There has been a surprise announcement that the UK Film Council is to be shut down as part of the government's austerity measures. In an article detailing the move on the BBC website the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has proposed that the UKFC be abolished and the establishment of "a direct and less bureaucratic relationship with the British Film Institute; this would support front-line services while ensuring greater value for money". The statement adds that "Government and Lottery support for film will continue". The BFI currently works to promote UK film and television, how that role might change in the wake of this announcement is anybody's guess. However, the Department for Culture Media and Sport has indicated that the £26m funding for film that the UKFC currently handles will, in future, be distributed through other bodies. Although, in a response by Tim Bevan CBE, Chairman of the UKFC, he indicates that this is not yet certain and that the Film Council's "Immediate priority now is to press the Government to confirm that the funding levels and core functions that are needed to underpin British film are locked-in".
As a former award recipient, I'm in two minds about the wisdom of this move. Yes, it has the possibility of stripping away a centralised layer of bureaucracy, and will undoubtedly get rid of a few of the closed-minded individuals that have blocked some of the more dynamic talent from receiving funding, in preference to established 'art' based filmmaking,–that is simply the way the establishment works, it resists change, hence the term establishment–but what will it be replaced by?
One of the great, and yet largely uncelebrated, remits of the UKFC is its emphasis on training. This was to try and make the up-and coming filmmakers who came through its doors have some awareness of the practical, business, and legal side of film production, as well as providing a huge emphasis on good script-writing practice. This side of things was always included in any film production awards that they offered, and sometimes the value of the training exceeded that of the production funding.
In the scramble by regional institutes for the Film Council funds, and the medium term confusion over who is going to support what, the losers will almost inevitably be the filmmakers, and as ever, animation will be remembered in all this as an afterthought.