A fix for Brit pix biz

Producer outlines solutions to local funk

LONDON — Qwerty Films’ Michael Kuhn outlined rescue plans for the ailing British film industry Monday at the inaugural film lecture organized by film and TV producers’ body Pact.

Kuhn was blunt about the difficulties of financing a Brit pic in the wake of cuts to tax benefits, saying: “We face the bleakest prospect for indigenous U.K. production since I started in the film business in the mid-1980s.”

In the short-term, the former Polygram Filmed Entertainment topper described financing quick fixes to be administered with the help of the Film Council. These include a gap fund to lend the last £1 million ($1.9 million) a project needs to enter production; a borrowing facility against foreign sales estimates; a pre-buy of video-on-demand rights; and a low-budget film slate to sustain the grassroots of the industry.

In the medium-term, Kuhn urged broadcasters to buy British more often. In 2003-04 the BBC spent $138.3 million acquiring films, with only $18.7 million going to British movies; $116.2 million was spent on U.S. pics.

Like many U.K. industry vets, Kuhn also supports the reintroduction of the ticketing levy, ditched in 1985, to benefit producers.

Looking to the long-term future, Kuhn urged the government to back an effort to market British films abroad.With the dawning of the digital exhibition and e-video age, Kuhn said the established studio system of distribution would soon cease to be the only way for the U.K. industry to reap coin.

But Kuhn was adamant that only by being bold and getting films noticed through aggressive marketing could the U.K. profit from its “world class and undisputed creative credentials.”

He said the onus was on the Film Council to lead the charge. “It can happen if they see the production community as partners in this great endeavor and not recalcitrant schoolboys to be lectured and to be whipped into shape,” he added.

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