British producershave given an enthusiastic response to two new measures that the UK FilmCouncil (UKFC) is putting into place with effect from April 15.
The first is totry to ensure that producers using funding from UKFC do not defer "theirindividual fees and/or production company overheads." Stating that the UKFCwould do all it could to prevent co-financiers from pressing for thisconcession, UKFC chief executive John Woodward has called deferrals "a practicewhich is self-defeating and contributes nothing in terms of sustainabilitywithin the production sector."
The secondmeasure concerns the vexed issue of the cash-flowing of production costs. Inthe past, the UKFC has been advised that no part of its production funding canbe awarded before "financial closure" on a film. This has often led to Britishproducers having to cash-flow projects during pre-production out of their ownpockets.
In a letter toproducers' association PACT, Woodward has confirmed that following discussionswith the Government, the Film Council will now be able "to take a higher riskapproach" in relation to UKFC's Premiere and New Cinema Funds.
"For a trialperiod, we will have the discretion to advance a proportion of our productionfinance award by way of pre-flowing cashflow," Woodward wrote.
This facilitywill not be an automatic entitlement. Given that the Film Council is investingpublic funds, it remains understandably wary about backing 'unclosed' movieswhich may collapse before completion. Nonetheless, the plan now if for UKFCexecutives to make "a judgement call" on a project by project basis.
"I think this isa very welcome development and should mean that producers will no longer haveto bear the risk alone of pre-production cashflow," said Andrew Eaton ofRevolution Films. "Obviously it has to be at the discretion of the UKFC andthey will have to be happy that things are progressing as they would like on aparticular project before they will advance any cashflow. But this is also true for people likeBBC Films and FilmFour who have often advanced cashflow before closing."
"I might go sofar as to say that this reflects the UKFC's new-found approach to achieving asustainable British film industry by working with producers in the mostpractical and supportive ways," said producer Andy Paterson of ArcherStreet. "British producers of eventhe most successful independent films have historically struggled to securerevenues from their films. This isone significant way the UKFC can help to level the playing field and enablethose producers to build businesses and become major contributors to the UKboth culturally and economically."
Tim Willis, headof film at PACT, was likewise striking an upbeat note. "This is anotherpositive step for producers. The unambiguous support for eliminating deferralsand the helpful approach to pre-production cashflowing are very welcome,"Willis said.