British film-makers' outrage at abolition of funding council

27th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Leading British film-makers have reacted with horror to the announcement of plans to abolish the UK Film Council, a body responsible for funding 900 British films over the past decade.

Director Mike Leigh, whose films include Oscar-winning movie Happy-Go-Lucky and the Oscar-nominated Vera Drake, said the unexpected axing of the body, set up in 2000 with 75 staff, was "extremely worrying" for the industry.

He compared it to the scrapping of the state-run National Health Service.

David Puttnam, producer of the Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire and now president of the Film Distributors' Association, agreed that the loss of the Council would hit film-makers hard.

Over the past decade, the film funding body "has been a layer of strategic glue that's helped bind the many parts of our disparate industry together," Puttnam said.

Since it was set up, the UK Film Council has invested more than 160 million pounds (190 million euros, 250 million dollars), in more than 900 films, the funding coming in part from the state and part from Britain's National Lottery.

This has generated 700 million pounds in revenue in worldwide box office receipts -- a five to one return on investment.

"Film is an export success story: we sell British production skills throughout the world," said Martin Spence, the assistant general secretary of the film workers' union, Bectu.

"This decision is economically illiterate and culturally philistine," he added.

The culture department, which on Monday announced the plans to abolish the council, said most of its activities would be carried on through other organisations.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the axing of the organisation, and transfer of its responsibilities to other bodies, would ensure "greater value for money" for the public.

Hunt said he wanted to establish "a direct and less bureaucratic relationship with the British Film Institute" -- a charitable body supporting the film industry.

Film producer Tim Bevan, whose credits include Notting Hill and Atonement and who is currently the chairman of the council, said it was a "bad decision imposed without any consultation or evaluation".

"People will rightly look back on today's announcement and say it was a big mistake, driven by short-term thinking and political expediency," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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