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UPDATED Film Policy Review: Official responses from UK organisations

The UK’s leading film organisations respond to the Film Policy Review chaired by Chris Smith.

BFI

Against the backdrop of a record year for British film and film talent, we welcome this report which rightly places audiences at the heart of future UK film policy. The BFI has enjoyed a fruitful dialogue with Chris Smith, the panel, and with the industry, as we have all engaged with the development of this report which looks at the film sector completely in the round. We share the exciting ambition to drive a vibrant and prosperous future for British film and offer audiences excellence and choice. We look forward to considering the recommendations in the report and the Government’s response to it. The recommendations will help inform and define the BFI’s forward plan in support of the whole film sector.

BRITISH FILM COMMISSION

Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission and Film London, said: “I welcome Lord Smith’s report and look forward to working with the DCMS and the BFI to fully consider and implement its findings. I am delighted to see the report recognises the important work of the British Film Commission in attracting inward investment films to the UK and firmly recommends that this should be sustained and developed. And with regards to international strategy, I believe this is an area with much scope for growth and I relish the opportunity to work with our partners the BFI and the industry to drive it forward.”

Iain Smith, chair of the British Film Commission, said: “The recommendations in the Film Policy Review show an understanding that ambitious, big budget, international movies choosing to shoot in the UK play a significant role in supporting our domestic industry as well as helping to build a world-class skilled workforce, while also generating vital income for the economy. I believe that if the UK successfully services the international industry, it plays an important role in helping to develop our home grown talent and supporting a healthy and growing domestic industry. Quite simply the UK’s highly skilled film-making talent represent some of the best in the business; they are one of the UK’s greatest assets and something we must value and ensure we support and maintain.”

SKILLSET

Skillset’s Chief Executive, Dinah Caine, said: “We are delighted the panel has acknowledged that ‘skills and talent provides the backbone which underpins the success of the entire film sector in the UK’. We also welcome the recognition that a strategy for skills will ensure that our skills base continues to act as ‘a powerful incentive for inward investment, and that the indigenous film sector is able to maximise benefits to audiences’.”

The report acknowledges the successes of Skillset’s work since 1997, responding to recommendations from the previous film policy review, ‘A Bigger Picture’. Through the industry training levy, the Skills Investment Fund (SIF), and the UK film skills strategy, A Bigger Future, Skillset has achieved fundamental changes within the industry, supporting the development of accessible and affordable training and education and encouraging greater transparency.

As well as praising a ‘gold standard’ film skills strategy, the panel recognises Skillset’s role and successes working with the wider Creative Industries, where it enjoys strong industry engagement and support. In addition, the panel acknowledges the significant co-investment that Skillset has secured and the quality of their delivery.

“Today’s report makes a clear recommendation for the BFI and Skillset to build on the solid foundations of our work to maintain our industry’s competitive position in a digital age,” Caine said. “We look forward to working with the BFI, industry and all our partners to respond to all of the recommendations and develop the next phase of our UK film skills strategy.”

FILM EXPORT UK

Stephen Kelliher, the chair of Film Export UK and co-founder of Bankside Films said: “We congratulate Lord Smith and his review group for creating a comprehensive and forward-thinking policy document. Film Export UK is glad that the review acknowledges the vital role that sales companies perform in relation to the international success of British films. It is unfortunate that export is not the subject of any specific conclusions but we do welcome the recommendation that the BFI “produces and implements a robust, cohesive international strategy” and we look forward to fully engaging with it. Areas that we feel we can meaningfully inform include digital innovation, joint-ventures, piracy and the expansion of audiences through the development of new distribution platforms. As “the bedrock of this export sector” our view is that the role of our twenty-nine member companies will be absolutely integral to ensuring the success of British film with global audiences.”

PACT

The proposals will help UK companies and creatives to share in the success of UK produced films giving them access to much needed revenues which can be re-invested in UK originated feature films. This will in the long term lead to a more economically sustainable independent sector who will be not only be able to attract some of the worlds best talent but also new sources of investment.

Pact calls on then Government to support these proposals and on the BFI to move quickly to implement them and work with the industry to ensure it’s long term future.

John McVay, Pact chief executive, said “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.”

FILM DISTRIBUTORS’ ASSOCIATION

Lord David Puttnam, president of the Film Distributors’ Association: “Chris Smith and his Film Policy Review team have produced an important and well-rounded report at what is a critical time for the film industry, and we at the FDA very much welcome their recommendations for the future growth and development of UK film. 2011 was a high water mark for British films, not just because of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2The King’s Speech and The Inbetweeners, all of which broke records on their UK theatrical releases, but also because of the range and quality of British films in distribution throughout the year from Senna to Johnny English RebornWe Need to Talk About Kevin to Tinker Tailor Soldier SpySubmarine to Arthur Christmas, and many more.

