My take on the abolition of the UK Film Council.

This is hastily written because I’ve had a long day, maybe later in the week I’ll rewrite it with less swearwords and more actual examples….

To everyone who’s bitching about the UK Film Council being abolished:

As someone who has been trained by, taught for, been through the funding process and had to attend seminars with the organisation, I’d just like to say this: THANK FUCK IT’S BEING SHITCANNED. It is without doubt the most ineffective, bureaucratic gravy train I have ever had the misfortune to witness. If you think that the organisation has been some kind of saviour for British film, you are HUGELY mistaken.

The UKFC was basically a place where a handful of people who didn’t seem to have had any obvious practical film-making experience lauded over all those who wanted to get interesting films made. For the best part of a decade, I’ve watched them waste money on lavish parties, regular ‘networking’ trips to L.A. and schemes which channeled money into the pockets of endless ‘experts’ and ‘consultants’ and not into films. Most of the films which have their name on it were actually independent productions which got off the ground completely independently and, at the point the film was looking like a sure bet, the UKFC would kick in a few thousand ‘completion money’ to get their name on the poster and justify their existence.

I’ve seen fantastic screenwriters have their scripts endlessly ‘workshopped’ until the script has no meaning on character and ends up not being made. I’ve seen huge amounts of money wasted on predominantly awful short films.

My main personal experience of them was that they spent a load of money training me to teach the screenwriting course – putting me up in hotels in London and paying my expenses, paying a guy to create and the course and train us to deliver it, then they never once asked for feedback. Not once. Not only this, they complained about having to spend money on script readers to find screenplays to produce but constantly ignored my offers to recommend to them excellent screenwriters who’d just spent 22 weeks doing their bloody course.

The times I have applied for funding have generally consisted of being sat in rooms with arrogant idiots spouting non-committal rubbish.

Back when film funding came through the Arts Council, they didn’t interfere. You applied, got some money, made your film warts n’all. That’s how we developed great filmmakers in this country.

In the decade that it has been operational, the ONLY filmmaker I can name who possibly owes their career to the UKFC is Andrea Arnold – director of Red Road and Fishtank. I don’t consider that much of an achievement.

The BBC today quoted Chris Atkins – director of the excellent doc Taking Liberties and Starsuckers as saying:

‘UK FILM COUNCIL ABOLISHED! Fabulous day! I wonder what 70 incompetent overpaid bureaucrats are going to do? I could use a couple of runners. [It had] far more misses than hits. Funded Sex Lives Of Potato Men, U2 3D, 4321, Rolling Stones, St Trinian’s, I could go on…’

I think you’ll find that to be the response from most actual film-makers.

I’m no Tory and I object to actual arts funding cuts but the UKFC was a gravy train for a bunch of arseholes and I’m absolutely chuffed to bits that it’s gone.

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Published in: on July 26, 2010 at 6:42 pm  Comments (9)  

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  1. The UK Film Council is dead – long live the British film industry! http://bit.ly/as1ss4

  2. I wholeheartedly agree. I have had my projects turned down three or four times by them (fine I can deal with being rejected but…) and each time they changed the goal posts and gave a different reason for not backing my project. First time I approached them with just a script they said ‘we need some names attached’ so I went away and attached some world class household name actors and approached them again and they said ‘we’re not interested in big names’. Lol. Luckily I found other real film companies to work with. They were such a waste of money.

    Also, if they were successful as they say they were and made “£5 on every £1 invested” why did they need government funding? Other independent uk film companies would consider themselves massively successful to be making that sort of return but they don’t need government funding.

    I say let them go and set up a private film company and we’ll see how successful these people really were…

    Rant over.

  3. Wholeheartedly agree, having worked in the industry for some 15 years now I’ve seen the some faces spend their way to the top and what for St Trinian’s. nuh said.

  4. Couldn’t agree more. I’m a working film maker who has written, fund raised and directed two feature films, received no funding or support from the UKFC and couldn’t care less that it’s gone. It is a self serving, self justifying organisation that believes its mandate is to prescribe to independent film makers what films to make, when to make them, and how to make them. A government body trying to control film production according to political edicts. For all the so called ‘independent’ filmmakers who have relied on UKFC funding, you made state sponsored films. A studio run by civil servants who dictated what films you made. They claimed to promote diversity when they actually narrowed the scope of British films made by lobbying successfully to bring the various aspects of funding under their control. They ignored many more film makers than they supported. It existed as a power club that excluded more than it included.

