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Have your say: UK film industry's future

A chance for readers to sound off on how the UK government can best support film.

The announcement of the UK Film Council’s planned abolition has drawn incredibly strong, impassioned reactions from the UK film industry in the past week.

Now Screen wants to hear directly from our readers as we look at the future of the industry with or without the UKFC.

How can the UK government best support the film industry?

We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section, but please note that no anonymous postings are allowed.

Readers' comments (13)

  • UKFC should continue but with 50%-75% less staff & overhead costs if budgets have to be cut in the light of our huge national deficit. Its focus should be Development and Production support for UK Producers and funding should not be reduced from current levels.

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  • Grant Keir

    Re-introduce an Eady type levy, but as a micro-payment 'tax' on box office seats and online distribution of content. The golden age of British film production was funded this way. It is an effective, reliable and consistent way to raise funding to be spent on all aspects of UK film making, production, exhibition, distribution, training, etc. It rises with box office and distribution success and takes control of funding away from politicians.

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  • Charles Harris

    I'm with Grant on the Eady type levy, although I know the Treasury hated it precisely because it took control away from politicians and didn't go through them.

    I also believe the money should be focused on development, distribution and training - and spread as widely as possible in those areas. Most projects don't need a lot of help - they just need help.

    Small amounts spread widely and thinly will have the most productive effect and encourage the innovation and risk that are essential for a thriving industry.

    And if you get those three areas right, then production is the easy bit - relatively speaking!

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  • People are concerned because there seems to be no premeditated plan aside from closing the agency.
    The government should direct the UKFC to submit a review of independent production in the UK which could respond to specific questions and concerns that they clearly have. This should also include direct responses from independent producers working in the UK, regardless of the support they have or have not received from the UKFC during its tenure.
    There needs to be a transparent consultation process with a distinct time line to the next steps.
    Essentially a preventative care approach seems to me the most appropriate course of action. I'm not concerned that the government is going to stop supporting the industry, I'm concerned that the government is not going to support the process and solutions that allow us to sustain an independent British industry.

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  • We need consistancy the inward investment tax relief is crutial to sustaining our infrastructure this is not just simply about UK filmmakers but all the people employed in every stage of producing, post producing, distributing & exhibiting film and their livelyhoods. The lottery funding & film tax credit certification must be handled by the most effective / cost effective means and both should be about maintaining a sustainable film industry and one that overall is profitable to the nation both in terms of artistic and financial terms.

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  • I'm not at all saddened by the demise of the UKFC. It's record of service to the British film industry is lamentable. Most of its money has gone to induce Hollywood film production companies to use British facilities. The profits go back to Hollywood and so British Cinema is starved.
    If we create a system where some profits are returned to the UK, then we have a chance.

    Imagine the knock-on effects for our industry if the profits from Channel 4's excellent low budget 'Slumdog Millionaire' or the 'Harry Potter' series had been retained in the UK?

    Up until 40 years ago we did have an excellent industry - based on proper distribution. That changed when protection was removed and we couldn't compete with Hollywood.

    Britain is the only country in Europe that does not protect its film industry. And don't for a moment think that America doesn't protect its industry.

    The European film industries are booming and improving their balance of payments, and our best indigenous film makers have to go to Spanish film houses for finance.

    I'm only arguing for a small percentage - say 10-15% of UK distribution being indigenous. In France that figure produces 100 movies a year - and still we get to see as much Hollywood fare as we want.

    This is a good time for a radical rethink.

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  • Model:

    1, Retain Lottery funding,

    2, Retain tax credits,

    3, Retain UKFC but with simplified processes & proportionate overheads,

    4, Establish voluntary committee of respected industry representatives from all sectors to monitor UKFC funding decisions and publish findings on defined dates,

    5, BFI to report direct to DCMS,

    6, Producers to retain the public sector profit share,

    7, Closer integration of all sectors of the film industry via funding conditions and incentives, and

    8, Bridge funding gap via a modest levy against ticket sales subject to impact study.

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  • Grant Keir

    A levy of say even just 2% on UK box office would generate £18-20mill per year. Add in a similar levy on VOD, other forms of digital distribution and you have a bigger fund than any government is likely to fund for all aspects of film training, production and distribution. There are loads of great statistics collected by the UKFC on box office and economic impact of film on their website... check it out!
    http://www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk/theatrical

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  • Additional comments: 

    1, The levy payment would place a corresponding pressure on the industry at some point notwithstanding how seductive the figures might seem at first sight,  

    2, We should limit any levy to the most basic gap funding so as to mitigate against the risk of the DCMS using it as an excuse/soft option for reducing lottery funding and tax credits, and  

    3,  The transfer from DVD sales to other platforms is already slower than anticipated and we should not impede this process with a premature levy.

