Jonathan Gems on the abolition of the UKFC

I've just had the go-ahead to make this public, it's a letter that screenwriter Jonathan Gems (Batman, Mars Attacks) sent to one of Jeremy Hunt's aides. It's a worthy and eye-opening read. An antidote to all of these misguided "save the UKFC" cries and petitions on the web. Many thanks for this Jonathan, you are a true gent!

Dear Oscar Tapp-Scotting

Thank you for your email. I and others welcomed the abolition of the UKFC not so much because it was a way for the government to save money but because the UKFC actively suppressed British Cinema.

You must be aware that, apart from a portion of UKFC funds going into 'educational projects' (i.e.wasted), and a small cosmetic portion going to a few rare and already-financed British films, most of the funding went to Hollywood film companies to induce them to shoot their films at British production houses.

The British film community felt coruscating spasms of pain every time a government official bragged about the 'success' of the so-called British film industry when what was being referred to were successful American films that had been partly made at British production houses. We all remember seeing Tony Blair, for example, in the House of Commons, claiming that the success of the Harry Potter films (Warner Bros) were due to "his" policies and represented a success for British films when, in reality, they demonstrated the humiliating failure of British films.

In a newspaper interview the patriotic J.K. Rowling announced she would not 'go Hollywood' but would sell the rights to her Harry Potter series to a British film company. She didn't know there were no British film companies capable of financing and releasing the Harry Potter films. Later, she had to sell her rights to Hollywood or not see the films made. She had no choice.

Another recent ignominy was the drubbing received by Channel 4 when it made the excellent low budget film "Slumdog Millionaire" only to be forced to give it away to foreign studios in order to see it released. All the profits went to these foreign studios, not Britain.

And this is an old story. The film "1984" (which I co-wrote) starring John Hurt and Richard Burton has been seen by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. This was a British film financed by Richard Branson (Virgin Films) that was released in only one cinema in the UK. Why only one? Because Britain's cinemas are controlled by Hollywood and the Hollywood cartel was threatened by Richard's intention to start a British studio, so made sure to strangle it at birth.

In most years, about 99% of the films shown in UK cinemas are foreign films. (About 95% are American; 3% from other countries and 2% indigenous.) There is no nation in Europe whose film culture has been so thoroughly wiped out as ours has been.

Back in 1970, Britain still had its own cinema. We had three major studios: Associated British Pictures, British Lion, and The Rank Organisation. Between them, they produced and released between 30 and 40 films a year. In those days, we had home-grown stars like Michael Caine, Peter Sellers, Dirk Bogarde, Alec Guinness, Vanessa Redgrave and Norman Wisdom - and a plethora of character actors. For example, John LeMesurier (best known for Dad's Army) appeared in over 100 British films.

Today, to become a star, a British actor must go to Hollywood. To write movies, a British writer must go to Hollywood. To direct movies, a British director must go to Hollywood. Okay, there are a tiny few exceptions - such as directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. But their films were made by British TV companies until they stopped funding films in the early 90's since when their films have been made by French and Spanish studios.

By helping to fund American films, the UKFC suppressed any chance of a revival of British Cinema, which is why it's good news it has been abolished.

We have tremendous talent for filmmaking in this country. But most of that talent has left (or wants to leave) this country because there is no real film industry here. Sometimes people are confused because American-financed production companies (such as Working Title) have offices in London and purport to make 'British films'. In truth, Working Title, and other such production companies, are part of the Hollywood industry. Their business is done in LA and their films are owned and controlled by Hollywood studios.

Why did British Cinema disappear 40 years ago? Simple. Protections were removed. Without protection British Cinema could not compete with Hollywood so it disappeared.

Britain is the only country in Europe that does not protect its film industry.

In the past, when Norman St John Stevas - Arts Minister in Margaret Thatcher's government - lobbied to bring back protections, he was told 'no' on Free Market grounds.

This was puzzling because the American film market has never been free. It has always been closed to foreigners. No French, German, Spanish or Scandinavian film company is allowed to release a film in America. No British film company is allowed to release a film in America. And yet we allow America 100% access to our domestic market. Hardly fair, is it?

