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Professor calls for more radical approach to public sector funding of UK film

Press release issued: 16 January 2012

As the Government publishes its UK Film Policy Review today, Professor John Adams, who contributed to the Film Review Policy Panel consultations and has written extensively on UK film policy, calls for a much more radical, forward thinking approach to the use of public sector funding for UK film.

Professor Adams said: “In advance of the Film Policy Review published on Monday 16 January, David Cameron’s comments at Pinewood Studios [11 January] showed him looking at the future of the film industry in a rear-view mirror.  Despite the failure of decades of public funding, politicians and civil servants are still seduced by the myth of a ‘film industry’, believing in some magic investment strategy that will build sustainable commercial success from the cottage industry of UK filmmaking. 

“Cameron’s arguments regarding public sector investment in film production rest on the deluded assumption that government and the civil service, working with producers, have a better understanding of markets than private investors. If the Film Review takes this line, government funding will simply add another line of commercial revenue.

“A far better use of public monies in the digital era is to focus on the new kinds of film production, distribution and exhibition made possible by digital technologies, and serving the diverse interests and tastes in emerging UK and global markets.

“Film policy therefore needs a much more radical, forward thinking approach to the use of public sector funding.

“Public funds should be invested in audience development, encouraging choice and diversity of film in cinemas and in the experience of cinema going itself.  Public investment should

· help commercial and independent distributors to develop international digital networks:

· encourage exhibitors to screen a wider range of world films in cinemas, reminding us that there is a rich variety beyond the Big Mac culture of Hollywood;

· build on existing initiatives to develop the experience of cinema going and find new audiences in the UK and abroad.

“Some production funding should be retained for talent development through digital micro-budget production.  Regional production centres, working with the British Film Institute and Creative England and international partners, could develop slates of small-budget films.  Filmmakers from these environments would continue as cultural producers in the emerging world of digital production and/or showcase works for mainstream commercial projects.

“None of this would damage the commercial film industry, but would make much more effective use of public funds to develop the health and diversity of cinema in the UK and increase its global impact.”

John Adams is Professor of Film & Screen Media Practice (Emeritus) in the Department of Drama: Theatre, Film, Television at the University of Bristol. He has contributed to the Film Review Policy Panel consultations and written on recent UK film policy.  His paper, ‘UK Film: new directions in the glocal era’ was published in the Journal of Media Practice.

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