The UK film industry has generally welcomed the news of the potential reorganisation of the UK Film Council, describing the major changes as “producer friendly”.
“It is a very positive thing that money recouped by the UKFC on successful films will go back into the production fund, as it is an incentive for producers to come up with commercially successful projects,” says Robert Bernstein of Ecosse Films, who produced Sam Taylor Wood’s Nowhere Boy.
Paul Raphael of Starfield Productions, who produced the 2007 drama about the Lebanon war Under the Bombs added he was “glad to see that the focus is on helping producers. It shows that the people having the discussions understand the realities we are all facing.”
However, there are concerns over how the new single Film Production Fund will be managed. “What we don’t know if the full extent of the changes in the infrastructure. Hopefully the UKFC will refine and simplify their bureaucratic practises because everyone would welcome that,” said Paul Webster of Kudos Productions, who is currently producing Rowan Joffe’s Brighton Rock with the help of UKFC funding.
Christopher Granier-Deferre of production company Possion Rouge Pictures, who produced the 2008 thriller The Hide, added: “The merging of funds is a fairly cosmetic move. It should be more about re-evaulating how the fund is run. It should be a democratic and transparent process, as to how the films are supported.”
However he welcomed the producer equity scheme, saying it “was a great way to rewards producers success”.
What is known about the new Fund is that it will be managed by one ‘head’, supported by three senior executives with distinct, creative roles. All will be appointed by April 2010. Sally Caplan, the present head of the Premiere Fund, is due to leave her position in May 2010 at the end of her five-year contract.
The existing heads of the New Cinema Fund and the Development Fund –Lenny Crooks and Tanya Seghatchian respectively– will be eligible to apply for one of the four positions. The posts will also be open to external candidates.
Internal consultation at the UKFC is now taking place on the 22 potential job losses.
Most producers were supportive of the news the fund will be focused on first and second time directors, although Paul Raphael said “he didn’t think it should be the main consideration.”
UKFC chairman Tim Bevan explained the decision saying: “Second time film-makers are our biggest problem in this country. People make a decent first movie and then choke on their second film. It is very important to get them up and running.”
However he underlined that projects from established UK talent such as Mike Leigh, Ken Loach and Stephen Frears would not be shut-out out from UKFC funding.
One of the few announcements to draw criticism is the news the UKFC p&a fund will be halved from $6.7m (£4m) to $3.3m (£2m).
“It seems very short-sighted to cut p&a support, as UK distributors notoriously don’t like to distribute British films,” said Nigel Thomas of Matador Pictures, whose credits include the upcoming Huge directed by Ben Miller, starring Noel Clarke.
Similarly, the 20% reduction in funding for the regional screen agencies has also been greeted with dismay by some.
“Cutting regional funding is a spectacular failure of vision,” added Thomas.
“We will now look to see how we can minimise the effects of the proposed cuts in RIFE [Regional Investment Fund For England] funding on delivery to our clients and to audiences across Yorkshire and the Humber,” said Hugo Heppell, the head of production at regional agency Screen Yorkshire.
He is echoed by Debbie Williams, chief executive of East Midlands screen agency EM Media. “Rest assured EM Media will be working hard in the coming weeks and months to achieve the best possible outcome for the regional film and media sector.”
Commenting on the news that the UKFC’s Film Skills Fund had been halved, Neil Peplow, head of Skillset, said: “Skillset’s proposed cut in funding from the UKFC is disappointing, but not unexpected given the diversion of lottery money to fund the 2012 Olympics and the recent tough public funding round.”
“Inevitably, we will be looking at areas that have maximum economic impact. There will be an important focus on working in partnership to make best use of available resources to deliver training when and where it is needed,” he added.