When we finished "1984", we could not release it in America but were allowed to sell it (at a loss) to a Hollywood studio. Richard Branson lost £3 million but the film went on to make a fortune for MGM.

The solution:

Write and pass a bill reserving, say,15% of the UK film market for UK films. This is what's done in other countries.

How it works is the government decrees that (say) 15% of all the films shown to the public in cinemas are indigenous. Cinema owners - to retain their licenses - must show that, each year, 15% of their screen time has been devoted to British films. This is not a lot to ask. Hollywood will still control 80% of the UK market.

The French government reserves 12.5% of France's film market for French films. Although done for cultural reasons, it has created a very lucrative industry that releases over 100 movies a year - in spite of the fact that roughly 80% of the screen time of French cinemas is devoted to Hollywood movies.

When, in 2003, the Spanish government reserved 20% of its domestic market for Spanish films, there was (unsurprisingly) a boom in Spanish filmmaking and now there are three robust Spanish movie studios not only releasing Spanish films in Spain but also selling them world-wide and earning foreign currency.

I urge Jeremy Hunt to take up the standard and champion British films. The restitution of protections will revive British Cinema, give us back our own indigenous cinema and improve our balance of payments. Not only would this be of ineffable value culturally but would, I think, be a vote-winner.

There is no rationale for not protecting British films. After all, terrestrial British television is protected. The percentage of foreign material permitted on the BBC and ITV channels is limited to 40%

Please promote this policy to Jeremy Hunt. And I'm sure David Cameron would see the sense in it.

Once again, many thanks for delivering us from the treasonous UKFC. (Hm...UKFC - looks like an anagram, doesn't it?)

Best wishes,

Jonathan Gems


you should type "Warner" in not Warner Bros. There's some typo's on the UKFC site so all results haven't appeared on your screenie.
Just thought people might be interested in the following statistics.

According to the UK Film Council 19 out of the top 20 films at the UK box office were owned by Hollywood, with one, "Slumdog Millionaire" being owned by Pathe (which has the UK rights, whereas Fox owns it for the rest of the world.)

Of what they list as the top 20 UK films, nine are Hollywood films which had enough of their production outsourced to the UK in order to qualify for subsidies from the tax payer. Sixteen of the 20 are North American owned productions, one is French and three British.

Of the films that the UK Film Council list as the top 20 "British Independent Films" 15 are North American owned, one French, and four British.

There is no point in trying to turn any of these figures into percentages for, as with UKFC statistics in general, they are as clear as mud. For example the same film may appear in different lists.

Also a question does need to be raised about the seven 'British-owned' films. All of them are distributed by "Entertainment" - a UK registered company, but one which almost exclusively distributes films by the Hollywood major: New Line Cinema.

Hence you can draw the conclusion that your film will only get a UK general release if the rights are acquired either directly by Hollywood, or by a Hollywood sub-contractor, or if you manage to sell the rights to Pathe - although Pathe have announced that they are pulling out of the UK market and that, in future, Warners will have the UK rights to their films, so it is about to become American or nothing.

What's more if your film is acquired by Hollywood you will not see any more money than your initial advance. Here's why. The US government allows Hollywood to practice accounting methods which are illegal in every other business sector, and they did this by way of recognising just how important Hollywood is to America's global propaganda effort. Typically it works like this:

A company, or companies, is set up to which the production is sub-contracted. These are often located overseas in, say, Canada or the UK, in order to claim subsidies (for example 'UK' company, HeyDay films, who produce the Harry Potter films for Warners was established and is run by ex-Warner Brothers executive, David Heyman). A separate division is then created in order to handle the film's distribution which is then charged for all the services that Warners (or whoever it is) provides. Hence they can charge themselves whatever they like - as long as it's enough to make sure that the film never makes a profit, whilst they trouser all the revenue tax-free (and no one ever gets to see any royalties).

Here's a leaked Warners balance sheet for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which shows that, despite taking $938million in revenue, so far it's made a loss of £167million(!)

