I love you. I also love KFC. But this isn’t about my easy gratitude to readers of this site for giving me affirmation on my life or the amazing Colonel and his wonderful chicken, grease, salt combination, this is about the UK Film Council and its sad, premature demise.
Some of you may not know what the UKFC does. Some of you may know but not care. Some will be glad to see the back of, what some considered, an overly bureaucratic way of making movies. Some will already know and care deeply enough to have joined the Save The UKFC site) and filled in the petition.
For those that do not know, I’ll try to explain. For those that don’t care, I’ll try and persuade you that you should. For those glad it’s gone, maybe I can flip your opinion. For those signed up, well I’m preaching to the choir. But I do like to preach.
The UKFC was set up in the year 2000 to help develop and promote the film industry in the UK. “What film industry?” I hear the naysayers cry, but in ten years the UK Film Council has funded films as diverse as, Adulthood, Bend it like Beckham, Bright Star, The Constant Gardener, Fish Tank, Gosford Park, Happy-Go-Lucky, In the Loop, The Last King of Scotland, Man on Wire, Nowhere Boy, Red Road, St Trinian’s, This is England, Touching the Void, Vera Drake and The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Sure you don’t like them all, but I bet that at least one of these films has moved you in some way.
Then there’s the strange business decision of removing what is essentially a small business model that works and creates jobs. Check out the ‘notes to the editor’ section of the UKFC’s own site to show how the figures stack up. It made a staggering return of £5 on every £1 of lottery funding. Since 2001, UK films now account for 23% of the UK Box office, up an unbelievable 92%. Were figures like this just not available to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport before they decided to demolish it?
I’ve been reluctant to make this a political piece, (the UKFC was founded under Labour, removed under the ConLib coalition) but I think it’s only fair to lay some facts to back up my case. It would be easy to look to today’s announcement of £20,000,000,000 being spent on the replacement of a nuclear deterrent (is not being friends with America a deterrent enough?) and compare it to the paltry £15,000,000 a year that it costs to run the UKFC, responsible for literally thousands of jobs being created every time a film is green-lit. This argument will only open a few billion cans of worms so instead I’ll choose an easier, much clearer example of the strange nature and thoughtless immediacy of the decision to close a working, job creating part of Government funding.
On the day that the decision was announced that the UK would no longer have an arm devoted to developing and promoting it’s burgeoning movie industry, Vince Cable, the business secretary, was asked what was being done about the banks. (You remember the banks that were bailed out by our money, because rich people decided to gamble too much). In an interview where clarity was as abundant as hair on his head VC spoke of “sending clear signals” and “having business like discussions” with the banks. For an antonym of perspicuity look no further than his use of the word ‘could’ on several occasions.
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But there was no ‘could’ for the UKFC. There were no discussions. Just one clear signal that in 2012 there will be no body of support for UK films. I for one, think this is a crying shame.
Owen Nicholls edits www.thisfilmison.com