BBC Films chief David Thompson has warned that the UK film industry isfacing a cash flow crisis during pre-production.

Thompson this week called for an emergency meeting with producers andfinanciers which would be open to the British industry to discuss the problem.He warned that the failure of financiers to underwrite the delicate run-up toproduction is already stopping films getting made.

"The British film industryis in a crisis over this," he said. "Everybody has put their head in the sand."

Thompson argued that the decision of Government-backed support bodythe UK Film Council not to release National Lottery cash untilall the paperwork is tied up has made it harder to convince other financiers to step in. That left BBC Films and FilmFour amongst the few placescash-flowing films during pre-production.

Thecouncil this week denied that pre-production money was drying up, saying thatit had always been tough to secure funds at that stage for independentproducers.

"Asfar as the public money that the UK Film Council invests into projects isconcerned, we have a public duty in the management of that funding," said AlanBushell, chief operating officer. "Until the financing of a film is closed,there is no protection."

But Thompson, whoseBBC Films also invests public money as part of the BBC, added that thesituation had been exacerbated by UK's tax relief mechanism, Section 48. Heargued that the complexity of deals involving the tax relief was delayingfinalising the paperwork and releasing production cash.

"The whole legalthing has gone out of control," he said.