In the statement, you'll notice the "distribution fee" of $212 million dollars. That's basically Warner Bros. paying itself to make sure the movie "loses money." There are some other fun tidbits in there as well. The $130 million in "advertising and publicity"? Again, much of that is actually Warner Bros. paying itself (or paying its own "properties"). $57 million in "interest"? Also to itself for "financing" the film.

The bottom line with regards to all this is that we need quotas for genuine British films so that we have a chance to grow some British production and distribution companies using acceptable accounting methods through which any profits go to benefit both the investors and the tax-payer. And that's the only way we will ever build up companies which, for sure, won't ever get to distribute anything in the USA, but which could be doing healthy business with the rest of the English-speaking world and beyond.
Excellent article.

If you know any people who foolishly signed the petition to save the fat cat UK Film Council then their heart is in the right place, but the very best bet of them getting a career in The UK film industry has been dealt a fantastic ace by The Culture Secretary in getting rid of the fat cat bureaucrats who were stopping people like them getting on the ladder.

On your taxes and public money, 75 people took between £70 000 and £150 000 each every year AND HAD OTHER JOBS. They paid £24 000 a week, £300 000 a year, £3 million in ten years on the most palatial office you can ever imagine. They had five star hotels on your taxes, first class travel, and one had £16 000 lunch expenses.

You should rejoice they are gone AND thank The Secretary of State for Culture. There is now a real chance with the remaining Lottery Money that it will be used to help people get a chance at a career in film making and The UK a viable self-financing business model.

Having lobbied hard to get rid of The UK Film Council, those of us at Save The British Film Industry have obviously been celebrating all week and congratulating the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

For there to be a British Film Industry, there needs to be sound stages built around The UK. Ideally at least 4 in every county. Hollywood $50 million to $300 million productions can only go where sound stages are. For those who do not know, they are glorified warehouses, more normally found in The Midlands and The North YET curiously sound stages are confined to a very very small 200 acres in the area of west London, and just North and West of London. The Uk Film Industry fought tooth and nail to ensure not one penny of Lottery money was spent on building sound stages outside of this small 200 acre zone..thus guaranteeing a UK film industry could not arise. They did spend £300 000 a year on their ground rent. They did employ 75 people on £70 000 to £150 000 who often had several other jobs. But sound stages, post-production facilities, nope. If these existed across The UK, then many more entrepreneurs who invest in fast food franchaises, laundrettes, restaurants, shops, etc will take the risk and hire them to try their luck at film making for profit. It was the volume of risk taking entrepreneurs which created Hollywood, and they then built sound stages, before selling them for houses, and forever thereafter seeking to rent them elsewhere such as Pinewood, Shepperton, Elstree.

Now the MD of Elstree earns a fraction of the salary of the average UKFC employee, yet he has delivered two years of block booking of Elstree sound stages by Hollywood Studios creating lots of UK based film jobs. Why is only little Hertsmere Council, owner of Elstree, wise about sound stages ? Why did The UKFC not educate people outside West London that they are the essential infrastructure of a real industry ? Now UKFC is gone, and hopefully certain very very high paid, huge expenses Regional screen Commissions with them, the sound stages can get built and UK film making enter a true golden age.

We urge people not to sign any Petition to save UKFC fatcat jobs. It has nothing to do with The UK Film Industry, indeed it was the enemy of most people making films in Britain.


You would do much better to get a Petition to Save Pinewood and Shepperton Studios. These have 34 sound stages. Each employing people in The Uk film industry, well only 80% of them.


The plc owning it has sold the right to use Pinewood brandname in the last 12 months to competitor studios in Canada, Malaysia, Germany and The Dominican Republic. The origial UK studios will not compete against them for the Hollywood productions which rent in Iver Heath and Shepperton and employ all the film workers. The two biggest shareholders in Pinewood who this week got 51% of shares for the first time have both openly said they are interested in the property values of Pinewood and Shepperton, not especially the film making business on it. The biggest shareholder made his billions buying businesses to close them and sell the land they were on at a profit. Guess what The UKFC were mute during the transfer of the real film jobs outside The UK which is about to become accelerated. It was not even protecting The London Film Industry longterm.


