U.K. industry eye funding changes

Producers, film body execs wait for details to emerge

Blighty’s government may have shown a new road map for the future of film and lottery distribution, but some industryites say concerns will continue until they know who is in the driver’s seat.

When U.K. culture minister Ed Vaizey announced plans to give distribution of lottery funds and additional U.K. Film Council duties to the British Film Institute on Monday, exactly who would be topping the new BFI board was undecided.

“The BFI, UKFC and Film London will start due diligences immediately and work together to ensure a smooth transition,” Vaizey told industryites in London. “Early in the New Year, they will publish a transfer plan setting out a clear timetable for the various activities to be moved across. All stakeholders — in particular the staff, and all lottery and certification applicants — will have clarity in advance on when the various transfers will take place. This plan will ensure that there is no gap in the service provided to the film industry.”

“I still feel as confused as I did on Friday,” said producer Stephen Woolley, whose credits include “Made in Dagenham” and “The Crying Game.” “I know what the plan is but I don’t really know what’s going on because we need individuals in place. Who are they? The film industry is run by individuals. When they’ve hired them, we’ll have a clearer understanding as to what this new BFI looks like.”

Woolley adds that a big fear is whether or not the BFI, which has a long history as a cultural institution involved with low-budget art films, will be able to relate to the wider industry.

“The U.K. Film Council was very proactive in the legal department in terms of the deals they negotiated with various U.K. and world distributors and film funding bodies,” Woolley said. “The BFI traditionally hasn’t worked on that front, so while the announcement is one step forward, it’s still slightly murky.”

Adrian Wootton, CEO of Film London, whose org will manage Blighty’s inward investment strategy, said: “The devil is in the detail. There will be lots of legal issues and due diligences before people know who’s going to be responsible for what. We haven’t been able to have any of these conversations yet.”

Wootton was unable to say whether Film Commissioner Colin Brown would continue his role and Brown was unavailable for comment.

UKFC managing director Tim Cagney said the org was relieved by the government’s announcement.

“There are still many unresolved issues so, to benefit the industry and to protect our staff, we will continue to work with the relevant organizations on a smooth handover of film functions and expertise,” he said.

The UKFC is due to shutter in 2012.