Does the UK Film council serve any purpose?

Sadly the answer to this question is, ‘Yes’.  For the proof you only have to go to www.filmcouncil.org.uk/awards and look up the databases for which films had what from both the Premiere and New Cinema funds.  £2 million plus to ‘Mike Bassett, England Manager’ and £1.5million to ‘Sex Lives of the Potato Men’. I mention these two films not to poke fun, but because they demonstrate that the BFI’s days of funding on the basis of cultural elitism are long gone. Similar awards have gone to Ladies in Lavendar, Vera Drake, Happy Go Lucky, St. Trinians, Gosford Park, The Constant Gardener and Miss Potter.

Similarly the New Cinema fund, in addition to many smaller (and much smaller) awards has handed out between £500,000 and £750,000 to films by Shane Meadows, to Bullet Boy, Brick Lane, Adulthood, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, and many others.

What’s sad about all this is that all of these listed films would not have been made if it wasn’t for these ‘soft loan’ investments. Quite often it’s the case that FilmFour or BBC Films set the ball rolling, so investment by the lawyers and accountants of “The British Film Industry” only came on board once the films were substantially financed; but, of course, with the demand that they’re the first to get their hands on the returns. Of course, as I have detailed elsewhere, once made the rights to Premiere Fund films tend to be acquired by US-owned distributors so, in the final analysis it is they who are the major beneficiaries.

So, even though most British Studio Films (to use the Film Council’s own term for those with US – or sometimes French – distributors) perfrom very badly and very rarely make it into the bottom of the box office top twenty; without the Film Council there could well be none on in the multiplexes at all. This is the depth of the problem. Root and branch changes need to be made.

The other purpose served by the Film Council is that it’s about the only source for research and statistics that we have. Often the published reports are little more than bland justifications for this sorry state of affairs continued existence, which have been commissioned from general purpose ‘think tanks’ such as Demos; and much of the statistical data, which is organised in such a way as to be a virtually impenetrable quagmire, is based on a dubious premise, which is increasingly challenged in academic circles, that the audience only goes to the cineama at weekends.

But I’ll look at both bad theory and bad statistics on other pages.

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