You are going to be left with Elstree (only about 15% of Pinewood-Shepperton capacity) unless you start campaigning, petitioning to the Government now rather than the misguided attempt to save fatcat bureaucrats while killing the industry and driving abroad its major investor. Yes, ideally we get UK film financing and distribution. But people adore Hollywood blockbusters and adore to work on them. So why not have both ?

Lest the very young forget...‘Chariots of Fire’ was made quite happily without The UK Film Council. Ditto prior to the utterly wasteful on themselves bureaucrats getting your taxes to play with, yes PRIOR to The UKFC we had ‘A Fish Called Wanda’, ‘Four Weddings and A Funeral’, ‘Trainspotting’, ‘Shallow Grave’, ‘My Left Foot’, ‘Elizabeth’, ‘Crying Game; ‘Mona Lisa’ , ‘Notting Hill’ ‘The Winslow Boy’, ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’, ‘Shakespeare In Love’, ‘Sliding Doors’. ‘Little Voice’, ‘Mrs Brown’, ‘Hamlet’.'Brassed Off’, ‘Jude’, ‘Wind in The Willows’, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Madness of King George’, etc etc let alone The 007 James Bond films, and not forgetting the 15% of Hollywood movies made at Pinewood and Shepperton and Elstree Studios each year…….

There is hope but not if people fall for The UKFC con tricks. We were better off before them, and will be better off after them. You might even get a few film jobs soon. Very best of success to you all.

Jonathan Stuart-Brown
Today's editorial in Screen Daily just comes down on the side of keeping the UKFC, but it goes on to list a whole catalogue of reasons as to why it is so loathed by all sections of the industry. These include:

The incredible level of arrogance, the bullying of people into keeping their mouths shut which was more reminiscent of a gangster movie: "If you dare say one word against us we'll make sure you never work in this industry again"; the giving away of Lottery money to viable commercial projects which the industry would have produced unaided (which didn't just include large budget commercial features, but also handing out about £13million of subsidy to install 3D projectors, mostly in multiplexes, when Hollywood has been more than prepared to make its own arrangements in other countries and would have done just the same here).

And then there were all the tall stories about the Harry Potters, the Bond films, and all the other Hollywood productions with substantial UK sub-contracted elements and which they claimed as UK success stories when, and I quote, "none of the revenues from them stayed in the UK".

And then there was all the form filling, the handful of overpaid fat-cats who treated the UKFC as if it was their own private studio and who often decided on a whim which one of their mates they'd give the money to. The desire to have its fingers in every available pie: education and training, controlling the regions, subsidising the distribution and exhibition of foreign films, and so on and so on.

And how, after ten years of all this , we are no nearer to a sustainable integrated UK film industry, i.e. one capable of making, distributing, exhibiting its own films and of selling the abroad.

Usually you can only read articles in Screen Daily if you are a subscriber, but I managed to read it via the following: Google UKFC, pages from UK, latest. Scroll down a bit and you'll find a link - click it and you should be able to read the original.
Nice short article by Tim Adler about the marches to stop the abolishing of the UKFC here:

Tim Adler:

You can imagine the chants: “What do we want?” “More minority international UK co-productions benefiting from increased prints-and-advertising spending during limited theatrical release.” “When do we want it?” “NOW!”

Here: http://www.deadline....t-ukfc-closure/
\ said:
‘The UKFC never once allocated Lottery Funding to the Hollywood Studios.’
Arts Alliance is a venture capital organisation dedicated to entrepreneurship in Europe. Arts Alliance advises on investments on behalf of a series of funds that are primarily associated with the interests of the Heogh family. Building on a history of 80 years of shipowning and operation, activities in which the Høegh family holds interests have grown into other segments including real estate and financial advisory services.

