UKFC heads Tim Bevan and John Woodward to meet with government ministers Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey this afternoon to discuss the future of tax credit and Lottery funding.
UK Film Council (UKFC) chairman Tim Bevan and chief executive officer John Woodward will sit down this afternoon with Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey, the government ministers who announced that they plan to abolish the UKFC earlier this week.
“The whole thing feels like it was done without any plan,” Bevan told Screen yesterday. “But now that it’s been done, we have to roll up our sleeves and see what can be done. We have have to make sure we are involved in working out the next plan.”
He said that there has been no indication of specific matters about which Hunt and Vaizey wanted to see them.
“Maybe they do have a plan, in which case we will hear them out,” he said. “And if they don’t have a plan, we will see if we can help put that plan together.”
Bevan said that the most important issue was to ensure that the film tax credit remain in place and that the £30m of Lottery funds allotted to film stays intact. “We have to give the industry some sort of stability,” he said. “The UKFC has provided that stability.”
“What the UK industry needs is clarity about where they are going to get the resources to help make their films. And what the industry worldwide wants is clarity about the tax credit. At the first whiff that uncertainty, Hollywood studios will shoot elsewhere,” he said, confirming rumours that at least one US production has already decided to leave the UK in the wake of the announcement.
Bevan speculated that the general response of shock and dismay at the announcement on Monday had taken the government by surprise. “The volatile reaction was more than they thought, I am sure. On the one hand, people were dumbfounded but, having said that, there was an element of not being surprised as well.”
He explained that Vaizey had called him last Friday to deliver the news but, since he was in Los Angeles on business, they didn’t talk until Saturday. Bevan then called Woodward to explain the situation.
“Before the election, I had been led to believe that both Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey felt the creative industries had quite a lot to offer this country,” he says. “The last conversation I had with Ed Vaizey was about four weeks ago and he told me that he loved the Film Council and wanted to see it grow.”
Asked what he thinks happened in the meantime, Bevan shrugged. “Politics happened.”
“I do think that the debate has broadened to culture and the creative industries is a good thing. That is an important argument to have.”
As to speculation about the government’s next steps, Bevan was firm. “The notion that the lottery funding be divided between Channel Four and the BBC is an ill-conceived one. That would have Mark Thompson [director general of the BBC] and his counterpart at Channel 4 laughing all the way to Soho and would mean that they wouldn’t have to spend any of their own budget on film.”
He also suggested that the absorption of the funding mechanisms into the British Film Institute (BFI) was “not practical”. “Culture and commerce don’t belong in the same building and we discovered that from all the conversations we had about a merger. It would be an oil and water situation.”
The Arts Council, which originally administered lottery funding in the 1990s, is another option. “It’s a possibility,” he said, “but it wasn’t successful the first time round.”
Bevan said he didn’t know if the decision on the UKFC could be reversed at this stage.
“Whatever the next step, I think we need a period of time to think it through properly,” he said. “There are a great many clever people who work in the private sector here who can contribute. We need to think, talk, propose, not rush into anything. We need to see if something can be salvaged from this whole situation.”
“I don’t want to feel like we are on the back foot all the time,” he added. “This is about the future of the film industry.”