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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Puttnam urges UK film teamwork
David Puttnam receiving an Oscar in 1982
David Puttnam won an Oscar for Chariots of Fire
David Puttnam, one of the UK's most respected film-makers, has called on three of the country's major film institutions to work together in the wake of Channel 4's decision to close FilmFour.

Channel 4, the BBC and the Film Council should launch a joint distribution arm to reduce costs and give their films a better chance of succeeding, according to Lord Puttnam, who won an Oscar for Chariots of Fire.

Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent as Iris and John Murdoch
BBC Films funded Iris
Channel 4 announced on Tuesday that it would close FilmFour's sales and distribution arms and absorb a scaled-back commissioning fund into Channel 4's programme budget.

If the three bodies worked together, their combined successes would be enough to make a distribution company a success, Lord Puttnam said.

But it is not logical to work on their own because they do not each have enough hits, he said.

Fail

Distribution is seen as the key to success, yet few films go into production with a deal to ensure a cinema screening in place.

East Is East
East Is East was made by FilmFour
More than 50% of British films ever made fail to receive a screening.

"It should have happened years ago. It's what they ought to be looking at, unquestionably," he told BBC News Online.

"They could have one meeting and decide to do it, and they could be up and doing it. There are no serious impediments to doing it that I'm aware of."

Channel 4, under the FilmFour banner, made hits like East Is East and Trainspotting - but has not had box office success for the last three years.

Hands out

BBC Films - the film-making arm of the BBC - was behind Iris, Billy Elliot and Mrs Brown.

The Film Council hands out 20m per year for new UK films, including Gosford Park, Mike Bassett: England Manager and Bloody Sunday.

Between them, the "law of averages" would mean that they would have one or two hits a year, said Lord Puttnam, who is also vice-president of Bafta.

Channel 4 said it would look at any plans that were proposed - but that it was too soon after the decision to close FilmFour to think seriously about a new project.

Dame Maggie Smith in Gosford Park
Dame Maggie Smith starred in Gosford Park
Despite news of the closure, FilmFour said it was still "excited by and totally committed" to the films it has in the pipeline.

They include Once Upon a Time in the Midlands, starring Ricky Tomlinson, The Actors, with Michael Caine and Michael Gambon, Buffalo Soldiers and It's All About Love, both with Joaquin Phoenix, and Edgardo Mortara, with Sir Anthony Hopkins.

'Smooth transition'

"At the moment all areas are operating as usual and the closure will be tailored over the coming months to follow through existing projects," a statement said.

"We will work hard to ensure there is a smooth transition."

Channel 4 has also admitted that its wage bill increased from 14m to 45m in 10 years.

The number of employees rose from 430 to 1,100, but the turnover also increased from 260m to 715m between 1992 and 2001, a spokesman said.




Movie moments


See also:

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24 Jan 02 | Entertainment
11 May 01 | Entertainment
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