Interests include companies sich as LOVEFILM and Gemini Oil.Gemini II has investor commitments of US $140 million and Gemini I of US $30 million. Both funds are advised by London-based Gemini Oil & Gas Advisors LLP.

More info on company partnerships on their website and that of sister company Arts Alliance Ventures.

Their Philosophy statement is here http://www.artsallia...philosophy.aspx

In February 2005, Arts Alliance Media was selected to roll out the UK Film Council's Digital Screen Network (DSN).

In April 2007, Arts Alliance Media completed the installation of the UK Film Council's 240 screen Digital Screen network.

A list of Arts Alliance board members here;

Following this $20M national lottery funded contract via the UKFC to install and operate Europe's largest 2K digital cinema network deals were followed by digital deployment deals with Sony, Paramount and Disney.

In June 2007 AAM announced Europe's first Virtual Print Fee (VPF) deals, with Fox and Universal.

By March 2007, 230 of the 241 screens had been installed on schedule, with the remaining 11 to be installed later in 2007 when cinemas have completed building works or construction

Chicken Little from Disney, with its experimental release of the film in digital 3D, increased the number of projectors using the 2K format. Several digital 3D films surfaced in 2006 and several prominent filmmakers have committed to making their next productions in stereo 3D

As of March 2007, with the release of Disneys Meet the Robinsons about 600 screens have been equipped with 2K digital projectors that feature Real D Cinema's stereoscopic 3D technology, marketed under the Disney Digital 3-D brand.

In June 2007, Arts Alliance Media announced the first European commercial digital cinema VPF agreements (with Twentieth Century Fox and Universal Pictures).

UK top 10, 19-21 February (2009/2010)

1. Avatar, £2,817,009 from 391 sites. Total: £83,265,484

2. The Princess and the Frog, £1,725,519 from 503 sites. Total: £8,873,333

3. The Lovely Bones, (2009) £1,637,579 from 420 sites (New)

4. Valentine's Day,(2010) £1,583,142 from 436 sites. Total: £7,777,154

5. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, (2010) £1,487,446 from 457 sites. Total: £5,225,096

6. The Wolfman,(2010) £774,890 from 411 sites. Total: £4,171,878

7. Solomon Kane, (2009) £611,886 from 259 sites (New)

8. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, £608,154 from 397 sites. Total: £23,164,859

9. Invictus, (2009) £570,801 from 269 sites. Total: £3,655,362

10. Astro Boy,(2009) £523,215 from 418 sites. Total: £3,102,327

US FILM: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Number of UK screens on opening: 516

UK box office gross: £26 million.


Number of UK screens on opening: 118

UK box office gross: £1.05 million.

The argument is that Hollywood capital and services provide jobs and investment into the UK.

This is backed by some people in the UK film industry and particularly the UKFC.

The counter argument is that this inhibits the indigenous British film industry.

Just one case in point being the 5k fee needed to distribute micro features which starves British film-makers of returns needed to fund their films.

In any case, whatever your view, Rincewoods statement is patently false.
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Jonathan Gems has posted a new blog:

\ said:
A New British Cinema Law
I've just done some research on the quotas and protections that countries use to safeguard their national film industries. This was no picnic. Going through the different rules and regulations and claw-back tax schemes was like filling out a government application for disability benefit.

As with most of what issues from governments, most countries' legislation is complicated and filled with loopholes and grey areas. Is this done to let friends wriggle around the regulations? Is it done to provide work for lawyers? Is it done to permit governments to censor films without seeming to? Maybe all three.

In some countries, like Brazil, there are effectively no quotas because the legislation isn't enforced. In others, like Finland, there are no quotas officially but then you find out the government subsidizes 50% of the cost of every Finnish film - in effect, a decent quota.

In Spain the law requires exhibitors to show 1 day of EU produced films for 3 days of Hollywood films, which averages out as roughly a 20% quota for Spanish films. However, the rules surrounding co-productions can be interpreted by lawyers to suit American interests. "Vicky Barcelona" by Woody Allen, for example, qualified as a Spanish film (even though it wasn't in Spanish) and was part-funded by Catalan taxpayers - much to their disgust.