“While this success should be celebrated and built upon, the film business is risky, and there are no guarantees for distributors or the producers they are representing - hence the importance of a public film policy that emphasises and examines the conditions needed to nurture and stimulate growth for film. The audience is clearly at the heart of the review and we welcome the key strategic recommendation that the BFI should balance the needs of distribution with those of production when prioritising the investment of Lottery funding for initiatives such as the proposed Joint Venture Fund, and the R&D Fund for digital innovation.

“This is smart, joined-up thinking which should stand UK audiences in good stead.  We further welcome the acknowledgement that the P&A Fund has been effective at connecting break-out films with British cinemagoers, and how important it is that this Fund be extended. We very much look forward to working with the BFI to ensure these recommendations are fully and comprehensively realised.

“’Digital’ offers new opportunities for film makers and their audiences, as well as a whole set of new challenges for the industry. 

“We welcome the review’s acknowledgement of the fundamental issues for film distributors that arise, in particular, on break-out or limited releases, where the costs of keeping films on digital screens can be higher.  If the audience for film is to grow and develop, it is important that there is sufficient flexibility in the digital value chain to maintain and develop the hugely diverse range of films that are brought to market - today and in future. 

“Finally, I hope the review will trigger a series of bold new steps in embedding the role of film in education. The Report’s clear message that everyone should have the opportunity to engage with film, and that watching, exploring, understanding and creating film is important for young people and the audience as a whole, is as admirable as it is welcome.”

BRITISH VIDEO ASSOCIATION

Lavinia Carey, Director General of the British Video Association: “The Review is an important first step in assuring the future of the British film industry. If the industry is to continue to play its role in the country’s cultural life it is essential that the Government acts to create the right conditions such as encouraging the roll out of superfast broadband and investing in British skills.  Most importantly, it is imperative that the Government’s current review of copyright does not weaken copyright law and inadvertently introduce uncertainty in a market where raising investment for British productions is already a challenge for independent film makers by reducing the value of video entertainment – so important to the financial eco-system of our film industry.

“British films dominated the UK video entertainment chart in 2011. Without being able to rely on this income, those films would not have been made.  BVA research shows that on average 47% of the revenue generated for film in the UK comes from video entertainment. We therefore welcome Lord Smith’s recommendations to ensure the sustainability of the UK’s film industry.”

FILMMAKERS’ ALLIANCE (PACT, DIRECTORS UK and WRITERS GUILD OF GREAT BRITAIN)

[We] welcome the Film Policy Review report’s emphasis on growth and its recognition of the crucial importance of producers, writers and directors to sustain a plural and commercially viable film economy.

We welcome the review’s clear intention to move film funding towards the creative entrepreneur, incentivising success across a range of British films, and serving a wide variety of audiences and tastes.

Much work is now needed – this is a transformational point and will require all stakeholders to be prepared to think creatively and radically about how to shape the future. To that end, producers, directors and writers have joined together in the Filmmakers’ Alliance to jointly move forward on the opportunities presented by the Report, and in particular how funds earmarked for reinvestment in future film development and production should be accessed and deployed.

Finally we thank Lord Smith and the entire Review panel and support team for their hard work and urge a fast track route to the adoption of the key proposals. To that end we look forward to working with the BFI to put these dynamic proposals into practice.

CHANNEL 4

Channel 4 welcomes any recommendations that support the British film industry, so it is positive to see detailed recommendations emerging across the spectrum of film sectors and disciplines in the Film Policy Review.  

With an annual budget of £15 million Film4 continues to be one of the major investors of the British film industry, with a remit to invest in high quality films with cinema audience appeal and to support the development of creative filmmaking talent. The past year has seen investment in a wide range of titles, from mainstream box office successes such as The Inbetweeners and The Iron Lady; to critically-acclaimed debut features from exciting new talent such as Tyrannosaur, Submarine and Attack the Block; and new films from some of our most distinctive British filmmakers including Danny Boyle, Kevin Macdonald, Steve McQueen, Andrea Arnold and Terence Davies. 

Channel 4 also has a commitment to showcasing British films; broadcasting them on Channel 4, the dedicated Film4 channel and on-demand service 4OD. We are also committed to sharing film knowledge to our audiences through specialist programming such as Film4’s recent British Connection season and More4’s The Story of Film: An Odyssey series, and through our dedicated film website Film4.com.

