18 December 2009

Colin MacCabe on UKFC

From Screen Daily today:
Colin MacCabe calls for BFI to handle industry statistics

18 December, 2009 | By Geoffrey Macnab

Outspoken British academic and film producer Colin MacCabe has called for the British Film Institute (BFI) to take over the research and statistics work currently carried out by the UK Film Council.

In a wide-ranging article published this week in current affairs magazine Prospect, MacCabe argues that the statistics compiled by UKFC “reflect rather too well on the Council”. In particular, he has challenged the claim made in this year’s UKFC Statistical Yearbook that UK films accounted for 15% of the global box office.

“No breakdown of this figure was given, making it impossible to distinguish between Hollwyood studio pictures made in this country, like the Harry Potter films, and those films actually made by British independents,” he writes. “No government can make policy on such misleading statistics.”

MacCabe, who headed the BFI Production Board from 1985 to 1989, argues that there is “still no sign of a sustainable British film industry” today, almost 10 years after the UKFC was formed in 2000. Calling the UKFC “a New Labour folly,” he also questions the effectiveness of its training and distribution policies and attacks its spending record.

A UKFC spokesperson and chairman Tim Bevan declined to comment on the article.

The UKFC and BFI are in ongoing discussions about a possible merger, which aims to streamline the organisations to refocus their resources. Entirely separate to those merger discussions, a consultation on the UKFC’s proposed new three year plan runs until 9 February.

Once the public consultation closes, UKFC will collate all the views and comments and produce a final three year plan, which should be publsihed in late March and which will take effect from 1 April 2010.

Colin MacCabe calls for BFI to handle industry statistics | News | Screen

Link to Prospect magazine article:

Breaking the British movie myth « Prospect Magazine

14 December 2009

Labour's plans to rationalise culture

From the Guardian online 9 December 2009:

What does the pre-budget report mean for culture?

Culture department quangos and advisory committees are to be streamlined, promises Darling

The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, has already announced cuts to arm's length bodies – or quangos – in order to reduce bureaucratic costs. But in the pre-budget report he promised that a review, to be completed by the 2010 budget, will identify further options for "rationalisation" of such bodies.

Darling singled out the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, saying that the government would consider "options for rationalising up to a third of DCMS non-museum arm's length bodies, including streamlining 10 DCMS advisory bodies and bringing forward plans for merging the UK Film Council and the British Film Institute". What does that mean in practice? The merging of the BFI and the UK Film Council has already been announced (if not wholeheartedly welcomed in the film world). The Film Council is also losing 20% of its staff – albeit, according to its chief executive John Woodward, in order to counteract the loss of lottery funds to the Olympics rather than as a response to "smarter government" initiatives.

Meanwhile, the other major non-museum arm's length body, Arts Council England, is near to completing a massive organisational review, which will see 21% of its workforce gone and £6.5m in savings that will be rediverted directly to the arts – a kind of pre-emptive strike, if you like.

If one takes one's speculative cue from the Government's plans for the UK Film Council and BFI, it is those arm's length bodies (which also include English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, Sport England and UK Sport) that are seen to overlap or duplicate functions that could be required to share resources or even merge under the review. (The Conservatives have already said they would like to see a merged English Heritage and Heritage Lottery Fund.)

The advisory bodies in line to be "streamlined" include the Theatres Trust, the Advisory Council on Libraries and the Advisory Committee on the Government Art Collection. All this would be designed protect frontline services – though critics claim that such mergers and rationalisations could create more problems than are solved.

Footnote: the DCMS website contains a full list of its arm's length bodies (though, remember Darling's excluding museums) and advisory bodies.

What does the pre-budget report mean for culture? | Culture | guardian.co.uk

20 November 2009

UKFC/BFI in a quandary

Extract from article in the Guardian yesterday:

Quangos in a Tory Quandary
by James Harkin

Nesta isn't the only organisation steeling itself for the political transition. It's a great time to be Tory. The planned restructure at the UK Film Council and its mooted merger with the British Film Institute are taking place with more than half an eye on an incoming Tory government; at the recent London Film Festival, both courted senior Conservatives with invitations to their gala events. As soon as his appointment was announced on Wednesday, Archie Norman – the new chairman of ITV – felt impelled to make a statement saying that he wouldn't "expect favours" from an incoming Tory government.

