Vaizey Lays Out His Vision For British Film Industry

The ConLib coalition government got off to a rocky start in its relationship with the UK film industry last year – and it’;s probably still a long way from regaining the sector’;s trust. But last week saw Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey try to put that right by laying out his blueprint for film in a speech to the British Screen Advisory Council Film Conference.

As you’;d expect, Vaizey started by congratulating all those involved in Oscar sensation The King’;s Speech (included the soon to be disbanded UK Film Council). He then went on to stress how the new government is supporting the sector: “Lottery funding is going to increase from £27m a year to £43m a year by 2014. So there will be substantially more money for British film. In an age of austerity, it is nice to say that funding is actually increasing by 60% which I think shows our commitment to the success of British film.”

He also looked for positives that had emerged from the decision to abolish the UK Film Council. “The vigorous debate sparked off has also brought forward many other positive initiatives,” he contested. “Companies like Odeon, have their own proposals to promote British film, C4 has increased its funding for film to £15m a year, and BBC Worldwide has become part of that conversation. I hope and expect that Sky will be investing in British film very shortly.

On the studio side, he said: “There shouldn’;t be an artificial divide between the UK film industry and the Hollywood industry, so I very much welcome Warner Bros commitment to invest £100m in Leavesden, the first Hollywood studio to be built outside Hollywood in a century. Leavesden will take its place alongside Pinewood Shepperton and Elstree. I think the reason that Warner Bros were happy to go ahead with the commitment was that the key mechanism to support the film industry remains the film tax credit. We have been clear that we are absolutely committed to the film tax credit and it is vital, not just for inward investment, but also for the independent British film sector. International filmmakers brought in £780m to the British economy last year, and that is the highest level of investment that we have ever had.”

As for the controversial decision to fold the UKFC into the BFI, he said: “From 1 April, the BFI will be appointed the lottery distributor for film. Other key functions, in particular Certification, will transfer at the same time to the BFI, while the Office of the British Film Commissioner will transfer to Film London. I would like to thank the UKFC, the BFI and Film London for their absolutely tremendous work in ensuring that this transfer can be achieved from the first day of the new financial year. I know a lot of people have worked incredibly hard to make that happen as well as my own officials at the DCMS, and I am grateful for all work.”

After all the positives, however, Vaizey ended on a more sober note, “Despite the success of The King’;s Speech, there remains a debate to be had about creating that Holy Grail, a sustainable British film industry. So, with the BFI, we are going to take forward a review of film policy. We want to engage with the industry on how lottery distribution and recoupment policy can better contribute to support the British film industry and how the industry needs to change to adapt to the new challenges and opportunities offered by the digital revolution. We want a serious policy debate about the future of British film. I hope that everyone will participate in the spirit in which that policy debate is intended.”

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