Although the UK film policy review published Monday has been largely embraced by the local industry, ITV and Sky were put on the defensive when former culture secretary Lord Chris Smith commented that they “don’t put any support into British film really at all.” An ITV spokesman responded with a statement (see below) emphasizing ITV’s almost £1 billion annual investments in programming, the majority of which goes to original UK produced content. A Sky spokesperson pointed out that the group is investing more money in the UK’s creative economy than at any point in the company’s history. The policy review calls for all broadcasters to increase their investment in British film, but the sense is that companies are less than eager to see government get on the potentially slippery slope of mandating how they spend their pounds.
A panel of industry experts led by former culture secretary Lord Chris Smith published its highly anticipated recommendations on revamping UK government film policy today. The panel, which included Sony’s Michael Lynton, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and Optimum Releasing founder Will Clarke, made suggestions with the intent of increasing audience choice and growing the demand for British films both at home and abroad. With calls for regulated film investment from broadcasters like BSkyB and ITV, the review also seems to be taking a cue from its neighbors across the Channel on certain points. Within the 56 recommendations that aim to boost the British film brand are a handful of proposals that, if heeded, would make the UK business more closely resemble the French model.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron made headlines last week when he called for British filmmakers to make more “commercially successful pictures.” The remarks left the local industry in a bit of a huff, with director Ken Loach telling the BBC: “If you knew what was going to be successful before you made it then we’d all be millionaires.” (It’s worth noting that Loach’s last several films have been made with French backing). Despite Loach’s initial take on Cameron’s comments and as some industry folks I spoke to late last week suggested, the review that’s been released today is not quite so incendiary as the prime minister’s statements led people to believe. After Cameron’s quips, Fellowes last week said, “At the moment it’s being presented as if there’s a sort of polarity, you either support mainstream films or minority pictures. That isn’t what this is about at all. It’s about broadening the base, so that money goes into all kinds of films.” Supporting Fellowes’ comments, the report’s first recommendation is that major organizations must recognize that a key goal is to connect the widest possible audiences with the broadest and richest range of British films. In comments today, Lord Smith noted that between inward investment that’s helping to boost the local economy (think lavish Hollywood pics shooting in Britain) and a run of strong local films at the box offrice (The King’s Speech, The Inbetweeners Movie), British film is in a strong place. But, “we need to sustain that.” The report notes that although the average Briton watches over 80 films a year on big and small screens, UK indies made up only 5.5% of box office from 2001-2010.