The danger is that the Tories might follow New Labour's example. Bradshaw's rousing defence of the principle that funding for the arts could be conducted at "arm's length" from governmental interference would have been more convincing had his party not sought to infuse arts organisations with the idea that innovation could be pressed into the service of immediate social and political ends – as if Twitter could renew people's interest in politics, for example, or public art could solve social ills. That instrumental approach is now discredited. The only people who benefited were mediocre artists and apparatchiks who could talk the talk.

The Tories, quite rightly, are going to have none of it. The problem is that quangos and arts organisations are still stuffed with New Labour's appointees, many in the invidious position of having to butter up the other side. Most are so deeply wedded to New Labour that they have little idea about who they should even be cosying up to, with the result that many of those lunches are going to waste. Over a cup of coffee one source, who has worked for Nesta, told me that the whole thing is "unedifying, like an episode of The Thick of It".

There is no doubt that an incoming Tory government should defend both robust funding for the arts and the arm's-length principle. A civilised country needs solid and independently minded support for its arts, particularly the difficult, challenging stuff – the real stuff of innovation – that commercial sponsors tend to turn up their noses at.

But the Tories should resist the temptation to replace New Labour's cultural leaders with their own. Tories are known for their charm, after all, but not for their taste. The irony of this shifting of chairs is that Team Cameron is still running a shadow operation in opposition, and is much too small to have worked out the finer detail of which quangos it plans to cull. In the meantime, however, they might want to beware the attentions of fairweather friends.

17 November 2009

Overhaul of UKFC

From Screen Daily today:

UKFC announces sweeping reorganisation, new production fund

17 November, 2009 | By Sarah Cooper

The UK Film Council (UKFC) is proposing to merge its Premiere, New Cinema and Development funds to create a $25m (£15m) Film Production Fund, as part of a major overhaul of the organisation following its $41.9m (£25m) budget cut.

The new fund will be used to support all production but will have an emphasis on first and second time film-makers, and will also support experimental, innovative and digital film-making. The UKFC has launched a three month public consultation into the plans today (November 17).

The $25.1m (£15m) budget for the new fund is $3.3m (£2m) lower than the total allocated to three separate funds. It is understood that it will be led by four executives, who will be appointed by April 2010.

The plans also propose a new $8.4m (£5m) Innovation Fund that will promote new business models and aims to ensure UK film’s transition into the digital age; but other funds will be reduced or scrapped completely including the Film Skills Fund, which will be reduced from $11.7m (£7m) to £5.6m (£3.5m) and the P&A Fund which will be cut from $6.7m (£4m) to $3.3m (£2m). The digital archive fund will be closed down altogether.

Meanwhile, the Regional Screen Agencies look set to be amongst the biggest losers in the reorganisation – their UKFC budgets will be cut by 20% - but there is a new minimum target of 25% for non-London film production.

As part of the reorganisation, the UKFC will cut its overheads by 20% and it has confirmed that around 22 jobs will be cut. The UKFC’s total budget will now be $99.2m (£59.1m) over the next three years, down from $117.5m (£70m).

The UKFC has been receiving around 46% of its budget coming from lottery funds, 40% from government support through grants, and the remainder from investments and other sources; however, it has been forced to make cuts as lottery cash is now being diverted to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Tim Bevan, UKFC chairman, said: “The support the UK Film Council has given film culture and the film industry over the past ten years has been enormous, but we’re now operating in a very different environment and we need to adapt to meet the needs of a new generation of audiences and film-makers. To do that when the UKFC itself is having to find savings of $41.9 (£25m) over the next three years is a real challenge. But it’s now more important than ever to ensure we invest as much money as possible in film production, in creative and cultural excellence, and in helping UK film make a successful transition into the digital age – and that’s exactly what we’re proposing to do.”

UKFC chief executive John Woodward added that the reorganisation takes into account the economic downturn, the lack of finance for new production and the collapse of the traditional business model as well as the cuts in budget. He said the priority was to “protect the money for development and production funding”.

In other changes, any money recouped by the UKFC from their investments will now go directly back into the Production Fund. Meanwhile, a “producer equity” scheme will be introduced that will see producers being given a cut of the money recouped by the UKFC.

According to Woodward, the overhaul remains separate from the proposed BFI merger. The BFI’s budget is $27m (£16m) a year and if the merger goes ahead, there will be savings from shared costs, he said.

UKFC announces sweeping reorganisation, new production fund | News | Screen

25 October 2009

News on merger plan

From the Telegraph yesterday:

Film industry split over merger plan

The British Film Institute, chaired by former BBC director general Greg Dyke, has told the Government the state's vision for a full-blown merger of the BFI and UK Film Council is "not legally possible".

