UPDATE: I’m hearing that a march is planned for London protesting against the scrapping of the UK Film Council. The Save the UK Film Council petition now has nearly 22,000 signatories, while the Facebook page has 42,000 people who’ve signed up. Regardless of how many of these are friends and family of Film Council employees, culture minister Ed Vaizey cannot have envisaged this grassroots campaign when he made the decision to scrap UKFC.
UPDATE: UK culture minister Jeremy Hunt and arts minister Ed Vaizey have rowed back transferring the £15 million ($19 million) lottery film cash to the British Film Institute. Nor are they going to ask BBC Films and Film4 to split the money between them. I’m told that BBC Films has reacted “with horror” at the prospect of controlling the lottery cash. The BBC’s film department may make the same kind of features as the UK Film Council, but getting hold of that money could see its own £12 million funding being cut.
The irony is that it was the Arts Council of England’s original bungling of the lottery film cash that partly led to the UKFC being established. In the late 90s, producers were crying out for proper industry executives to award production funding, not a committee of well-meaning amateurs. Now it looks like we’re going full circle. “Once it finds out what’s going on, the whole industry will start laughing and then start crying,” says my source.
Tim Bevan, co-chair of Working Title, and UKFC chief executive John Woodward met Vaizey and Hunt this afternoon at 2:30pm (6:30am PST).
Liam Neeson, meanwhile, has weighed in to the controversy, calling the government’s decision “deplorable”. Neeson told the BBC: “We need movies. It’s a powerful industry that provides a credible entertainment for millions of people and I think it is wrong, I just think it is wrong for the government [to do this]. I …
Many producers I’ve spoken to say the UK Film Council never did anything for them and will not be missed. Sure, they’ve had dribs and drabs of funding but they’ve been excluded from what they perceive as the charmed inner circle. The UKFC’s headcount is still 75 despite the recent 20% slash in its overhead. “A handful dealt with film financing,” one producer tells me. “It was never clear what the rest did.”
Indeed, it may be that the UKFC closure increases the amount of cash available for production. The agency had been spending 23% of the £38.5 million lottery funding it was receiving on overhead. This compares with 13-14% at other UK screen agencies Scottish Screen and Film Agency For Wales. UKFC had worked up a plan to get its lottery overhead down to under 5% before the plug was pulled.
And the amount paid UKFC executives is another bugbear. The government recently disclosed that four of the organisation’s executives had been earning more than £150,000 a year. Tanya Seghatchian, the new film fund head, had an annual salary of £165,000 – although this has since been reduced — the argument being that the state must match what executives could earn in the private sector. But it’s not as if the industry’s crying out for development executives, say producers – …
The culture department, which funds British film to the tune of £26 million each year, is preparing for savage cuts. The Department For Culture, Media and Sport faces having its budget slashed by 25% – or even higher – over the next four years. Earlier this month, UKFC told me it was drawing up plans for what 20% cuts in grant-in-aid expenditure might look like over three years. Now that looks optimistic.
Final government department budgets will be set in the October 20 spending review.
Chancellor George Osborne said department spending will be cut by £17 billion more than expected by 2014-14 because, he said, “the structural deficit is worse than we were told”. It’s the classic skeletons-in-the-cupboard tactic used when one politician takes over another’s job.
And the video games industry has lost the tax break it was promised by the previous Labour government — which the Conservatives originally supported.
It’s all part of the kill-or-cure Budget unveiled by the Conservatives, determined to get the UK’s debt-load down before Britain implodes like Greece or Iceland.
Trade body Tiga estimated that the video game tax relief would create, or at least keep, 3,500 college-level jobs here in Britain. Staffing levels among French games developers have increased by 20% since France introduced a 20% tax break a couple of years ago.
The BBC has also lost out. Chancellor George Osborne confirmed that a tax on landline phones, proposed by …