In Sweden, national, regional and local governments provide subsidies, via various complex arrangements, of about £90million. It's not easy to quantify, but this equates to something like a 12-14% quota. The Swedish film industry is punching way above its weight, however, because its share of the domestic market is 26% - a testament to how good their films are. Last year, they released 27 films including Let The Right One In, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Mammoth. In December 2009, the Swedish Film Institute celebrated 145 International awards given to their feature films, documentaries and shorts. What's Sweden's population? 9 million. How many films did they release last year? 27. What's Britain's population? 61.4 million. How many films did we release last year? 10.

The most complicated tax/subsidy/quota protection rules are in France. I now understand why the media tells us France protects 12% or 12.5% or 14.3% or even 25% of its indigenous cinema. It all depends on how you interpret the data.

It's possible the French protections are convoluted because they provide politicians with ammunition to support whatever positions they are holding. If the French complain about the government wasting public money on films, the government can point to statistics showing government hardly supports French films at all. But if the they complain their culture and identity is being annihilated by Hollywood, the government can demonstrate that it's doing a lot to support French films!

So far as I can tell, the French system effectively protects 12-14% of its indigenous Cinema. It also appears that, thanks to the high success rate of French films, 25% of all the films shown on French screens are French.

Most people admire the French film industry and wish their own countries were equally blessed but, personally, I don't think their Kafkaesque bureaucracy would suit us here in the UK.

I prefer the Argentine model.

In Argentina, the government decrees that 1 local film in each 12 week period must be shown on each Argentine screen. This works out as a 8.3% quota protecting Argentine films.

With this small quota, in 2008-9, Argentina released 23 new movies. That's almost one every fortnight. Not bad.

This compares to only 10 British films released in 2008-9.

Now we enter an area of controversy. I say 10 British films were released last year. The UK Film Council says 46 British films were released last year. This is a big difference in perception. Who is right? To answer this question we need to define what is - and isn't - a British film.

Firstly, let's react to this intuitively. We're told 46 new British films came out last year. That's nearly one a week. Wow. Did it feel like there were a lot of British films coming out last year? What were they? And who are all the new British movie stars?

I remember some apparently British films - like An Education, starring a new actress named Carey Mulligan, and Harry Brown starring Michael Caine - but it didn't feel like there were a lot. If we really had 46 new movies last year, British Cinema would be booming - it would be a renaissance. Does it feel like a renaissance? No. So what's going on?

The official list of British films for 2008-9 contains 29 motion pictures that are not British, 4 that went straight to DVD and 3 that were not even released.

At the risk of being pedantic, here's the list.

44 Inch Chest................................................CANADA

Awaydays......................................................BRITAIN (Red Union Films)

The Boat That Rocked..................................U.S. (Universal Pictures)

Boogie Woogie..............................................U.S. (indie)

Bright Star.....................................................FRANCE (Pathé)

Bronson.........................................................BRITAIN (Vertigo Films)

City Rats........................................................BRITAIN - straight to DVD

Cherrybomb..................................................U.S. (indie)

Clubbed.........................................................BRITAIN - straight to DVD

Creation.........................................................BRITAIN (Recorded/Hanway)

The Damned United......................................U.S. (Sony Pictures)

Doghouse.......................................................BRITAIN (Carnaby International)

Dorian Grey...................................................BRITAIN (Ealing/E1 Ent.)

An Education.................................................U.S. (Sony Pictures)

Endgame........................................................SOUTH AFRICA

Exam..............................................................BRITAIN - straight to DVD

Englishman in New York..............................U.S. (indie)

Fish Tank.......................................................BRITAIN (BBC/Content Films)

FAQ Time Travel...........................................U.S. (HBO)

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.......U.S. (Warner Bros)

Hippie Hippie Shake.....................................U.S. + FRANCE (Universal/Canal)

Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus.......................U.S. + CANADA (Sony/Infinity)

I Know You Know..........................................BRITAIN - not released

In The Loop....................................................BRITAIN (BBC)

Iron Cross......................................................BRITAIN - not released

Is Anybody There...........................................U.S. (indie)

Jack Boots On Whitehall...............................U.S. (indie)

Jack Said........................................................BRITAIN - straight to DVD

Lesbian Vampire Killers................................BRITAIN (Alliance Films)

Little Ashes....................................................U.S. (indie)

London River.................................................FRANCE

Looking for Eric.............................................FRANCE

Moon..............................................................U.S. (indie)

Nowhere Boy.................................................U.S (Weinstein Company)

Perriers Bounty..............................................IRISH + U.S.