By Amanda Andrews
Published: 7:52PM BST 24 Oct 2009

The BFI governors wrote to Sion Simon, the film minister, and the UKFC addressing their views on the proposal.

The letter, leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, cites legal advice arguing that the much-anticipated, cost-saving deal will only work as a "partial merger".

This viewpoint is set to receive opposition from the UKFC, which is keen to see a full merger. Sources close to the film council said the BFI proposal did not tally with the legal advice the UKFC had received and argued that a large scale merger was possible.

Mr Simon announced in August that the UKFC, whose role is to channel public funds into UK film, was to merge with the BFI, the body responsible for protecting Britain's film heritage, to create a "streamlined single body that represents the whole of the film sector".

The BFI, which is a registered charity and has received £200m of funding from the UKFC since 2000, said it was only legally possible to merge the BFI with the "charity-compatible activities currently being funded by the UKFC".

It said that incorporating the UKFC's commercial activities into the new entity was not feasible. One source familiar with the situation said the film council did not understand the logic of effectively turning itself into a charity. The source said, as a charity, the new organisation would be largely precluded from ensuring the UK film industry meets the challenges of the digital age and delivers for audiences.

The source added that the UKFC would be unable to invest in making films and developing digital cinema in the UK if it became a charity and said the film institute's proposal would be detrimental to the future survival of the industry.

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw and Mr Simon are thought to be involved in negotiations amid concern that a deal may not happen by the time of the next election.

With the UKFC's £70m funding – which includes both Grant In Aid (GIA) and lottery funding – set to be reduced by about 10pc from April 2010, the merger has been viewed as a way of achieving efficiencies.

The BFI added in the paper that it might not be possible to merge all the charity-compatible activities into a new charity as this might be "detrimental to the industry need and cause complex conflicts of interest". It suggested that "another smaller body" might be needed to "advocate and lead on industrial policy development".

The UKFC instead wants to create a single organisation for film with a single reporting line. It would hold the charitable assets of the BFI and would have one board. This would facilitate development of unified policy, which appears to be what the Government wants .

The BFI and UKFC refused to comment.

Film industry split over merger plan - Telegraph

21 October 2009

Merger to happen in 2010?

From APEngine 19 October 2009:

The merging of UK Film Council and BFI – ‘mooted’ by the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport in August – is going to happen, with the two organisations having been told they’ll become one by April 2010. It’s a tight schedule, and it doesn’t make the job any easier when apparently neither of the respective Chairs managed to make it to the first ‘project board’.

There are certainly some with some big issues to resolve – and legal and logistical hurdles, not least BFI’s charity status which means it can’t distribute Lottery funds. Then there’s the question of what happens to the Regional Screen Agencies – ostensibly independent bodies, but substantially funded by UK Film Council.

In the August statement, Film minister SiĆ“n Michael said the new organisation would have “both a cultural and economic remit.”

As that’s already the case with UKFC -

“The UK Film Council is the Government backed lead agency for film in the UK ensuring that the economic, cultural and educational aspects of film are effectively represented at home and abroad.”

- and with a resurgence in respect for what the BFI’s doing with the Southbank, Mediatheque, and the London Film Festival, it seems likely that it’s UKFC that’s seen as failing. We hear there’s already some ‘severe streamlinling’ planned there, but no word of what the impact might be on the BFI. Though the British Library is known to be keen to get its hands on the Archive.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, more than one source tells us that UKFC has approached Arts Council England with a view to re-aligning their respective remits for moving image. The Arts Council funds artists’ moving image, but also many ‘media arts’ centres, with cinemas, that UKFC would like to get its hands on. Discussions can’t be easy: Arts Council Chair Liz Forgan and Chief Executive Alan Davey aren’t known to be UKFC boss John Woodward’s greatest fans…

Author: Gary Thomas, editor of APEngine.

UK Film Council and British Film Institute will become one | APEngine

18 October 2009

BFI press release on Centre funding

  • BFI National Film Centre gets the green light

DCMS pledges £45 million capital spend

  • Everyone in Britain to benefit from new centre for film
  • Visionary new digital hub you can plug into from home

The BFI announces today that it is proceeding with its plan to build a visionary new film centre on London's South Bank. The decision to move forward comes as the Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, announced a £45 million capital investment from Government in the project.