We look forward to reading the report’s recommendations in detail, and continuing to play our part in the future of this thriving industry.

FILM: 21st CENTURY LITERACY

[A group of film education organisations that works across British Film Institute (BFI), Film Club, Film Education, First Light and Skillset]

Kate O’Connor, Chair of Film: 21st Century Literacy said: “The importance of supporting and developing film education is central to many of the report’s recommendations for developing and sustaining a successful UK industry and film culture.  

“Film is already playing a crucial role in education within and outside of the curriculum in helping young people to learn about film, as well as from film, and to develop a range of skills which will help them gain employment in many different industries as well as film and the creative sector. 

“We welcome the review’s proposal that the work of Film: 21 Century Literacy should be developed further to deliver a 10-year vision for film education linked into audience development, and to coordinate the work of the film education organisations into a single offer which brings together making, watching and learning about film.  In addition, by being able to provide a one-stop destination, film education services and resources will be more widely accessible to schools, teachers and young people, the next generation of audiences, filmmakers and citizens. We look forward to working closely with the BFI to realise these recommendations.”

FILMCLUB

FILMCLUB welcomes the importance placed in the Review on education and the recommendation that a curated engagement with film be made available in every school. FILMCLUB has found that a regular weekly interaction with film helps young people interpret the world around them and represents memorable learning. Our evaluations have found it also increases communication skills, literacy, confidence, engagement with school and motivation to learn. 

The current infrastructure of a digital platform to support film clubs in schools has proven to be a low cost method of delivering cultural engagement at scale.  We would like to see the recommendation for a coordinated approach to explore and enjoy film build on activity that has been proven to be effective. 

There is firm evidence that if young people are encouraged to engage with film on a regular basis they will become consumers of film in adult life. FILMCLUB - which currently has close to 250,000 young people meeting each week to watch, discuss and review film – has seen a dramatic impact on audience development. The recommendation in the Review, which calls for the widest possible range of audiences to have access to a broad and rich range of film, is therefore welcomed. 

Mark Higham, FILMCLUB chief executive, said: “We are excited about the opportunity the Review presents for the role of film in education and the recognition that this should be available in every school in the UK. FILMCLUB is nurturing a new generation of passionate film-hungry young people who will act as vital consumers and audiences contributing to the positive health of the UK film industry and exhibition sector. We look forward to working with the BFI and other industry partners to deliver the goals of the Review.”

CREATIVE ENGLAND

Creative England welcomes the findings of the Film Policy Review and its view that good strategy for the film industry must start with the audience, which is to say the public. 

We welcome the Review’s recognition that British audiences want the chance to see more British films and its recognition that the brilliant creative talent that drives our industry can be found in every part of the country, not just London.

We welcome the Review’s recognition of Creative England’s role in building new talent and new businesses for the future.

We welcome the recognition that talent and diversity of talent are best served when strategic and funding decisions made as close to the beneficiaries as possible - an acknowledgment of our role in connecting what happens locally with what happens nationally.

Finally, we welcome the recognition that partnership and innovation must be encouraged and that we need more research, better analysed, if the British film industry is to thrive in the multi-platform future.

Creative England Chairman John Newbigin said: “These are solid and practical recommendations to Government that will be good for creative talent and good for audiences in every part of the country, not just London.  We look forward to working in partnership with the BFI to make them happen.”

Creative England CEO Caroline Norbury said: “We are encouraged to see so many of the suggestions that Creative England made to the Film Policy Review reflected in the independent panel’s report and recommendations to government. Many of these views were expressed to us by the regional film industry during our own consultation in 2011; for example the importance of supporting a diverse range of talent at a local level, wherever it comes from, and the need to balance Lottery spend across the country.

“We are heartened to see recognition of best practise demonstrated by key regional initiatives that Creative England is now seeking to build on, such as provision of local mentoring and expertise,  microbudget initiatives such as iFeatures, support for cross art venues and creative networks, and the achievements of the Screen Heritage UK initiative. We look forward to working with the BFI and key partners across the UK to put these recommendations into practise.”

WOMEN IN FILM AND TV

WFTV Chief Executive, Kate Kinninmont, said: “We are excited by the panel’s review and look forward to seeing how the government and BFI respond. It was reassuring to see the panel acknowledged that only 12% of writers and 13% of directors of British films are female and we look forward to working with industry partners to continue to address this.”

