Puttnam also calls for BFI to create special events and media promotions to stimulate audiences.
Lord Puttnam, chairman of the Film Distributors’ Association, has called for an increased Prints and Advertising Fund to be made a core part of a new ADF – Audience Development Fund.
Speaking during a wide-ranging keynote speech at an FDA event in central London today, to an audience that included distributors and financiers as well as Film Policy Review chair Chris Smith, Puttnam had words of warning for the British Film Institute in its new guise as the leading agency for film.
“We’d be foolish to underestimate the enormity of the paradigm shift that faces the BFI in the year – or, perhaps more precisely, the weeks – that lie ahead,” the FDA Chairman said, about the challenge facing the Institute as it now tries to balance film culture and industry demands.
Borrowing economic language, Puttnam went on to prescribe some “quantitative easing” for the film industry. He said the BFI should “work with the industry to commission in-year activity to stimulate consumption. There should be no reason at all why a programme of special events and media promotions can’t be created within the next six months. This requires the release of some available – not extra – funds. In today’s parlance, some ‘quantitative easing’ to boost the local film business.”
“If there’s a National Book Week, why can’t there be a National Cinema Week, or something similar?,” Puttnam continued, making reference to the “British Film Year” campaign in 1985 that he, Lord Attenborough and others championed fervently at a time when UK cinemgoing was in the doldrums. “Film distributors devise hefty multi-media campaigns all the time, and injecting Lottery funds this year could have a valuable, measurable impact in 2011/12 – just as the original P&A scheme, created by the late UK Film Council and maintained by the BFI, has helped significantly to extend UK audiences for specialised and break-out films.”
Puttnam argued that the UK film industry is at a “pivotal” point as it awaits the results of the Film Policy Review.
“It’s crystal clear that over the next four or five years, as the new policy runs its course, the very nature of our film economy will shift significantly. For UK cinema to remain as relevant and vibrant as it is today, the key is to nurture its consumers, taking nothing for granted, never for one moment assuming that content and audiences will somehow connect by accident, luck or osmosis. The key lies in appreciating how that demand is created in the first place.”
Puttnam also made a renewed plea for education to be integrated within Audience Development and “placed front and centre of the whole programme.”
“I hope the Film Policy Review will trigger a bold advance in the place of film within education. We need to seek change that brings more clarity and coherence to what happens in classrooms, after school and outside school altogether,” Puttnam said. “A systematic approach to audience development, with education at the core, delivering broader and deeper opportunities for children to watch, explore, understand and even create films and media as an important element of a strong, knowledge-based, cultural education.”
Puttnam emphasised the key role that distributors still play, even as the industry moves into the digital era. He also highlighted the economic benefits of continuing UK government support of the industry.
“If the Government’s immediate and over-riding priority is growth, and they are in the midst of reforming policy for film – the most influential of the creative industries which in totality account for 7% of our GDP – then stimulating demand is not an optional extra, it’s utterly essential,” Puttnam said, telling his audience: “you’re at the cutting edge of the most successful sector this country has.”