Producers and industry execs cheer UK Film Council’s new fund setup and executive appointments; hopeful that operations will be ‘more effective.’

There has been a generally upbeat response from producers and industry figures toward the UK Film Council’s new-three year plan, although some have expressed wariness about how the new £15 million Film Fund will operate in practice.

Free Range’s Kevin Loader welcomed the appointments of Natascha Wharton, Lizzie Francke and Chris Collins as production and development executives alongside the fund’s previously announced head, Tanya Seghatchian. [Seghatchian has already sent an open letter to industry contacts offering further details of today’s anouncement.]

“The producing community will be very pleased with the appointments,” Loader said. “They’re all people who have some experience of producing which does make an enormous difference. They are people who understand how the development and production processes work. That’s a huge advantage when you’re having creative discussions and business and timetable discussions with them.”

Their varied backgrounds will help as well. “I respect that team and I think they represent wide experience, from alternative to mainstream. There is a real passion there,” BBC Films’ Creative Director Christine Langan said of the new team of gatekeepers.

Katherine Butler, Senior Commissioning Executive at Film4, added: “We’re excited about working with such an experienced and passionate team, and believe this new structure can only be positive for the UK film industry. We see this as a fantastic opportunity for the UKFC to build and innovate with the rest of the UK industry in a challenging but dynamic time of change.

Producers are keen to discover just how much emphasis the Fund will place on first- and second-time filmmakers and experimental work — and what implications that will have for more commercial and mainstream work. They also what to know precisely which executives to approach with their projects.

Origin Pictures’ David Thompson said. “Given the people who’ve been selected, led by Tanya, the signs are pretty encouraging for a new invigorated and retooled Film Council which is posied to be more effective in these very difficult times.” Still, Thompson and other producers want to learn as soon as possible how decisions will be made.

Others agreed there could be a challenging transition as producers seek to negotiate the new funding structure.

“There are still many details to be nailed down as to which proportion of the funds will be given to which things. We are still some way along from finding what the true picture will be,” Loader agreed.

The announcement that UKFC Chairman Tim Bevan is to chair a think tank to identify ways to grow UK film companies of scale has also been welcomed by producers.

However, some producers have pointed out that growing “companies of scale” has been an aspiration of public film policy for many years — and clearly hasn’t yet been widely achieved in spite of such initiatives as the Lottery Production Franchises and the super-slate development deals.

John McVay, head of producers’ trade body PACT, commented: “The Film Council has done a fantastic job in many ways, building audiences, getting new talent, funding film — what has not happened in the last 10 years is that we haven’t seen the emergence of commercially sustainable UK film production companies. We’ve seen a lot of public money used to not much structural change.”

Loader added in agreement: “What we’ve seen is that the great interventions from the top down don’t necesaarily deliver the sustainability that everybody is seeking.”

McVay said that he welcomed Bevan’s return to the issue. “It is clearly a recognition that it’s the one part of the jigsaw that hasn’t happened. We do have some fantastic independent film producers who make fantastic films but when you look at them as businesses, most of them are loss making. They have poor access to working capital. They don’t much IP [intellectual property]. The fact they’ve managed to survive for 10 years is a tribute to their determination and chutzpah.”

The PACT boss said that UKFC’s producer equity initiative, enabling producers to share in UKFC equity recoupment corridors was an important step. Producer Iain Smith also applauded that move: “The equity share scheme is very fair and is something that perhaps should have happened before now,” he said.

Mark Batey, chief executive of the Film Distributors’ Association, applauded the commitment that 100% of recoupment from the Prints & Advertising Fund — which widens and supports the distribution of selected specialised films and British films — will, like the Film Fund, top up that fund’s budget. This move comes in the wake of the news that the P&A Fund’s budget has been cut from £4 to £2 million.

What is apparent from a range of producers have broadly welcomed the UKFC’s new plans. “Clearly, the Film Council had to adapt itself to the new age, both in terms of cutting costs and positioning itself for the major changes in the movie world, I think this is a pretty considered and effective response,” David Thompson said.

Iain Smith was also mostly bullish: “My response is that this is a positive announcement, given the belt tightening that is having to go on in all areas of public support. I think the reorganising of the film fund is timely and intelligent and should produce results, especially under Tanya Seghatchian who is an excellent executive.

Smith continued: “In the wider context, I think we are facing unprecedented change in film as in every other ‘content’ industry (especially your own) and new pathways will have to be found to longer term solutions. Tim Bevan is clearly facing those challenges with fortitude, and I welcome this announcement wholeheartedly.”