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  • OperaPrima

    THIS IS THE MOST SENSIBLE THING I HAVE SEEN YET!!!! IN YESTERDAY'S OBSERVER

    What price a movie?

    Questions still remain about the high running costs of the UK Film Council, despite the spirited defence of the organisation mounted in recent days. When a possible merger with the BFI was being explored recently, the BFI board nearly fainted to a man and woman when presented with the size of the salaries at UKFC. Has anyone referred back to the public-private agency that funded British production before UKFC – British Screen – run by Simon Relph and latterly Simon Perry? As I remember during the 10 years with Perry at its head, British Screen backed 144 films, had a staff of 15 people, and an annual overhead of about £1m. Their production and development team (editorial, not including legal, accounting etc) was four people. I think UKFC, previous to their slim-down, had six for each of its three funds. I wonder if the coalition is thinking along British Screen lines to dispense the much-needed funds. Any light they can throw on future funding structures would be most welcome.

    Clare Downs

    London W9

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  • OperaPrima

    NOW WOULD BE THE PERFECT TIME TO FOCUS ON PACT'S EXTREMELY WELL THOUGHT OUT PROPOSAL:

    "A NEW BUSINESS MODEL FOR UK FILM PRODUCERS" - APRIL 2010

    JOHN MCVAY IS RIGHT ON THE MONEY IN THE TELEGRAPH THIS WEEK.

    SEE PACT REPORT SUMMARY AFTER THIS:

    UK Film Council 'was not helping to grow a sustainable British film industry'

    Film producers have criticised the UK Film Council, recently earmarked by the Coalition for closure, saying that its key functions can be carried out 'with minimal administration costs'.

    By Neil Midgley, Assistant Editor (Media)
    Published: 5:45PM BST 20 Aug 2010

    The comments have come from Pact, the UK trade association that represents independent film and TV production companies, as it outlines its own proposals for how public support for the film industry should continue after the UKFC's abolition.

    Pact says the distribution of National Lottery funding for film and the administration of the tax credit should go to existing public bodies, such as the British Film Institute, but that it is just as important to ensure that this funding is used more effectively to foster a sustainable British film industry that can attract private capital, create jobs and exports, and reinvest into creating more British films.

    The trade association says that the UKFC had three core functions: the administration of the tax credit, encouraging inward production and distributing National Lottery funds into film development and production.

    “These three core functions for development and production can and should be carried out with minimal administration costs as part of existing bodies," said Pact's chief executive, John McVay. "But what is just as crucial is that we acknowledge that funding under the Film Council was not helping to grow a sustainable British film industry, and that we now address this."

    Pact suggests that a government department, such as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, should administrate the tax credit. Under their plans, the role of the British Film Commissioner in facilitating the shooting of big-budget Hollywood films would also revert to government, with National Lottery funding administered by the BFI as a "respected figurehead".

    “Creating British businesses that can invest in British films benefits everyone – producers, writers, directors, actors and crews, and, ultimately, provides a richer, more diverse range of films for British audiences,” said Mr McVay.

    THE REPORT

    Pact's film report: A New Business Model For UK Film Producers
    Pact has launched an innovative new proposal for the public funding of UK film production, which aims to create a more sustainable film sector without the need for more public money.

    For a copy of the report click here

    If you have any questions about the report email clare@pact.co.uk.

    A summary of the report is below:

    A New Business Model for UK Film Producers

    The film industry benefits from vital public support, yet, thanks to the current business model, even for very successful films, producers are often unable to retain a fair share of the income that the film generates, leaving them, in many cases, loss-making and reliant on public subsidy.

    This is due in part to the fact that investment terms from public bodies prioritise their recoupment over producer earnings, and without their own funding, producers have little negotiating leverage with investors. For example, The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006), achieved $26m in worldwide box office revenues and a Palme D’or at Cannes, yet the production company, Sixteen Films, received just £12,000 in returns. These trends are widespread in the industry and evidenced by the UK Film Council’s recent report ‘Analysis of the Corporate Finances of SMEs in the UK Film Industry’ which showed that over half recorded independent production companies are loss making, despite their films being the amongst the most popular with audiences.

    UK film is critical to our economy and our culture but despite the best intentions of public policy to date, sustainability of the sector remains an elusive goal. Pact’s proposals aim to break the cycle of dependence, without the need for extra public money.

