fact that the government has indicated that they are keeping the funding,” Lindsey Posner, managing director at British agency Independent (it reps Danny Boyle and Mike Leigh, among others), told my colleague Janet Stobart. And "Leaving Las Vegas" director Mike Figgis was quoted in the Financial Times as saying that “a true independent cinema functions without milk from the [teat] of the government."

The young documentarian Chris Atkins says it's, well, a generational thing. "I have yet to hear a bad word about the end of the [Film Council] from anyone under 35,” he said, calling it “the worst form of new Labour wastage with layers of meaningless bureaucracy."

"In the Loop" is, of course, about government wastage, among other bureaucratic issues. So perhaps  Iannucci has just found the subject of his new film. Here's hoping he gets the funding.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "In the Loop." Credit: IFC Films


Industry decries plans to kill UK Film Council

In the Loop screenwriter's brush with Oscar

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The UK Film Council was a disaster for The UK Film Industry. It hated The UK outside of a small 200 acres it controlled. But at least it has left a legacy of a dinner party game. No cheating. No googling to check the list. Which of the actors names on the list of 50 referrred to in this article are made up ?

As regards "In The Loop", this is just a BBC comedy stretched to 3 episodes. The BBC money to make it would have covered at least 50% of the cost. Two days filming in Washington on very cheap sets ? Where did the money go except to Gandolphini ? It did not get it back at the box office and even the BBC TV showing was lower than for three episodes of 'In The Loop' !! Why did The UKFC finance a thing The BBC routinely financed ?
Next Eastwood and Spielberg are just being misled. The tax credit they seek from the UK is still there. The Lottery and Tax money subsidy to film in the UK is still there. Only 75 people in a $600 000 a year rented office, on $300 000 salaries, $32 000 lunches, 5 star hotels and first class travel is going (and only after two years notice period and then a big pay off !)
The UKFC opposed every move to build the one thing Hollywood needs for the $75 million to $300 million budget movies, which are sound stages ! They opposed all moves to build them around the UK. They wanted to prevent a UK wide film industry arising. They wanted to keep it an elitist Ivy League of an Ivy league in club in the west of London.
A private club very few could join. They are hated widely in the UK and the Hollywood names supporting them are losing popularity and respect at rapid rate.
Meanwhile the new stock holders who own the 34 sound stages at Pinewood and Shepperton plc Studios (which Eastwood, Spielberg, Crowe, Depp, Downey Jnr use to make films on) are gearing up to realise the property values e.g. houses,
car parks. They want to move the whole show in Malaysia in 2012 where they are building sound stages. Then China. Who should have sounded the alarm...UKFC. Who did not but cheered the move ? UKFC. The sound stages will be gone in 3 years. What will Eastwood and Spielberg use to make movies in the UK then ? Care to write a letter about that ?


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