Rage...............................................................U.S. (indie)

Secret of Moonacre........................................U.S. (indie)

Sherlock Holmes............................................U.S. (Warner Bros)

Shifty..............................................................BRITAIN (BBC) - not released

St Trinians II..................................................BRITAIN (Ealing Studios)


Tormented.....................................................U.S + FRANCE (Warner/Pathé)

Triangle..........................................................U.S. (indie)

Wild Target....................................................BRITAIN (Magic Light/Protagonist)

Young Victoria...............................................U.S. (indie)

So, what's the difference between a British film and a foreign film. Basically, a British film is one that is financed and released by a British film company. That's it.

Let's say, you write a script and you want to make it into a film. Where do you take it? Where do you go? You go to a movie studio. A movie studio is a company that finances and releases films.

Next, the studio executives consider your script and, if they like it, assign it to a producer. Alternatively, you might take your script to a producer who might take it to a studio. Or you might show it to an agent who might send it to a producer who might take it to a studio. The point is: it's movie studios that make films.

The studio executives decide what films to make, who to direct, who to star, what level of production budget, what to spend on the release campaign, how many cinemas to open the movie in, and so forth. The movie studio is at the heart of the movie industry.

So, how many movie studios do we have in Britain?


Well, that's not entirely true - Barnaby Thompson's Ealing Studios has functioned like a movie studio on a few occasions - but that's about it. Some might argue the handful of companies making films for release on DVD are studios (and, technically, they are) but are DVD releases the same as Cinema? Not really. They're more like films for TV.

Before quotas were removed in 1970, we had three major studios: Associated British Pictures, The Rank OrganisationBritish Lion. But since 1976 (when British Lion bit the dust) we've not had a real, functioning British movie studio. Not one.

In 1980, there was a small revival in British films when Channel 4 was set up and pursued a policy of financing and releasing films. However, these were low-budget films released on television. This wasn't a revival of British Cinema and, sadly, Channel 4 stopped making TV films in the mid-90's.

Question: how do you make a British film if there are no British studios?

Answer: you go to a foreign studio.

Where can you go? Well, most producers try the Hollywood majors first. If that doesn't work, they might try their luck with the small U.S. independents. They might try Pathé, Gaumont or Studio Canal in France. They might go to Canadian studios, like Alliance, or try the Spanish, German and Dutch studios. I've known some British filmmakers who've tried to get projects made by Danish, Swedish and Norwegian studios.

What happens when you go to a foreign studio? Well, the executives look at your project through their own eyes. They don't look at it as a British person would because they're not British. They see it through their own eyes and assess whether it has potential in their home market. If they like the script they'll ask for changes to adapt it to their market. They will stipulate the hiring of stars that have traction in their culture. After all this, is it still a British film? Not really.

Do you remember Four Weddings and A Funeral? It was an excellent film but it didn't ring true; it was a Hollywood fantasy about jolly old England and the charming/eccentric British middle classes. It had an American star (Andie MacDowell) and an American sensibility. It was made by a Dutch studio (Polygram) for the American and world markets. And there's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes French studios will do the same. Subway by Luc Besson (Gaumont) was a film like this. In general, though, studios make films for their domestic markets and this is a good thing. Why?

Because film is the best medium we have for reflecting, challenging and revealing our own society to ourselves.

A nation, like Britain, with no film studios, is cut off from itself - cut off from its own culture. This weakens the identity and morale of the nation and makes it vulnerable to erasure by alien cultures...' rel="external nofollow">

Read the full article here at The House of Pink Onion
How do you square the following circle?