The BFI's ambition is to create a world-leading centre for the study, enjoyment and celebration of film and television. The money pledged from Government follows an earlier investment promise of £5 million in the project from the London Mayor through the LDA. It secures the next phase of the project which is to design and plan, and will go towards helping fund the construction of the new centre which is to be developed on the site of Hungerford car park.

Amanda Nevill, director of the BFI, said:

"This is hugely exciting news for film culture in Britain, for the whole of the British film industry and a positive turning point in the history of the BFI. Film is one of the greatest art forms of today and universally popular. It is also a British success story - London and the UK are at the centre of the global film industry.

"We will be creating something that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world, precisely because we can. It will build on the BFI's 75 year legacy, bringing together the greatest collections of film on earth with all the excitement and stimulation of emerging cinema into the most creative and inclusive programmes. It will be a digital hub, working with partners across the UK to share and exchange those programmes. We are a step closer in our ambition to inspire and excite audiences everywhere in a new digital Britain."

John Woodward, chief executive of the UK Film Council which funds the BFI, said:

"This is a key milestone on the road towards the UK Film Council and the BFI's shared objective of transforming the cultural film offering to UK citizens in the digital age. Not only will film now have a fitting home on the best arts campus in the world, but the development will use digital technology to open up the archive and all the other film treasures that the BFI holds for the benefit of everyone in the UK."

The BFI's vision

"Something as powerful as film should be celebrated and understood - that is why the BFI exists - if it didn't exist we would be busy inventing it" Anthony Minghella

Film has never been so exciting, or more important. Increasingly more and more of the information we use to navigate daily life comes through the moving image. It is the medium of the moment - everyone is engaged in it, watching it, making it, uploading and downloading it. For young people especially, film is the communication medium of the 21st century.

The importance of film ('film' taken to express the whole spectrum of moving image) in our daily lives has been transformed through digital technology. Today's society engages with film in ways which would have been unimaginable even five years ago, never mind when the BFI was founded 75 years ago.

The BFI is a cultural body admired and emulated the world over for the breadth of joined-up activity from the BFI National Archive and The National Film Theatre - now BFI Southbank - to the BFI London Film Festival, its national distribution, events, education activities and publishing.

All of this has been at the heart of film in this country for over 75 years.

Through the BFI, Britain boasts a film archive which is the envy of the world. It provides a tantalising window into how the people of Britain live, work and play from rare glimpses of an early moving Edwardian world, through the classic and loved films of British cinema, broadening out to encompass important collections of American, Chinese, Russian, cultural cinema. The archive of film is brought to life by the equally important and enlightening letters, papers and scripts, and the often ravishingly beautiful photograph and poster collections. It is an ever growing, living collection - the film premiere of tonight becoming next months archive treasure.

But with digital capability the BFI can deliver much more.

There has never been a more exciting moment nor a more exciting opportunity for the BFI, nor a more pressing need for the BFI to step up and modernise in response to this public eager for more.

What we propose is a dramatic transformation of the BFI which will deliver a compelling, exciting and vibrant vision for the future of film culture in the UK, reaching more people, more efficiently.

It is a vision which will address head on the very real issues the BFI faces with dilapidate, disparate and expensive estate, technical obsolescence and antediluvian public facilities. The vision arrests a spiral of decline so we can prioritise investment in public services instead.

It is a vision which allows us to compete equally on an international stage.

And, the vision is unique because the BFI, unlike similar organisations in any other country in the world, can build on the legacy of 75 years and bring together the greatest collections of film on earth with the excitement and stimulation of emerging cinema, with the most creative and inclusive experiences and programmes, with the aim of fostering a passionate quest for individual learning and scholarship in everyone.

"It would enable us all in the British film community to reach our dream to have one building, one National Film Centre, where all the tributaries that make up the extraordinary vibrant British film community at the moment can be housed. Because we have a glorious opportunity, it seems to me, here in Britain, and one of the great things is that the BFI is going to be leading that change."
Paul Greengrass

Our vision focuses around the creation of a BFI National Film Centre, an international destination for film which is digitally connected, wired to the world; and influenced as much by its virtual visitors as it is by those who enter through the door.

Although based in London the BFI centre will be emphatically national. It will exchange programmes and knowledge with a wide range of communities and partners right across the UK, constantly drawing on and updating the BFI National Archive, the regional archives and the expanding Mediatheque network.

From this base, the BFI will champion film programmes which have the power to change perspectives, which consider other histories, bring different considerations to our own lives, new voices to challenge our understanding of the world and our place in it, lend new eyes to see differently.

