The UK's production community has issued an urgentcall to public funding body the UK Film Council to revise its ambitious"Slate Development Scheme." A strongly worded statement circulated byproducers' trade body PACT has expressed fears that the Film Councilplans will "destabilise the market."

PACT's release -issued after a special meeting of itsmembers on Friday - will come as a blow to the Film Council, which was holdingmeetings with producers throughout last week in a bid to reassure them theSlate Funding scheme was viable.

"The overwhelming majority of people at the meetingexpressed serious concerns about the scheme as currently constituted. However,the UK Film Council's goals of improving the quality and number of filmsachieving distribution are widely supported," Margaret Matheson, chair ofthe Pact film policy group, stated.

The Film Council has vigorously defended the scheme and hasquestioned the timing of PACT's statement, just two months before the10th September cut-off for applications. "Our reaction to the PACT pressrelease is surprise. We can't quite understand why, at this late stage,after all of these discussions, they have now decided to bring representativesto us to discuss these widespread concerns," a Film Council spokespersontold "We havespent a great deal of time making sure that this slate funding (proposal) wasas watertight as possible."

The idea behind the so-called "super slate" schemeis to award eight applicants (slate companies) amounts ranging from between£250,000 per year to £500,000 per year for up to three years,subject to the annual performance review for each year. The winning applicantsare required to match any public funding they receive. They can use up to 20%of the public funding they receive for overheads. 30% of the annual total slatefund must go to third parties.

Producers, sales companies and distributors are beingencouraged to herd together in joint ventures, just as they did during therancorous 1997 battle to win lottery-funded film production franchises. But therules governing the awards are complex and PACT members are now voicing concernabout such matters as inflexibility over matching funding, the required scriptto screen conversion rates, working capital repayment and exclusivity. Meanwhile, sales agents have suggestedthat their involvement during the early stages of development - arequirement of the scheme - would be relatively meaningless.

The Film Council has agreed to meet up with PACT to discussthe issue later this week.