Office of the British Film Commissioner moves from the UKFC to Film London tomorrow as part of restructuring; advisory board to have about 20 members.
Veteran producer Iain Smith has been tapped to head the new British Film Commmission Advisory Board at Film London.
The move comes as the office of the British Film Commissioner moves into Film London as of tomorrow (as part of the DCMS plan post-UK Film Council).
Film London chief executive Adrian Wootton told Screen that Smith was ideal to lead the board: “Iain has the respect right across the board, right across the industry. He’s been there, seen it, done it. As a producer and line producer he has worked on and brought in films to the UK. He understands everything about the infrastructure of the UK film industry. And also he has an incredible dedication to public service.”
Smith, a Glasgow-born graduate of the London Film School (where he is now a patron), has worked on films ranging from Chariots of Fire and Local Hero to Cold Mountain and The A-Team. He also currently serves as chair of the Skillset Film Skills Council and chair of the UK Film Industry Training Board, is on the advisory board of the Edinburgh Skillset Screen and Media Academy, and is a director of the Children’s Film and Television Foundation.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey had announced in late November that inward investment activities would move to Film London (that news came as Vaizey unveiled the blueprint for the BFI to take over most of the former activities of the UKFC). “We’re delighted to be able to promote and work on inward investment for the whole of the UK,” Wootton noted. “We’re excited to support and work with the British Film Commission office. As Film London, we’ve always worked closely with the studios and with locations, so it’s logical for us to extend that remit.”
Wootton noted that it was favourable to inherit the inward investment duties at a time when business is booming. In 2010, inward investment generated almost £1bn, up 15% from 2009. “It’s great to be taking on this responsibility at a time that you’re building on success. We’ve got a stable tax credit and a supportive government that wants the film industry to succeed.”
Iain Smith told Screen that inward investment could now move to the next level: “Most people in the business know what Britain does and how we work, and what castles they can shoot in and so forth. What we need to do now is that more sophisticated process of winning productions that might otherwise go to Eastern European or Canada.”
Specifics about the future of the British Film Commision at Film London will be decided in coming weeks, after the first board meeting scheduled for April 11.
For instance, the future role of the British Film Commissioner, the post currently occupied by Colin Brown, will be up for discussion. “At this moment in time, we’re still working things through. Colin Brown is transferring over on April 1 and working with us on the transition,” Wootton said.
Smith added: “How we operate, do we operate in the same way, do we change things? That is all up for discussion,” he said. “We have an office in Los Angeles and an office here, and clearly with quite savage budget cuts something will change, and we want to make sure that it’s as effective as possible.”
Wootton confirmed that for now the two-person office in Los Angeles would remain intact, led by Andy Weltman. Obviously Hollywood relationships are key, he said: “The studios want a seamless transition and that’s what we’re giving them. We’re not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”
There are expected to be about 20 organisations represented on the BFC board, which will include BFI director Amanda Nevill, Film London chair David Parfitt, the national screen agencies of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales; the English regions via Creative England chair John Newbigin; UK Screen Association, the Production Guild, producers group Pact CEO John McVay, the Federation of Entertainment Unions as well as businesses such as Warner Bros and Pinewood Studios. “It will be a real cross section of major public agencies and the key industry players,” Wootton said. “I think it’s an incredibly powerful and influential group of people. They all have inward investment on the forefront of their minds.”
Smith said that the industry participation was crucial. “We’re very anxious that the industry is decently represented in all its forms. It’s very, very important that the industry group hears the opinions of what should be done and shouldn’t be done, and to contribute to that discussion.”
The BFC department is separate to the rest of Film London but will still report into Wootton as chief executive. “Considering how important a responsibility this is, I’m going to be spending a lot of time on it,” he said. “I’m very concerned to make sure that inward investment carries on to the UK.”
(See more with Smith here.)