Film trade bodies and organisations were scrambling Friday to complete their submissions to the UK Government’s Film Policy Review consultation.
Although the consultation has been running for 12 weeks, the combination of summer vacations and early autumn festivals like Venice and Toronto has left several bodies racing against time to make their submissions before the September 9 deadline.
Contacted on Friday, such organizations as Sky, BBC Films and the British Screen Advisory Council (BSAC) all confirmed they were making submissions but were yet to finalise them.
What is clear is that the industry-led panel chaired by Lord Chris Smith [pictured] is going to have a mountain of evidence to sift through. The panel will have to weigh up the claims of many different interest groups.
Certain organisations were unwilling to reveal their areas of concern in advance of the Film Policy team having a chance to work through their submissions. Others were ready to flag up their concerns.
For example, Animation Alliance UK today wrote to Lord Chris Smith to raise its concerns about the lack of public policy, strategy and support for independent animation. The Alliance made what it called a “straightforward plea” for an acknowledgement of the importance of cultural animation production to the UK.
Nik Powell, Head of the National Film and Television School, revealed that, in its submission, the NFTS is calling for its current funding to be sustained but is also asking for a one-off capital investment of £10 million in the school over the next decade. “What we are saying is that talent development and skills are fundamental to the future success of the British film industry,” Powell said. He said that the NFTS and the London Film School had written a joint letter to the Film Review Committee saying “we urgently need more capital investment in skills and talent development in the UK.”
Adrian Wootton, CEO of Film London & the British Film Commission said: “Film London and the British Film Commission have each provided a submission for the Film Policy Review. Across both we want to ensure the UK maintains its world class infrastructure and talent and we are looking forward to developing a domestic and international strategy with Government, the BFI and our industry partners. The BFC submission focuses on the importance of inward investment and the continuation of the tax credit. Whereas the Film London submission is more expansive, reflecting our wide remit, reinforcing the BFC’s points around inward investment, but also emphasizing the importance of the UK’s need for a joined up export and talent development strategy.”
BSAC chief-executive Fiona Clarke-Haxton stated that there was no agreement between BSAC members about PACT’s “locked box” proposal. (This is the idea that 100% of the public investment should be recouped by the producer. 70% of that money would then go into a lock box. 30% would be used by the producer to keep going until the financing had been secured for the next project.
BSAC’s submission will reflect the differing views on this issue. However, BSAC members are united in calling for extra resources to be devoted to development. The BSAC submission will also argue for the “empowerment” of the Fund Heads to back projects and decide which established and new talent to work with.
Some sceptical voices have been raised about what the review will achieve. “I am certainly old enough to remember this as being a fairly cyclical bit of navel gazing…I can’t imagine anything useful will come out of it,” Matador Pictures’ Nigel Thomas said. “It’s really allocating jobs for the boys in the public sector and deciding which civil servants are going to tell you what films you can make rather than dealing with it (the British film sector) as a commercial industry.”
Thomas, who said he wouldn’t be making a submission himself, joined calls for greater investment in development and distribution. “The production bit is fine but nobody has enough time to develop and the distribution system is broken.”
The Matador boss also argued for an automatic system of public investment in production. “Then, all the decisions, all the risk, all the mistakes are in the hands of the people actually making the films.”
Director, producer and digital pioneer Don Boyd (who is planning a last-minute submission) called for radical thinking from the DCMS. “If they (the DCMS) are going to treat the review seriously, they must come up with a completely revolutionary and radical approach to the future of cinema in Britain. I would welcome any review dedicated to that,” Boyd remarked. “Having seen what they’ve asked people to respond to, they’re clearly starting from a very old fashioned and conservative standpoint…what they’ve set out is so recognizable that one can only assume that they’re beginning to approach it (the review) from the position of an old methodology. That would be such a mistake. I hope that the (Culture Secretary) Minister (Jeremy Hunt), who is somebody I have great respect for, and (Ed) Vaizey (Minister for Culture), whom I also have a great respect for, are going to see this as an opportunity to do something much broader than what would seem to be the perspective a very conservative BFI Board of Governors is demonstrating.”