British Films To Go Upwards with Woodward?

Written by James MacGregor on . Posted in Film industry

UK Film CouncilBritain's film industry is facing a better future according to UK Film Council chief executive John Woodward: “It's true the film production sector has gone through a very bumpy patch over the last 18 months, but we are now poised to reap the rewards - with nothing to fear except the British disease of talking ourselves down.”

John WoodwardThe UK ranks high in world status, Woodward says, “Even in a turbulent time like 2005, Britain stood up as the most important film industry on the planet after the US, generating over £550m of production spend and involvement in 123 feature films.” The UKFC chief's confidence is echoed by producer Michael Kuhn, the former Polygram head, who set up Qwerty Films and chairs the National Film and Television School, who sees things improving, but Kuhn wants to see more commitment to film from UK broadcasters.

“The good news is that both the government and the Film Council have started taking on board the need for change - which is why I'm not as gloomy as I was six months ago,” Kuhn says, “But I've never been gloomy on the creative side, because I think our creative talents are considerable. “

“Unlike their European counterparts, broadcasters in Britain have never really seen it as part of their duty to support film and that is one area where I would like to see change.”

Broadcaster involvement as a key factor in future development, Kuhn maintains.

“It is not a matter of their duty, it is a matter of the opportunity they are missing. Channel 4 came in and set up Film Four with £10m back in the early 80s - and that transformed the British Film Industry. A little money made a tremendous difference.”

According to Woodward,  Britain loves the movies and the world loves the British film industry.
But does the world want to see British films or are they sidelined because of US dominance in the international market – do we have a sustainable industry long-term? According to Michael Kuhn, we do.

Michael Kuhn, producer“Admittedly, it is harder for us to create an independent industry here in Britain because we share a common language with America, but I don't think it is true that we just mimic Hollywood films," says Kuhn.

"There is always something British about our films, even if they are commercial. Polygram hits like Four Weddings or Trainspotting were clearly a case of us doing our own thing. Our problem is that we have a hit, but it doesn't produce an industry. There is a perpetual fight to create a sustainable industry here."

Film Council boss Woodward is optimistic for the industry's future, spelling out the improvements that are coming on stream..

"Looking ahead, this year the Government's generous new tax credit will subsidise up to 20% of the cost of lower budget films like Bend It Like Beckham and 28 Days Later, and up to 16% of big budget films like Harry Potter and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

"For the first time in years, the key British broadcasters are also drawing up plans to support British film with more money and more marketing," Woodward says. " In addition, state-of-the-art digital film projectors are being installed in cinemas around the country to give British audiences a bigger choice of films."

Even bigger changes on the horizon  are coming up fast, Woodward says.

"Looking further ahead, the downloading revolution is about to strike the film industry and provide the biggest single business opportunity for a generation. The British film industry can now look forward to the future with real confidence."

EDITORS NOTE:

Michael Kuhn, Former Polygram chief 56, has produced hits including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Trainspotting. He set up Qwerty Films in 1999 and was appointed Chair of the National Film and Television School in 2002.

John Woodward was appointed chief executive officer of the UK Film Council in 1999. Prior to that he was director of the British Film Institute (BFI), and also successfully lobbied for the introduction of tax breaks for film production investment.

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