Hoon, Perry take on Till

The chairmanship of the U.K. Film Council will be up for grabs when Alan Parker retires in July, with UIP topper Stewart Till, currently Parker’s deputy, widely regarded as the favorite to take over.

But despite Till’s wide popularity, his day job as chairman and CEO of Europe’s largest Hollywood outpost provokes disquiet in some quarters, particularly among producers who see the Film Council as a bastion against the American hegemony.

“I absolutely adore Stewart, but there’s no question it’s just wrong for the head of UIP to get this job,” says one producer.

Film banker Premilla Hoon and former British Screen topper Simon Perry have also tossed their hats into the ring. Some potential candidates, including former Scottish Screen chair James Lee and former BAFTA chair Simon Relph, didn’t even apply, partly because they saw Till’s elevation as a done deal.

Hoon and Perry, at least, are determined to challenge that assumption. In total, 11 applications were submitted by the March 19 deadline, but the identity of the other candidates is unknown. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed in early May, with the final decision by the end of that month.

Some conflict of interest is inevitable for any candidate still active in the film biz. The government is understood not to see a problem in Till’s case. At least his business does not depend on Film Council subsidy.

Perry, who lost his job at British Screen when it was taken over by the Film Council four years ago, has been a persistent critic of the org. Hoon has spent two decades at the heart of film finance in Europe and America, first with Guinness Mahon and now Societe Generale.

‘Love’ survives

“The Truth About Love” will be told after all. The romantic comedy, directed by John Hay and starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Dougray Scott, is set to shoot April 11, having spent several weeks on the brink of collapse.

It lost a third of its budget Feb. 10 in the U.K.’s tax clampdown, but producer Tracey Adam has now secured backing from Baker Street Media and the U.K. Film Council’s New Cinema Fund to rescue the project.

She slashed the cost from $8.5 million to $7 million, cutting a week off the schedule and persuading her entire cast and crew to defer some of their fees.

Lakeshore Intl. is handling foreign sales, with Redbus releasing the film in Britain. Co-financiers include Piccadilly Pictures and Bank of Ireland. Co-producer is Christopher Figg, exec producers are Jeremy Bolt, Ivan Mactaggart and Bill Allan.

BFI turns ‘inside out’

The new regime at the British Film Institute — led by chairman Anthony Minghella and director Amanda Nevill — has unveiled its blueprint to rejuvenate the fusty cultural org.

In Minghella’s words, the plan is to “turn the BFI inside out.”

That means unlocking the extraordinary wealth of resources from its vaults — the film archive, for example, is 25% bigger than the Library of Congress collection — and flinging the doors open to a wider and younger public.

It will seek partnerships with city authorities and universities to create regional access points for its archive, and to find a new home for its library. It aims to become more proactive about restoration and pushing material out through all available channels, including the Film Council’s digital cinema network.

It will create a “virtual BFI” on the Web, including a commitment to get its vast database online within two years. Think IMDB, only much more so.

There will be a new youth wing to drag in a younger membership by cross-fertilizing with other forms of popular culture, such as music and soccer.

The U.K. Film Council has endorsed these plans by awarding the BFI a 10% funding increase to £16 million ($29 million) a year. The org will save more money by cutting staff and quitting its HQ on Stephen Street in London’s West End, relocating to the South Bank, where it runs the National Film Theater.

The NFT itself, together with the mothballed Museum of the Moving Image alongside it, will be redeveloped by fall 2005 into “a prototype for a national film center.”

Since Nevill’s arrival last May, she has already transformed a projected deficit of $400,000 for the year just ended into a surplus of $1.4 million.

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