The growing antagonism between film folk and the British government escalated last week when the Dept. of Trade & Industry revealed plans to use part of a promised £5 million ($9.9 million) co-production fund to pay for Britain’s entry into the European Community-sponsored Eurimages project.
Eurimages, launched in 1988, provides subsidies and low-cost loans for the production and distribution of European films.
Revelation, greeted with incredulity by industryites, came in a London Times interview with British Film Institute director Wilf Stevenson. BFI is the government-funded organization that aims to foster film and tv arts in the U.K.
Stevenson considers the plan a betrayal of the commitment made when the co-production fund was promised in June. Fund, to be administered by the private and state-funded investment company British Screen Finance, was promised by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Money was to be used solely for co-productions with European partners.
Government spokesmen admit they have canvassed for opinion on a proposal to use part of the money – £1 million in the first year and £2 million in the second – to fund part of Britain’s contribution to Eurimages. Spokesman said that since Eurimages is devoted to encouraging co-production in Europe it could be considered a proper use of co-production coin.
Stevenson argues that if the government wants to join Eurimages, as he thinks it should, new money should be found for the purpose. The co-production fund, he says, was billed as a three year, no-strings-attached contribution to the Brit film biz.