UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has stated that the government will retain the regional screen agencies and the activities of the British Film Commission, and that wider film support plans will be in place by November.

UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has stated that the government will retain the regional screen agencies and that the activities of the British Film Commission will continue.

Vaizey also confirmed that plans for future government support for film will be in place by November at the latest.

Speaking to ScreenDaily today following a roundtable meeting with industry bodies, Vaizey claimed “a clear consensus” was now emerging as to how public support for film should be structured.

“First of all, there was a consensus that broadly speaking we should have a plurality of funding sources so that there should be a number of gateways for British film to get investment,” Vaizey said.

He added that the government was looking “at methods in which we can perhaps ensure that British producers who receive lottery funding have an opportunity to build sustainable businesses going forward.”

Vaizey said that the lottery money for film will be kept together. “It means that filmmakers will be able to go to a lottery distributor or to BBC or to Film4,” he explained. The Culture Minister also confirmed that Nesta, The Arts Council and the BFI were among the bodies in contention to manage the lottery funds.

Vaizey said he hadn’t been surprised by the ferocious debate that the decision to axe the UK Film Council has provoked. “The Film Council mounted  a very effective campaign to give the impression that no film could be made in this country without them,” he joked. 

“People are sometimes surprised by change but we made absolutely clear when we came into power that we were were looking to make savings and to reduce the number of organisations and bodies. I think people should have realised that where we could look to save overheads so we could invest in the front line, that was what we were going to do.”

By “clearing the landscape,” as he put it, Vaizey claimed that the government has enabled new ideas to be floated about public film funding. “If they think the landscape is simply going to remain the same, then people tend to talk toward the status quo.”

He said that the decision to abolish UKFC didn’t reflect on its chairman Tim Bevan or chief executive John Woodward, “both of whom are fantastic servants of British film.”

Vaizey also pointed out that the last government had also been looking to “reduce overhead and had had a long and tedious process to try to merge the BFI and the UK Film Council…people shouldn’t have been surprised that this would have been in our in-tray when we came into Government.”

Asked about last week’s collapse of Screen East and the government’s plans for the Regional Screen Agencies, Vaizey said: “Absolutely, it’s important to have a regional presence…one of the great strengths of the Screen Agencies is that they cover all the screen industries. It is very important to have a presence in the regions.”

Vaizey said that the abolition of UKFC provided “a measure of clarity.”

“There are two bits to the Film Council…the industrial side investing in film production and distribution and managing the tax credit and inward investment. Then, there is an education and audience engagement side.”

Vaizey added that the government “was not going to stop investing in education and crucially in skills, which is a major reason why Britain is an attractive place for inward investors to come.”

Asked whether there was agreement between himself and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt over the decision to axe UKFC, Vaizey said: “absolutely, yes.”