The UK film community is starting to rally around grassroots efforts to save the UK Film Council, a day after the Department of Culture Media and Sport announced its surprising decision to abolish the UKFC.
John Underwood, who writes for the BestForFilm.com website, said he heard the news about the DCMS decision yesterday morning and decided it was “important to have somewhere for people to register their discontent.”
As of 2:30 pm GMT today, the petition had almost 7,000 signatures. (The petition can be found here.) It calls for Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to rescind the plans to abolish the UKFC.
Also, several young aspiring film-makers — Oliver Powell, Ellie O’Rourke, and Ian Wharton — have established a Save The UK Film Council page on Facebook (link here), which currently boasts more than 11,000 supporters. That group also says it is planning to stage protests in London on Aug 28 and Manchester on Aug 29. Other events could roll out across the UK, and details will be announced on the Facebook page. They are also promoting their cause on Twitter at #saveukfilmcouncil.
The aim will be to also present the Facebook support to Parliament when it reopens in September.
The UKFC is understood to be developing its own strategies in response to yesterday’s news, and should be revealing more plans in coming days.
Meanwhile, London mayoral nomination candidate Oona King condemned the decision to shut down the UKFC. She said that if she was elected, and the DCMS continued with plans to shut down the UKFC, she would aim to reinstate the work of the UK Film Council by establishing a new Mayor’s Film Department.
King said: “London’s future is as the ideas capital of the world. But the people I have spoken today have made it clear they are worried that the end of the Film Council will be a hammer blow to British creativity.
“Even if the government says it is committed to keeping the Lottery funding and film tax breaks, we don’t know how much they are prepared to invest. Meanwhile the loss of the Film Council’s expertise means that it will become harder for the major producers to film lucrative blockbusters in the UK.”
Former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw said: “The Labour Government was already reducing the number of quangos, but, like so much of what this government is doing, this appears hasty, ill thought-though and incoherent.The UK film industry has just had its best year ever, earning millions for our country, but the Government is axing the UK Film Council without saying what or who will do its important work.”
In the official ministerial statement from DCMS, Jeremy Hunt noted that “Further work will be done in discussion with the bodies concerned and other interested parties over the summer to finalise the details and timing of these proposals.
“Where bodies are to be abolished we will look to transfer key functions to other existing bodies so as to continue to support our sectors and preserve the necessary expertise. In the case of the Film Council, for example, this will include their current responsibilities for the distribution of Lottery funding for films, which will be maintained, as well as support for the certification process which is critical to the film tax relief, which will also be maintained. We will maintain a strong relationship with the British Film Institute.
“We will also continue to explore further opportunities to improve the accountability and coherence of our public bodies landscape.”