Time for a reality check – a posting to Shooting People. org

Recently two completely different things have been being conflated in these bulletins: productions for which a market exists (e.g. advertising, corporate, training, factual for large niche interest groups, wedding, etc) and which should thus be realistically budgeted; and productions with no access to any markets (short and long narrative fiction, ‘art’) which, if left to their own devices, could, and would, only be made on a spare time ‘hobby’ basis by people with other sources of income (state benefits, bar work, part time teaching, pension).

Access is the key word in the above. Clearly there is a fair amount of interest here in short films, as instanced by the fact that ‘short film nights’ have become a regular feature in many towns and cities. But that isn’t a market because, in its present form, it generates effectively no income.

Now I know that many rather bristle at being referred to by words such as ‘amateur’, or ‘hobbyist’, but that’s what we are.

Right now there is only one market for short fiction: the UKFC – either directly or by proxy through the tiny amounts it gives to its RSAs, or to whatever are the currently fashionable minority groups – largely as a  meaningless exercise in social engineering.

Short film schemes are part of the UKFC’s ‘talent spotting’ – a notion that someone somewhere might make something that Lenny Crookes (New Cinema Fund)thinks is worth watching, who can then be developed by the UKFC. This, of course, is seen as a joke; commissioned work is seriously under-funded and, on completion, put on a shelf to gather dust – they cannot be put anywhere else as they have no access to any markets.

Once in a blue moon someone in London does, as a result of courting nepotism, make it through to UKFC-financed feature film development (the UKFC has recently announced that, in future 25% will go to the regions, which is around about a 4-fold increase). The prospect of the resulting film breaking even is less than one in twenty, regardless of its quality or merit, as it will have no meaningful access to any markets. What’s more the highly-paid arts administrators see it as their duty to ‘train’ the producers of these films in the intricacies of film finance by making their awards dependent on ‘match-funding’. But no one is going to invest in any UK independent feature film by first or second time producers and directors who are Shooting People members. All it adds up to is ‘we’ll give you far less than your film would cost to make, but we’ll only actually give you half of that – the rest you’ll just have to get from deferrals and in kind’.

Does the UKFC do anything to create a sustainable market for British filmmaking?

Do they call for the establishing of theatrical exhibition quotas, which would simply bring the UK into line with most other countries?

Do they call for similar quotas to those regulating most other forms of terrestrial TV programming to be extended to films?

Do they call for broadcasters to restore whatever little support they once gave through regular UK short film seasons?

Do they call for the introduction of an “unrated 18” certificate, again in line with many other countries?

Do they complain to the monopolies and mergers commission about the whole raft of restrictive practices which disadvantage UK filmmaking?

Do they actively promote a UK film festival culture in which a hugely multi-award winning short like Chris Jones ‘Gone Fishing’, would be screened at more than only two ‘British’ festivals?

But, more importantly, do you? Are you an active member of any organisations which campaigns on your behalf on any of these issues? Do you ever even write to your MP or the press?

Or are you nothing more than an ‘amateur’ or a ‘hobbyist’?

Jon Williams

writer/producer Diary of a Bad Lad – http://www.bad-lad.com

The campaign to reform the VRA http://reformthevrauk.blogspot.com/

North-West New Wave – which is dedicated to raising the profile of new underground independent filmmaking, and which has already established itself as a major thread at both the Salford and Pennine Film FestivaLS.

Regular speaker/workshop leader for Manchester-based ‘Future Artists’ which is seriously dedicated to developing and communicating about new models for independent film production, distribution and exhibition.

And a 61 year old with ME and a heart condition…

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