Amid signs of increasing tension between the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the UK Film Council, the DCMS has effectively accused UKFC of briefing against it — a charge that the Film Council has strongly denied.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has written to UKFC chief-executive John Woodward asking whether the Film Council has been telling the industry that the decision to close the Council is hurting inward investment and driving big international films overseas. The DCMS has now asked for a meeting with UKFC as “a matter of urgency.”
Vaizey’s letter, parts of which were quoted in today’s Independent newspaper, said: “It looks as though sources at the Film Council have been overzealously briefing in order to protect their interests.
“As a result they may be damaging the film industry that they purport to represent. This is completely wrong and I will be seeking urgent reassurances that the Film Council will promote the interests of the film industry rather than its own from now on.”
The immediate flashpoint appears to be the latest Underworld vampire movie, Underworld 4, which will now be shooting in Vancouver rather than Britain. Speaking to ScreenDaily, a DCMS source said that the Department had heard “rumours within the industry that there had been some briefing that had been going attributed to sources at the Film Council suggesting that the films were falling through because of the decision to abolish the Film Council.”
The DCMS said that it looked into these rumours and that they turned out to be untrue. “We spoke to the production company who reassured that their decision not to film in the UK had nothing to do with the abolition of the Film Council,” the DCMS source said.
“Until they (UKFC) are wound up as an organisation, their role has to be the promotion of the British film industry. That role continues. They can’t divert their intentions to try to preserve themselves.That’s why we sought the meeting,” the DCMS spokesperson added. “We have to reassure the industry that the main functions of the Film Council will continue - the Lottery funding, the Film Tax Credit. We still want to have a body that promotes British film.”
A UK Film Council spokesman said: “The future of the UK film industry is the only thing the UK Film Council is interested in. We will continue to do everything we can to reassure people that any change to us will not affect the UK’s film offer to the world.
“Understandably, however, there has been enormous concern about the future of the British film industry since the government decided to abolish its film agency. In the past three weeks, the UKFC has been contacted by hundreds of organisations and individuals seeking assurances and expressing their concerns about future funding and other related matters.
“We will continue to be as positive as possible under the circumstances.”