Every part of the BFI National Film Centre, from the cinemas to the galleries, the displays to the research centre will appeal equally (but in different ways) to the parent and child, the eminent scholar, the exacting film enthusiast, the dismissive teenager, the expectant filmmaker, the demanding culture vulture. It is designed as much for the casual 'drop-in' visitor as it is for the dedicated visitor. What's more, you will be able to join in virtually wherever you live.

It is here that you can encounter the real things that made film and television history, legendary objects and papers, view films on line or see film as intended on the big screen.

It is also a genuine place of work, a centre of research, creativity and production (of content by both real and remote visitors) which produces all the centre's programmes and the London Film Festival, cares for the national collections, and supports distribution of film and knowledge about British film culture in the UK and around the world.

Research and scholarship are the backbone of all public programmes - and a new formal partnership with a consortium of HE institutions will see students and scholars engaging with the National Collection as never before.

BFI Press Office

Nick Mason Pearson
020 7957 8901 / 07968 747879

Claire O'Brien
020 7957 8993

Merger proposed for flagship film bodies | BFI | News

16 October 2009

Funding for National Film Centre

Gordon Brown's £45m backing for new British film centre

• Funds to help create new public home for the BFI
• Centre will be built close to Royal Festival Hall

The dream of a new National Film Centre on London's South Bank is to take a decisive step closer to reality when Gordon Brown confirms tomorrow that the government is to provide £45m in funding to realise it.

The prime minister is expected to say he believes the centre, with five digital screens, will be built by 2015.

There had been fears that the project, backed by the British Film Institute for many years, would be the victim of the spending squeeze hitting the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. But Brown will confirm that the money is to be found from the departmental budget this year.

The late film director and former BFI chairman, Anthony Minghella was one of the leading advocates for a new public home for the BFI so that a cultural centre for cinema in London could stand shoulder to shoulder with the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall.

It is expected the centre will be built on the site of a car park close to the London Eye on the South Bank, a few hundred yards from the Royal Festival Hall.

The London Mayor's office has already committed £5m to the project and it is thought the BFI would raise another £15m-£20m from the sale of their current Stephen Street offices in Waterloo. This would leave a further £80m to be raised from private sponsors.

The BFI has suggested the new building would contain five cinemas, with one large auditorium capable of hosting events currently hosted by the Odeon Leicester Square, such as the opening night of the London film festival and film premieres . It has been suggested that a large outside screen could be constructed. It would also show the BFI's huge archive of films. Such ambition could not be realised from within the confines of the current National Film Centre premises – also on the South Bank.

Brown said: "Britain has achieved worldwide respect for its innovative and vibrant film industry, exceptional arts and rich cultural heritage. This project creates a new home for British film right at the heart of London's cultural centre on the South Bank.

"These are challenging economic times, but with backing from the public and private sector, the new film centre demonstrates Britain's commitment to supporting the arts and our determination to invest in leading creative industries as part of our economic recovery."

The government has blown hot and cold about backing the centre ever since a green paper on the creative industries two years ago.

The Conservatives have said they will review the structure of the film industry, including the role of the BFI, if they come to power next year.

Brown, better known as a bibliophile but also an enthusiastic film goer, has given his personal backing to the project. His last cinema visit was to his local Odeon in Kirkcaldy when he went to see Slumdog Millionaire.

Gordon Brown's £45m backing for new British film centre | Film | The Guardian

24 August 2009

BFI response to DCMS merger proposal

The Board of Governors of the British Film Institute welcomes the DCMS initiative to rationalise the funding and governance of the way we support film in Britain, as announced today after a long period of discussion.

The new Film Minister has assured BFI chairman, Greg Dyke, that both the identity and critical cultural mandate of the British Film Institute will be paramount in this process.

Since its formation in 1933, by Royal Charter for the last 26 years, and as a charitable organisation, the BFI has preserved and promoted the nation's film culture and the current Board of Governors, as custodians of that heritage, welcomes this unique opportunity to embolden and strengthen the organisation.

For more information contact:
Nick Mason Pearson / Claire O'Brien / Brian Robinson
BFI Press Office
Tel 020 7957 4833 / 8993 / 8940
nick.pearson@bfi.org.uk / claire.obrien@bfi.org.uk / brian.robinson@bfi.org.uk

Merger proposed for flagship film bodies | BFI | News

Merger proposed for flagship film bodies | BFI | NewsMerger proposed for flagship film bodies | BFI | News