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The Film Council's director Alan Parker:
"Our object is to find the real talent"
 real 28k

The BBC's Rosie Millard
"Money will be offered upfront, and there is an emphasis on mainstream movies"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 2 May, 2000, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
22m boost for British films
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Four Weddings and a Funeral - one of Britain's few successes
A new body dedicated to financing and promoting movie-making in the UK has been launched by the government.

The new Film Council replaces various institutions which have so far poured millions of pounds into domestic films with limited success.

As part of the council's launch, a 22m investment package has been unveiled to help revive Britain's film industry.

Alan Parker
Film-maker Alan Parker heads the new Film Council

The cash will be used to fund initiatives such as the Film Development Fund, to help writers develop new and commercially-viable screenplays.

The council's chairman, Alan Parker, whose films include The Commitments, Evita and Angela's Ashes, said the council would help film-makers "move away from the cottage industry that we all currently work in".

Film Council plans
Film Development Fund - for developing "high quality, innovative and commercially attractive" screenplays (5m a year)
Premiere Production Fund - for popular mainstream films (10m a year)
New Cinema Fund - for radical, experimental and new talent (5m a year)
Film Training Fund (1m a year)
First Movies - encouraging children to make films (1m a year)
20% of each fund's budget is ear-marked for European co-productions
More money for the BFI, and expansion of the British Film Office in Los Angeles
"The first phase is to establish a substantial industry producing stronger films.

"That is why we are investing in project and script development, training talent and providing investment for more commercial films and emerging talent."

Other initiatives include the First Movies scheme, which hopes to turn children into the next generation of British movie-makers by giving them access to digital technology.

Meanwhile, radical and experimental film-making will be backed by the New Cinema Fund.

The council - which has a three-year budget of 150m from government and lottery funds - would encourage links with other European film-makers and "shamelessly" build on links with Hollywood studios, said its chief executive officer, John Woodward.

"We are absolutely not going to run away from the global opportunities offered by the majors," he said.

"We are interested in films that really can play in cinemas on a Friday night, and we will not be backing films whose natural home is on television."

The Film Council will concentrate its attention on films made in England, with separate agencies funding film-making in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We are interested in films that really can play in cinemas on a Friday night

The Film Council's John Woodward

Speaking at the launch, in London's Langham Hilton, Culture Secretary Chris Smith said: "In recent years, the UK film industry has produced a number of critical and box office successes and, thanks to our wealth of talent, variety of locations and the tax breaks on offer to film-makers, we are regarded as one of the best places in the world to make movies."

Mr Smith said he hopes the First Movies scheme aimed at youngsters will help nurture new talent, producing first films to rival the success of America's recent Blair Witch Project.

On top of the 22m boost, both the British Film Institute, which promotes films through education, and the British Film Commission, which attracts overseas investment, will benefit from extra money.

Chris Smith
Culture secretary Chris Smith backs new council

The BFI will be given a 16m government grant to invest in culture and teaching projects, while the BFC will see its annual budget increased to just over 1m.

Last year just 10 of the 70 British films released took more than 2m, in comparison with Hollywood films which regularly make a profit of 50m.

Film executives say the problem is no longer too little money but too much ill-directed finance.

After years of under-funding, the film industry is suddenly awash with millions of pounds from lottery money and tax breaks.


"The structure of the UK sector puts enormous pressure on producers just to get a film shooting and so many projects go before the camera without being properly developed," said BBC Worldwide director Mike Phillips.

Mr Parker says the real issue is "shabby" scripts.

"To be able to develop a screenplay is an art which the Americans are so good at and we're not," he said.

"The industry here is flimsy and the only way producers can pay their mortgage is by getting the movie made."

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04 Aug 99 | Entertainment
Evita director heads film council
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