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ITV, BSkyB told to back U.K. films

Film Policy Review delivers findings

LONDON — Blighty’s broadcasters — specifically satcaster BSkyB and commercial broadcaster ITV — were called to invest more coin in local movies while indie producers should be able to recoup more money if their pics click, according to the U.K.’s long-awaited Film Policy Review.

Former culture secretary Chris Smith, who chaired the independent review, joined current culture minister Ed Vaizey at the Dept. for Media, Culture and Sport in London on Monday to unveil the 108-page report, which contained 56 recommendations on national film policy for the government to review.

Smith, who noted that the long-gestating report comes after “an exceptionally good year” for independent British film, singled out some of the review’s most significant recommendations, including pointing the finger at ITV and BSkyB, which, he said, “should be doing more both in terms of investing in independent British film production and in their acquisition policies for movies that they buy to show on their channels.”

Since funding for film, supplied from the national Lottery’s takings, will increase from the present £27 million ($41.4 million) to $61.3 million by 2014, the review also called for better terms for independent producers in Blighty.

Specifically, it recommended that producers be able to recoup more money to reinvest in future productions while the U.K. tax credit should be recognized as the producer’s equity stake, and recoup on equal terms with any British Film Institute investment.

“We believe there should be a mechanism … for producers to be able to reinvest money from successful movies into further production rather than simply returning it to the lottery pot,” said Smith. “Success should be rewarded and re-investment should be encouraged.”

Additionally, as previously reported (Daily Variety, Jan. 11), the review proposed a new joint-venture fund to align producers more closely with U.K. distributors.

The fund would allow producers to access Lottery funding to share the cost with distribs of pre-buying U.K. rights to their own projects. This would mitigate the distrib’s risk and give the producer a more direct interest in a film’s box office success, as he or she would also be a co-owner of U.K. rights.

A raft of other recommendations include country-wide, unified film education, an annual British Film Week to promote local pics to Brits, making it a criminal offence to record a movie in a cinema, and encouraging more shared rewards between producers, writers and directors so the creative team share’s in a pic’s success.

However, given that it’s been 14 years since the last government review of film policy, there were some blazing omissions.

The report failed to address the notoriously low film rentals that independent distribs receive (around 28%), did not mention European co-productions or consider rejoining the Eurimages co-production fund.

Smith remarked that the BFI will be told that the U.K. should look toward European co-productions but, given that Eurimages charges an upfront fee, re-entry wasn’t a priority.

While exhibs weren’t asked to step up on the rental front, they were urged to help find a more economical solution to the Virtual Print Fee model “that puts the independent distributor in an economic position which is as good as, or better than, the 35mm model.”

They were also encouraged to discuss with indie distribs “changes to current practices and agreements regarding theatrical windows and other exhibition terms.”

Members of the Film Policy Review panel who helped compose the report included “Gosford Park” and “Downton Abbey” scribe Julian Fellowes, Film4 topper Tessa Ross, Matthew Justice, producer and m.d. of Big Talk, and Will Clarke, founder and former CEO of Optimum Releasing.

The government and the BFI will respond to the recommendations in a few months.

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