The Film Council, the UK government's newly-created film superbody, has launched a $16m (£10m) annual fund for commercial films as part of its debut package of public support measures, the Council announced today.
The commercial fund, titled the Premiere Production Fund, sits alongside a hefty fund of $8m (£5m) a year for development. Other measures include the creation of a sizeable annual pool of $8m (£5m) for innovative films and new film-makers, dubbed the New Cinema Fund.
Crucially, the Council has also pledged to invest 20% of its money across all funds in European co-productions, a move which could well see foreign-language films tapping into National Lottery cash for the first time. The 20% figure means at least $6.5m (£4.2m) a year will go to European co-productions, although this may replace European-oriented funding through British Screen Finance, the public funding body which has been integrated into the Council.
But the Council, which encompasses all public support for the film sector including lottery funding, also aims to build links with the US film industry. It has pledged to beef up the film office in Los Angeles and raise the budget of the British Film Commission in order to attract US projects to shoot in the UK. The more commercially-oriented funding policy is also likely to encourage collaborations with US production companies.
Other initiatives include the Film Training Fund, which has $1.6m (£1m) a year to train both script writers and executives, and the First Movies fund, which earmarks $1.6m (£1m) for children and young people to make low-cost films. Additionally, the council is creating a market intelligence unit to collect and analyse data on the film sector for the industry and media. The new system is to be in place by October 1.
The move towards making more commercial films is founded on scrapping the additionality clause governing lottery funding, which meant that funding for films had to be additional to other financing sources. In effect, if a company like Miramax Films showed serious interest in boarding a project as a financier, the lottery would have been unable to invest any of its own money into that film.
The Council, headed by chairman Alan Parker, chief executive John Woodward and vice-chairman Stewart Till, will now aggressively solicit projects, a major change from the rules governing former lottery administrator, the Arts Council of England. It will often board projects at an early stage of development, aiming to provide film-makers with a small amount of money to leverage more financing from other sources and secure better deals. The Council may even back slates of films from producers or directors and strike first-look deals with producers.
The Council is still to appoint executives to run the funds. These gatekeepers are to have greenlighting power, although there may be some degree of rubber stamp approval needed. The fund managers will be supported by legal and business affairs people, largely made up from the staff of British Screen.
Woodward commented: "The new film funds will be run by creative executives drawn from the film industry. Projects will be selected by these individuals so long as the finance package and the deal makes sense."
Parker said: "These measures are geared to specific priorities. The first phase is to establish a substantial industry producing stronger films."
Phase two of the Council's strategy is to focus on creating conditions to encourage integrated British film companies; increase access to venture capitol and private equity; address structural problems facing the industry; and exploit new technologies. The second series of initiatives is to be announced early next year.