Recommendations from the Production Committee

By James Mackay

gone-to-earth-powell-pressburger.jpgGone to Earth, 1950

The committee considered the effect of UK Film Council policy on production, taking into particular account two specific points stressed by Alex Cox.

The need for a separation of funding and policy-making.

The need for a greater regionalisation of funding.

Given the centrality of the principle of freedom of expression in a civilised society, we recognise the special value of cinema as a means of cultural expression. However, we note the relatively high cost of film as a medium of expression and the corresponding and ongoing requirement for public support. Thus we endorse the need for continuing public financial support for the following activities currently supported by the UK Film Council: production, distribution, exhibition, archiving, education and training. In addition, regarding production, we have identified the following issues that need to be addressed and areas where improvements need to be made.

kind-hearts-and-coronets-robert-hamer.jpgKind Hearts and Coronets, 1949

1. The importance of cultural values and an ideas-led approach to the public funding of film production.

2. The importance of involving creative people (e.g. film-makers, writers etc) in the decision-making processes, in order to improve the range and quality of outputs.

The simplest way to make a film that is financially successful is to invest a lot of money into research and development, like you would if it was a type of biscuit – package the right product and spend a considerable amount of money selling it. You might only have one big success out of five, but that big success will bring in a lot of money. And that’s how the Hollywood film industry works – it’s a tried and tested model. But where I think people like Parker are completely deluded is in thinking that such a model can be emulated in a small country like ours. – James Mackay

3. The creation of separate bodies to oversee the development and implementation of policy on the one hand and the allocation of production funding on the other.

4. The introduction of a significant regional dimension in the allocation of production funds. The principles behind public funding in the nations and regions should reflect the general philosophy of regionalism as outlined in the Communications Act and, in particular, the ‘outside the M25’ investment targets established by the BBC and Channel 4.

5. A recognition of the importance of international visions and the legitimacy of overseas locations (where appropriate to the content of the film) in the making of British films.

6. A recognition of the value of personal and culturally diverse visions.

jubilee-derek-jarman.jpgJubilee, 1977

The dissolution of the production board of the British Film Institute dangerously undermines the viability of our cultural film heritage, as represented by the BFI’s archive and educational efforts, by subordinating cultural film in this country to the status of a dead language no longer in current use, at least not supported by the government. (from her submission to the DCMS). – Tilda Swinton

7. The establishment of greater flexibility in modes and methods of film funding.

8. The establishment of greater transparency in funding procedures, the publication of selection criteria and priorities and the provision of appropriate feedback to applicants.

9. The establishment of clear performance indicators in order to clarify and justify the outputs of staff employed by the UK Film Council.

The morbid obsession with finding this thing called “a great script” has essentially, nothing to do with finding a great script at all, but has everything to do with employing a great number of people – script readers, script editors, script doctors, script advisors, development assistants etc – and indulging in a futile, self-satisfied process. – Robert Chilcott

10. The harmonisation of funding criteria with appropriate European agencies.

11. The documentation of best practice production models at a city, regional and national level from across Europe, for discussion and possible adoption within the UK and with the involvement of the film-making community.

land-and-freedom-ken-loach.jpgLand and Freedom, 1995

I made a Canadian/English co-production (Painted Angels). The English money came from British Screen and the BBC; the Canadian money came from a bank. It cost just under $2 million and was distributed by Artificial Eye. Most significantly, I had that English money before, for a long time, three or four years before we took off, and I knew we needed a co-producer, and when we got the Canadians it happened very fast. And this time I’m just very aware that the co-producer has to be European, for lots of reasons: because the money’s there, because they want to and because last time we got so worked over. When the Canadians saw the film they were very unhappy and tried to do something about it but it was shot in such a way that they couldn’t, and not a frame was changed, but this incident seriously disturbed me. – Jon Sanders

12. The facilitation of film-maker access to a range of appropriate technologies.

13. The establishment of a fund for small equipment purchases for independent film-makers.

14. The creation of appropriate forms of support for filmmaker development.

15. In light of the above, any Chair of the UK Film Council should live and work in the UK and reflect the skills, abilities and aspirations of the diverse communities of cultural producers in the UK.

James Mackay is an Independent Producer.