Industry experts bullish on policy report but say that the BFI has a huge job ahead to deliver on proposed action points.
“For the first time in a long while we’ve got a government report into our industry which is informed by the actual experiences of its practitioners rather than by some jaded ideological mantra…and we’ve had far too much of that,” said Peter Watson, CEO of production outfit Recorded Picture Company and deputy chairman of sister sales company HanWay. “It is refreshingly clear and well-informed in its analysis and courageous and pragmatic in its recommendations.”
However, Watson added: “the BFI should resist taking on all the responsibilities the report would seek to pile on its shoulders. The BFI will need to carefully define its new role and not forget its preeminent role as a cultural organisation and trustee of our national heritage. Rightly, the industry has high hopes for the new BFI but our expectations should be qualified.”
Boyd called A Future For British Film “the most important serious review of film policy ever made. It must be taken as such by government and the industry. I think Chris Smith and his panel have done a brilliant job. And now Action not Words! he primary arena of advice in relation to education is particularly vital. The British Film Industry and the DCMS could influence future generations all over the world if they could give this report ‘teeth’.”
Director Charles Sturridge (Brideshead Revisited, Lassie) was likewise full of enthusiasm for the work done by Smith and his team “in getting people to work together to make the industry more effective.”
Earlier in the day, Smith had confirmed that the Report would not be recommending that Britain should rejoin Eurimages, the (the Council of Europe Coproduction and Distribution Fund that Britain left in 1996.)
“We looked at rejoining Eurimages. One of the problems with that is you have to pay an upfront membership fee and you have to make an annual contribution without necessarily getting anything out at the other end,” Smith commented. “We thought that at a time when public finances and lottery finances are going to be pretty tight…this was probably not the highest and most immediate priority.”
Contacted by Screen, Roberto Olla, executive director of Eurimages, pointed out: “there is no such a thing as a one-off fee in Eurimages. Member States pay annual contributions to the Fund.”
It is sometimes suggested that the UK is not currently attractive as a co-production partner. The Panel acknowledged this, recommending “that the Government continues to monitor the effectiveness of the tax incentive in relation to co-production, in particular in regard to the issue of ‘used or consumed.’”
“We were asked as a panel to leave the tax credit alone and not to try to re-invent the wheel particularly as the tax credit has bedded in and is working very well,” commented panel member Libby Savill, head of Film and Television at Olswang. Savill added that as “part of a corpoduction strategy, there will be an appropriate time to look at things connected to the tax credit as it currently stands that would help coproductions be more attractive to our European partners.” Among these is the proposal the “‘used or consumed’ is applied to British tax payers working abroad.
Sales companies also welcomed the Report, albeit with caveats.
“We congratulate Lord Smith and his review group for creating a comprehensive and forward-thinking policy document. Film Export UK is glad that the review acknowledges the vital role that sales companies perform in relation to the international success of British films. It is unfortunate that export is not the subject of any specific conclusions but we do welcome the recommendation that the BFI “produces and implements a robust, cohesive international strategy” and we look forward to fully engaging with it,” said Stephen Kelliher, the Chair of Film Export UK and co-founder of Bankside Films.
His remarks were echoed by those of Samantha Horley, a founder board member of Film Export UK and the MD of sales and financing entity Salt. “We are very glad that export is on the agenda, “ Horley said but pointed out that sales companies are heavily involved in financing and production and that the full extent of their role should be recognised. “It is a really good start but there needs to be more.”
Zygi Kamasa, CEO of Lionsgate UK, applauded the work of Smith and his panel. The challenge now, Kamasa said, was to “deliver” on the recommendations.
The question now is how many of the 56 recommendations will be accepted by Government and acted on — and when.