WFTV also finds it encouraging that the panel highlighted the importance of training to ensure that the UK’s workforce continue to be amongst the most highly skilled in the world. Kinninmont added: “with women still a minority in many of the craft and technical roles, such as sound, camera and lighting, we hope that the report’s recommendations may lead to more initiatives to encourage women to enter these fields.”

THE CHILDREN’S MEDIA FOUNDATION

In particular the CMF welcomes the new focus on children’s films, support for animation and the invigoration of the film education policy and practice.

Anna Home OBE, Chair of the Childrens’ Media Foundation, formerly CEO of the Children’s Film and Television Foundation and Head of Children’s Programmes at the BBC, said: 

“A Future for British Film” stresses the importance of the children’s and family audience, and recognises that it is underserved by the tiny proportion of British independent children’s films produced in recent years.  We endorse its recommendation that the BFI recognises the ‘unique challenges of animation development’ and supports ‘the development and production of independent British family films for children and their parents or carers’.

The Smith Report refers to the power of film in promoting social cohesion.  The Children’s Media Foundation agrees that screen experiences are vital contributions to young people’s development as rounded individual and engaged members of society, connected to their own culture.  

The Report also places a value on film education, which is something the Children’s Media Foundation fully supports.  

We look forward to working with the BFI and other interested parties in film production, distribution and education on a comprehensive plan for children and film, which recognises the cultural and social importance of both archive and contemporary film and which makes them accessible to all children and young people.”

CINEMA EXHIBITORS ASSOCIATION

Chief Executive Phil Clapp said: “On behalf of cinema operators across the country, the CEA welcomes the hard work and thought that has clearly gone into the Panel’s comprehensive report.

In particular we are pleased to see the Panel’s recognition of the economic, social and cultural importance of the UK cinema sector, and the crucial role that many cinemas - both multiplexes and smaller independent operators – play in their local community.

The report rightly concludes that the way forward in supporting British film is primarily through greater efforts to increase the supply of high quality homegrown productions making their way to the big screen.

As the report acknowledges, the success of The King’s Speech, The Inbetweeners Movie and the final Harry Potter film, 2011clearly demonstrates that there is an audience for well-made and engaging British films. The challenge now is to stimulate and meet that demand.

The potential for greater flexibility of programming offered by the ongoing digitisation of UK cinemas should benefit audiences for all types of film, but we look forward to working with Government and the BFI to ensure appropriate support for the report’s recommendations around promoting and showcasing British films in particular as part of that transformation.

We are particularly delighted to see the Panel confirming its support for proposal to make the recording of a film in a cinema theatre a specific criminal offence. Given the importance of cinemas as a source of stolen film content his is something the industry has advocated for more than a decade, and which during that time has been a frequent call from both industry and Government working groups. It is very much hoped that Government will now action this as soon as possible.”

SECRET CINEMA/FUTURE SHORTS

Fabien Riggall, Founder and Creative Director of Secret Cinema and Future Shorts said: “We welcome the Film Policy Review’s recommendation to start with the audience. Since 2003, Secret Cinema, Future Cinema and Future Shorts have built an audience of nearly 200,000 people, to bring back a sense of wonder, community and cinema culture, without any government or institutional support.Secret Cinema’s current production has seen over 19,000 people attend a secret film in a secret London location to view what’s widely regarded as the greatest British film of all time. Our emphasis has been on the collective experience of film-going and cinema culture alongside production and distribution.”

FILM AGENCY FOR WALES

Suzanne Alizart, Interim Chief Executive of the Film Agency for Wales said: “We warmly welcome the focus of the report on making the connections and partnerships in the sector more effective for private and public investment alike. We take heart in the recommendations that recognise the critical role Nations and Regions will have to play alongside the BFI to deliver on the report’s ambitions and look forward to sharing our expertise and knowledge to help realise them.

“Placing the audience at the heart of policy, focusing on talent development and ensuring the broadest range of audiences have access to the best of cinema is at the heart of the Film Agency’s activity, and we look forward to reflecting on its content with our industry and policy partners.

“The report highlights film as a powerful way to build social inclusion and creative skills: it suggests a universal education offer enabling all schoolchildren to benefit from engaging with film. We look forward to deepening our relationship with Film Club and Welsh Government in this respect and to continue to support the development of film literacy and enjoyment in Welsh schools.

“We look forward to continued work with our funding partners in Welsh Government, the Arts Council of Wales and the BFI to highlight Wales’ contribution to the UK film industry, and facilitate the emergence of a viable and sustainable Welsh film sector.”

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