UK producers group PACT is defending plans to streamline the organisation in the midst of funding woes.
But some film producersfear their interests could be pushed aside in a leaner organisation which theybelievecould concentrate attention on television.
The elected Pact Council approved a new strategic plan at its final meeting in December 2007, which includes an overhaul and re-evaluation ofspecialist standing committees (including TV Policy and Film) and likelycreation of more project-specific experts groups.
PACT has used such groups for issues such as terms of trade, children's programming and VOD rights. The Council also called for a streamlined management structure, which will mean cuts in staff.
But a number of producers have told ScreenDaily that they have serious concerns about the changes, though most did not want to be named.
Film Policy Group member Kevin Loader, of Free Range Films, producers of Venus and The History Boys, spoke for many when he said: 'Film producer members of PACT are unhappy about the changes proposed by the PACT Executive in response to Council's directive to reduce costs and overhead.
'While we recognise the reasons why a leaner, smaller organisation is necessary, many of us feel that the world of feature film finance, and the particular environment of feature film production, require specialist and expert support.
'Under the old structure we felt we were just beginning to make headway in our goal of building a sustainable film industry. To some of us, it feels as though the television producers, having benefitted from from PACT's success in negotiating terms of trade which have made many of them rich, are pushing their film colleagues out of the door at the worst possible time.'
But John McVay, chief executive of PACT, told ScreenDaily that any suggestion that film was being neglected to concentrate on TV were 'an absolute mistruth.'
Hesaid the organisation faced a financial crisis recently after Channel 4 and Channel 5 removed their longstanding subsidies to the group in 2007.
As a result, PACT had to increase fees for itstelevision members by 500-750%. Larger TV companies have been asked to pay around $150,000 (£75,000) annually compared to $19,460 (£10,000) in 2006.
Film members' annual fees, however, were frozen at about $974 (£500) for most UK independent producers to $19,480 (£10,000) for US studios.
But McVay said industry consolidation still left a predicted budget deficit for 2008, which is why the Council had to evaluate viable ways to keep the organisation running with less money.
McVay said restructuring was being currently implemented, and wouldn't divulge specific numbers of staff to be trimmed nor specific staffers who might stay or go. He did clarify that there would be 'significant reduction in our headcount and reduction in our overhead.'
Speaking about film producers' concerns specifically, McVay said: 'In terms of film members, the structures will change but nobody is taking resources away from them. Going forward there is no one person working in one sector. Everybody is experiencing change.'
PACT services nine sectors, from television and film to animation and interactive media. McVay estimated that less than 10% of PACT's members were from the film sector with TV being a much bigger sector in the wider UK market at large.
Loader, however, noted that some film members felt they were being pushed out. 'If the industry is on a path towards convergence, it would be much better if could keep the organisation intact - as we expect to have an increasing number of shared interests in the future - as it is, we in the film membership are now seriously having to reflect on our position.'
Ken Loach's longtime producer, Rebecca O'Brien of Sixteen Films, is serving as acting chair of the film committee while the chairwoman, Andrea Calderwood of Slate Films, is busy with a film shoot. O'Brien had no comment to make.
Another UK-based producer who has also worked on a number of international projects, who is not currently a PACT member, advised film producers to band together independently: 'I do believe that we should take some advice from the French and that active producers in the UK must come together to be active lobbyists on our own behalf and not depend on Pact or the Film Council.'
McVay reitrated that PACT had to serve all its paying members. 'Critically because we are now 100% directly financed by members money, we've got to be sure to deliver value to that,' he said. 'This is not a question of structures, this is a question of are we able to deliver the objectives of what people want us to do. Judge us on how we do that going forward.'
James Spring, managing director of Ealing Studios, added: 'On the facilities side of the business we are members of UK Screen (formerly UK Post) and I think the rapid growth and level of expertise of this organisation is what we should be emulating on the production side.
'Some years ago on both the television and film side PACT was criticised for its failure to represent global interests (ie small medium and large entities) on television great strides have been made and latterly film has secured input from larger companies as well as individual producers and this has increased it knowledge base and influence within the industry.'