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Brit producers urge BFI to rejoin Eurimages

Euro fund supports co-productions

LONDON

The British Film Institute’s five-year plan “Film Forever: Supporting U.K. Film 2012-2017” came under fire from senior U.K. producers Thursday in London for not featuring a provision to reinstate Blighty as a member of the Council of Europe’s European Cinema Support Fund, Eurimages.

Eurimages is the basis of building co-productions in Europe,” said Peter Watson, chief exec of Recorded Picture Company and co-founder of sales agency HanWay Films. “Our future is in Europe. It seems to me absolutely astonishing a couple of million pounds couldn’t have been made available by the BFI for rejoining Eurimages.”

The comments came during a panel discussion at Film London’s two-day Production Finance Market, chaired by PFM project manager Angus Finney, which otherwise saw the panel full of praise for the BFI.

Finney had raised comments made by BFI Film Fund director Ben Roberts during the PFM’s keynote address on Wednesday regarding co-productions.

Responding to a question from Finney, Roberts told the audience that co-productions were “slightly hamstrung by the specifics of the U.K. tax credit” and that the BFI must “come up with other ways to be helpful and welcoming to the international industry. One of the first things we could do is allocate part of the Film Fund budget for minority co-productions.”

Watson’s comments were supported by producer David Parfitt, who said, “I think Eurimages is very important to (the U.K. film industry) and we’re daft to be outside it.”

Watson was a governor of the BFI from 2004 until 2011. Parfitt, who produced “My Week With Marilyn” through his Trademark Films, is a former chairman of BAFTA and current chairman of Film London.

The U.K. is one of only 11 of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe that is not a member of the Eurimages film fund, and the only major European territory outside it. The other 10 non-members are Andorra, Armenia, Liechenstein, Malta, the Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and Ukraine.

Set up in 1988 by the Council of Europe to support the co-production, distribution and exhibition of European films, Eurimages currently operates a €25 million ($32.8 million) budget per year, of which $30.1 million comes from the contributions of the 36 current member states. In 2011, $29 million, 94.1% of the funds, was awarded to co-productions.

The U.K. joined Eurimages in 1992 but withdrew in 1996.

Russia and Georgia were the most recent states to join in 2011.

From 2012 the Eurimages Fund has also been opened up to allow access to co-production support to non-European partners, with Eurimages exec director Roberto Olla announcing at the Venice Film Festival that Canada and Israel were in discussions to join.

The BFI’s “Film Forever” plan was launched Oct. 3 following an extensive nationwide and online consultation in the summer that followed a preliminary outline published in May. The consultation afforded the U.K. industry the opportunity to raise points. The Eurimages issue was not identified as a priority area of concern across the industry.

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