Brits lobby for pic coin

Britain’s producers are doggedly renewing efforts to persuade the government to stimulate private investment in feature films from virtually nothing to something.

The latest initiative is a comparative study of investment regimes in major European markets and other regions, and the ensuing economic benefits.

The project has the support and financial assistance of the Dept. of National Heritage, which has direct responsibility for the film biz, and the British Film Commission.

Due to be finalized at the end of August, the report was commissioned by the Producers Alliance for Cinema & Television.

Film and corporate finance specialist Jonathan Olsberg, who’s doing the research jointly with management consultants Hydra Associates, said: “We’re doing a comparative study of other countries’ schemes and identifying those which could sensibly apply to the U.K. This is a fresh look at government policy for the film industry; I hope we’ll come up with some innovative ideas.”

Given the acres of print that have gone into government and industry working parties and reports in the past three years, it’s surprising that this is the first economic benefits study.

PACT chief exec John Woodward emphatically says this is not another bid by producers for government handouts; such pleas have always fallen on deaf ears and been strenuously opposed by treasury officials.

Contentious proposals

Last April, PACT submitted a strategy paper to the Heritage Dept. aimed at raising as much as T60 million ($ 90 million) for U.K. film production. Among the contentious proposals were a tax on theatrical and video revenues of all films grossing more than T4 million ($ 6 million); a tax on blank cassette tapes; and allowing ITV broadcasters to offset investment in feature films against their treasury payments.

This prompted heritage minister Peter Brooke to embark on a well-publicized round of consultations with film, TV and video groups, but as yet with no substantive results.

Looking on the bright side

Producers hope the research will demonstrate to the government and treasury the upside of film investment: that revenue foregone in tax breaks will be repaid via revenues and profits generated.

While Woodward said he hopes the Hydra/Olsberg report will “help inform the minister’s thinking,” he stressed that producers don’t expect the November budget to yield any incentives for film investment. “We’re not looking for a quick fix: we want to get it right,” he said.

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