Vaizey apologises for ruining the industry’s summer with the shock announcement to close the UK Film Council, but says there is a “good story” currently in the UK film industry.
UK Culture Minister Vaizey was in upbeat mood about the overall picture for British film funding, addressing an audience of film financiers, producers and distributors at Screen International’s Film Summit 2010 in London today. (Full video is below on ScreenDaily.com).
Hailing Channel 4’s decision this week to raise its investment in film from £10 million to £15 million, Vaizey noted that “if you take a step back, you’ve got £100-110 million in tax credit funding available for British films, £8-10 million from the BBC, now £15 million for five years from Film4 and a lottery production fund currently worth £15 million that is going to increase next year and the year afterward. I think that is a very good story to tell.”
The bullish mood came in one of his first speeches to the industry since the Government’s decision in late July to abolish the UK Film Council. In a somewhat joking tone, he did say: “I am very sorry that we ruined your August.”
Vaizey said that “overall Lottery money will increase to about £40 million in about two years time” and promised that, along with investment in training and skills, “in terms of pounds, shilling and pence, there will be significantly more lottery funding available to invest in homegrown British films.”
The Minister pointed that the Government had successfully “secured the Film Tax Credit,” which he described as “a very, very important tool for inward investment.” In what appeared to be a reference to the work
of the British Film Commissioner, he said that “the Government remained committed to “maintaining a presence in Los Angeles so that we engage and talk with the Studios.”
However, close to three months after the late July decision to axe the Film Council, his address was short on substance about how and when the Government intends to fill the vacuum. “Before the end of the year” was all he would say about when the Government’s plans for film are likely finally to crystallise.
Vaizey announced that the Government will be holding a biannual “Ministerial film forum” at which Ministers can engage directly with key figures from the film industry. “Provided we can have an open forum at which people can speak their minds, I think it will be more than a talking shop,” he said.
Reflecting a widespread concern among British producers, Vaizey called on Sky to up its commitment to British movies. “It would be fantastic if an organisation like Sky, one of our most successful British broadcasters, could start to consider if it could start its own film production fund.”
Amid speculation that film lottery money for production might be channelled through either BBC Films or Film4, Vaizey reiterated that the Government hadn’t yet made a decision about where the lottery money would go. “We’ve talked a lot to the industry. We’ve heard a lot about how the industry would like to have three sources of funding, three gateways.”
In response to a question from the floor, the Minister insisted that the decision to axe the UK Film Council was taken on financial, not political, grounds.
“I certainly didn’t have it in for the Film Council. Nor did [Culture Secretary] Jeremy Hunt. And nor did the Prime-Minister,” Vaizey said. He added that the decision was not “personal” and that the Government had wanted to get the decision out before the end of the Parliamentary session at the end off July - hence the timing.