We've Got Hollywood Covered

Did the U.K. Film Industry Die in Secret?

The abolition is part of the U.K. government’s brand new “cut culture” for saving the British economy

Possibly unbeknown to you lovely Americans, the new British “coalition government” had the clever idea of abolishing the U.K. Film Council a couple of weeks ago.

This Film Council is the agency responsible for funding a large number of independent and studio films, using taxpayers money. In fact, in the past 10 years, the U.K. Film Council has spent over $250 million (£160 million) to help over 900 films get made. These have collectively created a worldwide bo- office profit of more than $1.9 billion (£700 million).

Not a bad return on your investment, you might think?

Apparently not: The Conservative/Liberal Democrat culture minister, Jeremy Hunt, decreed that this profit-making agency that has helped fund and promote British film tirelessly (with just 75 staff members) – and ensured movies such as "The Last King of Scotland," "Touching the Void," "Man on Wire," "Bend It Like Beckham" and the Oscar-winning "Gosford Park" were made – shall cease to exist.

The abolition is part of the U.K. government’s brand new “cut culture” for saving the British economy. The government believes that getting rid of this agency will mean less bureaucracy for funding films and, in the long-term, result in more investment in the overall spending on the making of movies.

Hilarious! This, to me, is political nonsense and I can easily translate it for you.

What they’re actually saying is: the money we’ve cut here will get swallowed up in other budgets, so kiss it goodbye you dumbass, over-sensitive, arty, creative motherf*****s.

Or, as Film Council chairman Tim Bevan put it in a slightly more eloquent fashion, in his angry retaliatory statement aimed at the jaw of the culture minister: "Abolishing the most successful film support organization the U.K. has ever had is a bad decision, imposed without any consultation or evaluation. People will rightly look back on today's announcement and say it was a big mistake, driven by short-term thinking and political expediency. British film, which is one of the U.K.'s more successful growth industries, deserves better.”

Yes, that’s right, what I failed to mention is that my new, shiny government didn’t bother to tell anyone at the Film Council they were being axed before the decision was made. Such pleasant, strategic behavior by the charming “Tory Toff” Prime Minister David Cameron (who previously was communications director for a TV production company).

There is, of course, the argument that the U.K. Film Council was indeed too bureaucratic, was too obsessed with major movie hits (instead of smaller films) and was not accessible enough to the filmmaker on the street. That, also, yes, there might be some other new way to ensure a more innovative pantheon of British films can be funded and made more organically – without the need of a nanny-state agency overseeing their development and handing out cash in a strict, form-filling-in dictatorship-like manner.

This could be true and I’m all for change, if it makes things work more efficiently and cuts red tape. But what I think might also happen is the part of the U.K. Film Council’s work – for instance, its important promotional work and attendance at Hollywood trade shows to promote England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales as amazing locations for international filmmakers – will be totally lost and, therefore, diminishing the U.K.’s standing on the worldwide film stage.

This is not good and, in the long-run, could mean less investment from private companies and big studios in the British film industry (as no one wants to bother with the U.K.), so subsequently less films being made.

This, in turn, would seem as if the film industry in the British Isles is failing and mean, instead, the funding that used to go towards making movies is then redirected elsewhere, e.g. for cleaning off graffiti from the side of a school building or, perhaps, ensuring all prisoners get their own pool table and heated cushions in jails.

And thus, the British film industry dies.

(Oh goodness, what a bleak picture; thank the Lord for America, that’s all I can say!)

Anthony Burt is a writer, journalist and voice-over artist from south west England, U.K. Founder of Epic Creations, for the past eight years he has written and edited books, scripts and magazine/newspaper articles for the BBC, the Guardian, Macmillan, Harpercollins, Parragon and Haymarket. He's a passionate film fan who believes in chasing your dreams, so is temporarily based in L.A. pursuing a screenwriting career at the same time as writing a new novel (and getting a Californian suntan).