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British Film Presentation 3 The Film Council

November 29, 2010

Download Link: The Film Council.

The Film Council.

The Film Council is the body set up to distribute direct Government subsidies for British film with lottery money and other forms of public support. There has been much debate as to what its role should be and which films it should fund. Many of these arguments are based upon different definitions of what exactly a British film is and weather or not films funded should be profitable as opposed to culturally valuable.


The UK Film Council was set up in 2000 to centralise the various means of public support for film. It took over from the Arts Council that had previously been heavily criticised for the ways in which it distributed Lottery money to filmmakers. Funding targets different aspects of the film industry…


Development fund: Aims to raise the quality of screenplays produced


Premiere fund: Supports bigger budget films and established talent. Recent examples include Gosford Park and Sylvia.


New Cinema Fund: Supports short and feature films: aims to encourage diversity in the industry, for example The Magdalene Sisters


Regional investment fund for England: Supports nine regional screen agencies which promote filmmaking skills education and understanding on a regional level


The current Chairman of the Film Council is Stewart Till who was involved with Polygram entertainment, and oversaw the marketing and distribution of Notting Hill, 4 Weddings, and Bean amongst others. The position was formerly held by Alan Parker, director of films such as Mississippi Burning, Fame, and Evita amongst others.Many saw his appointment as symbolic of the UK Film Council’s bias towards making popular genre films for an international market rather than the quirky, independent films one would normally associate with British Cinema.


There is much debate as to what the role of the Film Council should be. As a source of public funding for British film, what kind of film should it support? Some argue that it should operate like a business, competing within the International marketplace and generating revenue for the funding of future projects, adopting the model of a production company, without taking unnecessary risks with public money.

Mission Statement

John Woodward, chief executive for the Film Council made the following comment:

“The 80’s are behind us, …we do not want to finance social realist art films, nor even Hollywood scale mega productions…The film Council will help to finance popular films that the British public will go and see in the Multiplex on Friday night. Films that entertain people and make them feel good.”


Angry Responses

Many filmmakers, critics and actors responded to this comment with anger including Tilda Swinton and Ewan Mcgregor. They argued this kind of policy would deny funding to films that do not appeal to the mainstream; the very kind which could not survive without public funding but are of cultural and artistic importance. They cited examples of films like Trainspotting, The Full Monty and East is East as films with a difficult subject matter that were commercial and critical successes. According to Woodward’s policy, these films may not have received any funding at all.


Some argue that British film shouldn’t receive any funding at all. Films funded with direct Lottery money, prior to the Film Council, were financially disastrous. 100 million pounds of lottery money was spent on 200 films with a total return of only 6m. The films were mostly critical failures as well.

The Film Council has funded films that have often been both commercial and critical successes. 13m invested in 20 films between 2000 and 2003 generated 125m at the box office. Successful film repay their investment and help fund future projects.


Successful film funded during this period include, Bend it like Becham, Gosford Park, The Magdalene Sisters, 24 Hour Party People, and the Importance of Being Earnest. This group of films feature a combination of established and new directors, British and American personnel and reflect a range of style and subject matter. The films often deal with exactly the difficult themes that critics had argued would be ignored


Debates about the role of the film council revolve around definitions of what a British film is, should be and weather Financial returns are more important than artistic and cultural contributions. Whatever one may think, it is hard to deny the fact that the Film Council has been successful, and that through its success at the Box Office, has been funding more and more British productions. The question is weather they are overlooking the projects that do not promise financial returns.



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