    Pact believes it is possible to shift the balance of responsibility away from an over-reliance on public sector financing, and thus presents realistic opportunities for entrepreneurial production companies to grow and to involve the wider private investment community.

    In order to achieve this shift, a public sector film business strategy is needed that supports the empowerment of production businesses rather than the current one that focuses much more on the direct intervention of public agencies to provide the solution.

    This report contains measures that will result in more successful independent UK film companies with healthier financial results, which will be more attractive to corporate investors and lenders and have real opportunities to become ‘investment-ready’, without any additional public money.

    No cost to the public
    The adjustments we suggest are simple and cost-neutral. This is not about seeking more funds. It is concerned with using what is already on the table to create organic growth: growth that is based upon creative and economic success rather than subsidy.

    The Pact Proposals in Summary

    • “100 Per Cent/ Recycled”
    100% of the recoupment of public investment should accrue to the UK production company, with 70% of such recouped funds being ring-fenced and only available to invest in future development and production: the Film Depository Receipt (‘FDR’) system (see below).

    • Film Depository Receipts
    The FDR system acts as a ‘lock box’ whereby 70% of monies recouped are placed, on the production company’s behalf, in an interest-bearing escrow account with a fiduciary agent such as the National Film Trustee Company. These accumulated funds may be accessed only by the production company and used only for the development and finance of future UK films being produced by that company.

    If such FDRs are not ‘cashed in’ within 5 years of their creation, then the funds revert to the public entity/entities which generated the initial investment, for further investment in development and production.

    • Tax Credit as Producer’s Equity
    100% of the tax credit should be treated as producer’s equity investment and this amount would therefore sit in the recoupment waterfall.

    • Higher Tax Credit for Low Budget Films
    We support the House of Lords Communication Committee’s proposal for the tax relief level to be raised from 20% to 30% on UK films with a budget of less than £5 million

    • Terms of Trade with Public Service Broadcasters
    A new deal structure to incorporate the following terms for licences:
    • A reduction in the length of the licence period to 5 years
    • A new ‘use it or lose it’ provision under which rights would revert to the producer if the broadcaster was not utilising its broadcast rights

    • Containment of Legal and Finance Costs
    In order to save costs and speed up decision-making the public entities should agree a pro-forma set of principal legal documents which would apply to all their films.

    Conclusion

    These proposals, taken as a whole, present a package of measures that, for the first time, represent a co-ordinated approach to public funding and intervention, in order to grow, organically and gradually, a sustainable and successful UK film industry. Sometimes it is better to have a ‘good’ idea than a ‘big’ idea, and Pact believes this report is filled with good ideas – that will work.

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  • There is much more to the UK Film Industry than film production, and the weakness of the FACT report summary above is that it says nothing about exhibition, distribution, international sales. Nor does it say anything about issues such as education and training, funding regional agencies, etc. etc. The UKFC was constructed on the basis of an all industry focus and many important things they do are being overlooked.

    I'm afraid Clare Downs is not taking account of some basic facts in her commentary. British Screen of course never administered any lottery funding, and the size of its production fund was massively smaller. If you added in the numbers employed by the Arts Council Lottery and their franchises then perhaps a more valid staffing comparison could be made.

    If the overheads for British Screen in 1999 money employing 14 people was £1m and the figures usually quoted for the UKFC with 75 people and a massively broader range of activity is £3 million in present day money, then the UKFC seems by far the leaner operation.

    Also, why on earth does someone have to hide behind a pseudonym to make a posting that mostly reprints a published FACT report?

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  • OperaPrima

    R eading Mike Goodridge's latest think piece........Mike, what you say makes a lot of sense.

    But while the UK Film Council continues its lobbying and PR spinning in order to save itself -- and whilst your sensible comment with regard to a sane future for British film are in order -- I worry that the Con/Lib alliance will just wash its hands of the UK film industry entirely.

    To have a Quango use public funds to hire the lobbying firm that advises Macdonalds and the Russian Government to "answer the tsunami of onone calls" that is coming in to the UKFC is just nonsense and a travesty and a tragedy.

    Why would anyone start a tsunami-like avalanche of phone calls to the UKFC when they stopped listening years ago.

    Their job is now to oversee an orderly transition - but no...what are they doing - they are scorching the earth in an 'apres moi - le deluge' policy.

    Your sentiments are respected - but in the current context invalid - because there is no possible forum for negociation with the new government whilst John Woodward and his team continue to oeprate against the best interests of the industry.

    So what else is new!!!!

    But good on you!!!

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