State of Play: the UK Film Council

Today, the Coalition government announced that the UK Film Council, as well as the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council is to be axed, as part of a series of cuts introduced in order to deal with the recession. If you are not familiar with it, or would appreciate a reminder, the UK Film Council, in its own words, ‘is the Government backed lead agency for film in the UK ensuring that the economic, cultural and educational aspects of film are effectively represented at home and abroad.’ Set up in 2000, the Council aims to develop and promote the British film industry via a number of processes, including – importantly – the direct funding of feature films and short films. But all that is set to change now. (I should add that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that funding for film-making will continue to be provided, but no proper plans as to how to distribute available money seem to be in place as yet.)

What galls me about this is not just the fact that, as the Council’s chief executive John Woodward has confirmed, the decision was made without any consultation with the Council. Not just that the decision has been taken without any proper planning in place, by the looks of it. Not just that it shows a deeply regretful short-term thinking that fails to value the importance of our cultural heritage. (I won’t even begin to talk about the various areas of spending that won’t, but should, be cut, otherwise this is going to turn into a political rant.)

What really galls me is the lack of recognition for the economic value of the film industry that such a decision implies. As the UK Film Council’s website points out, the ‘core UK film industry now contributes approximately £4.3 billion per year to the UK economy – up by 50% since 2000, when the UK Film Council was created.’ For the same reason, the term ‘Mickey Mouse degree’ (grrrr!) – readily applied to any degree that studies the culture/entertainment media – vexes me so greatly. The film and television industries make a significant contribution to the economic development of the country, one that is worth recognizing, and the study of which deserves to be taken seriously.

The British film industry needs, and deserves, proper planning, organization and funding. I hope that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will think very carefully about how to proceed once the Council is no more. In a previous blog post, I discussed the issue of unpaid work experience, which the creative industries have come to rely on, and the decision today is not allaying my fears for the future development of said industries.

As a lover of film and teacher of many promising film-makers, when I look at the films that the Council has supported, which in recent years have included Noel Clarke’s Adulthood (BAFTA Rising Star), Andrew Williams’s London to Brighton and Shane Meadows’s This is England (BAFTA Best British Film), I am particularly concerned how the decision is going to affect the nurturing of emerging talent.

I am signing the online petition Save the UK Film Council. And I am deeply concerned about the future of public service broadcasting and the BBC.

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