  5. Not a lot of love for it here either…

    http://www.pleasedsheep.com/forums/topic/9080-jonathan-gems-on-the-abolition-of-the-ukfc/

    (you can join in this lively discussion on here as a guest or via your Facebook log in btw)

  6. VERY WELL SAID!!!! It, like so many other quangos like scottish screen (now defunct and absorbed into another quango that no-one in the idustry actually wanted…we wanted a screen agency that was effective, transparent, accountable and helpful to the industry…not like scottish screen that was termed the “Film Prevention Unit” and just like the UKFC – and indeed had some of it’s folder holders transferred to it, along with numpties at Glasgow Film Office – were nothing more than a gravy train…especially for ex-employees…follow the money and you find 24 million squandered on ‘development’ that if you DID NOT make a film you never had to pay back…ie an incentive for the failure of all these bottom feeders…EXACTLY like the UKFC)……so yes, thank fukc it is gone BUT there should be as much if not more investment/tax breaks etc in commercial as well as culturally important art (sometimes in film these are not mutually exclusive if given the chance for distribution!)….BLOODY GOOD RIDDANCE and i hope those useless bunch enjoy their new jobs…it’ll probably be in the BBC in Scotland on a commuter basis like the head of drama and her metropolitan pals who are sucking at this rancid teet of Aunty Beeb just like the muppets in charge of the UKFC…UKFC FUKU2!!!!

  7. I went for a meeting at the Film Council once. I could have been at the Tax Office. Unwelcoming, grey faces, cold, bureaucratic attitude. No passion for the cinema, no desire to make commercial, money-making films – uncommon for an investor, but born out by the majority of their output. I’ve never been able to figure out their criteria for investing in a film, commercial potential obviously isn’t one of them. They passed on my project as they didn’t think it had commercial potential. Go figure.

    I kinda expected that. I’ve approached them in the past with other projects and didn’t even reach meeting stage. It was always a long shot and I’ve always regarded the Film Council as a charity.

    I went to a presentation by a Film Council person recently, in which it was revealed that only a small portion of the lottery investment is allocated for investment in film production. The majority went to things like, BFI film restoration, Skillset, distribution, admin and of course, salaries. Much is also invested in a small group of production companies for slate development, a money pit if ever there was one.

    Interestingly in the 2009 end of year report avail on the Film Council website, it’s revealed as part of their three year plan, that they should be more selective so as to lessen the number of projects they invest in which don’t make money. (Not a direct quote!)

    Film making is a business in which investment is made on the security of the property. Real investors will tell you, ‘we’re not a charity!’

    I am pleased it’s going. I kinda thought the new leadership of Tim Bevan might have brought the thinking of a producer to proceedings, but really the civil service will always be the civil service. And like the many past revelations about outrageous government mis-spending in defence and other arenas, the Film Council has finally been shown to be another.

    Hopefully the re-distribution of the UK’s investment in film, if there is any, will be on a far more business like basis, At least the Producer Tax Credit will remain a stable and sensible means of contributing to films made in the UK.

    It’s not a tragic loss to the film making community, there will always be money available for good films.

  8. So just to check – you’re glad it’s gone then? 😉

    Nice post – I had no experience of them personally but I have of other arts quangos and, hopefully, they are the first of many such bodies to be piled high and publicly burnt to save expense so any remaining funding can go to the places that actually produce results and keep struggling art going.

    (Not that it affects me any more – I emigrated last year; rat, sinking ship and all that jazz).

  9. Their promotional video says “we generated £5 for every £1 of lottery money spent.” Wankers.

    £1 (spent) : £5 (generated) = £4 return x 5 (years) = £20

    So, 10 years after it was formed, instead of being self-funding, why does the financial report it delivered to Parliament read “In 2009, this led to a total recognised loss for the year of £8.3 million (2008: £6.9 million loss).” I’m not a production accountant (thank God), just a Producer, but something doesn’t add up?

    How many commercially viable projects could be produced and marketed for £15.2m (the same amount as the UK Film Council lost in 24 months)? I must be missing something…we’re grieving for what exactly?

    Touching the Void (prod. budget:$97k/ Gross: $4.58m)
    Paranormal Activity (prod. budget: $12k/ Gross: $183m)
    Super Size Me (prod. budget: $65k/Gross: $11.5M)


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