Late last week David Cameron slithered into public view to urge the film industry to make more mainstream films. Seeking an alternative to British films funded by Hollywood, Cameron specifically pushed for British producers to find help to create more commercially successful independent features such as “The King’s Speech”
Much of the funding for independent British films – from initial capital through to development, distribution and exhibition – came from the UK Film Council. However, this extensive infrastructure for the maintenance and stimulation of the British film industy is set to be gutted now that the UK Film Council has been ordered to close by the government. The organisation that they are closing happens to be the same UK Film Council who funded “The King’s Speech” – the film that Cameron lauds as the success of the independent British film sector in his speech. He shot off the knees of the film industry last year and, this year, he is now asking it to run.
The responsibilities of the UK Film Council are to be moved to the British Film Institute. This is all in the name of saving money in a time of austerity. But to suggest that the BFI is capable of both its own jobs and those of its sister organisation is laughable. This is especially true since the coalition axed a £45m pledge to the creation of the BFI Film Centre while it was partway through its planning and construction. This has driven up costs and increased the inefficiency of the project in the long run.
At the time of the government’s renege on this pledge, Ed Vaisey, the culture secretary, said:
“Although we are unable to commit to some large-scale capital investment projects while tackling this unprecedented deficit, I am planning to fundamentally reassess how the government supports film in this country.”
It seems that the government plans to support film in this country through empty gestures, each one more transparent than the last. The government have recently announced recommendation for a British Film Week. It’s handy because it costs very little and deflects all the press from Lord Smith’s review of the film industry onto this single issue. No need to worry about the security of our film industry and its infrastructure when we have Kinks-village-green patriotic hot air to keep it inflated.
The Coalition government is pushing to turn the film industry solely to the whims of private investors, showing support with its speech while its hands scuttle the boat. Like art and other creative sectors, commerce will dictate to us what we want rather than the reverse. At least when the UK Film Council was around we could pretend to see our film industry as having higher aspirations than being yet another apparatus of economic output to increase the GDP.
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