On it's website the UKFC proudly claims that: "UK Film Council investments in British films have been hugely successful – for every £1 we have invested, £5 has been generated at the box office".

But on their last annual report to Parliament they say: "Recoupment targets from UK Film Council investments have not been met through the consistent failure to support successful projects, thereby limiting future available funds".

And if you attempt to wade through their incredibly badly presented accounts their investments seem to recoup virtually no money at all.

At least they are honest when it comes to reporting to Parliament.

Maybe what they proclaim on their website is a slip of the pen. I mean, when they even claim that "The Dark Knight" is a British film, then some of these "Hollywood-studio-so-called-British films" have indeed been hugely successful - not that they ever got any money from the UKFC, but they did get subsidies from the tax-payer, i.e. from you and me.

Then again it could be down to the fact that, well £5 at the box office? That's £2.50 at least to the cinemas and £2.50 (or less) to the distributor. Then the distributors deduct their expenses - the costs of producing prints, advertising and marketing, taxes, administration costs, and so on; and then take at least 50% of what's left. Finally, if they're lucky, the production company gets 50p at most.

So you see, £5 at the box office is a huge success. Such a shame that films need to make more than twice that if the investors are to make any money.....

BTW, if the prospect of attempting to wade through UKFC accounts is enough to make you lose the will to live, don't bother clicking the link.

If you do the quote is on page 29

Shameful facts hidden in the UK Film Council’s Statistical Report 2009

The UK Film Council has recently published its Statistical Yearbook for 2009. In order to save you from the hassle of wading through its obfuscatory pages' date=' here’s some of the key data – from which you’ll get some idea of just how foreign dominated the UK market is

Ten distributors had 92.2% of the UK market – slightly down on last year. Of these one is French (Pathe) and one English (Entertainment). Almost all of Entertainment’s films involved their acquiring UK rights from major US distributors – Warners, Universal, and New Line in particular.

All together [b']these ten companies had a total box office gross of £1billion (near as makes no difference). The other eighty-three (yes, 83) distributors shared £83.5 million.


Nine of the ‘other 83 companies’ were the largest distributors of foreign (i.e. non-English language – funny how ‘American’ is not classed as ‘foreign’) films, distributing between them a total of 62 films with a combined box-office gross of £17.2million. Foreign-language films are particularly attractive as, if of EU origin, they are heavily subsidised.

Of course foreign films featured widely in the portfolios of other distributors as well, but the UKFC doesn’t bother trying to give a clear picture (of anything, really); however it would be safe to assume at least £20million+ (i.e.25% of what the ‘other 83’ share).

This would appear to suggest that approximately 75 distributors had a bit less than 5% of the box office – a total of about £60 million gross. Subtract from that both what the cinema owners take and the distributors’ prints and advertising costs and you’re left with a net of, what? Less than £20million? And don’t forget, that’s not from 75 films, but from the total portfolios of 75 companies.

From all this it’s clear that, if your film wasn’t acquired by one of the American majors (or Pathe) the chances of it grossing even £100,000 (and you therefore seeing maybe £10,000) at the box office are remote.

But what we really want to know is, how much do films make on that all important DVD market? The UKFC provides us with virtually no data at all on this. All they do tell us is that a film with a box of gross of £100,000 would sell, on average, 20,000 copies – from which the filmmaker might see £50,000

The UKFC provides no data on the straight to DVD market – even though that’s where most UK films go. Nor do they provide any data for revenues from TV sales or any other markets. But it is safe to say that it must be really, really hard for a filmmaker to net just £100,000 – and that’s the measure of just how American dominated our film market is.
There is apparently some march viz UKFC fat cat jobs August 28. Let's hope it flops and the matter can end before the disinformation spreads to Uni students when they start the new term. A quick survey of those who have signed - or say they would (on the few false UKFC stats provided) consider signing - the Facebook and other petitions shows that most think that UKFC made THE FULL MONTY !!!! They probably think UKFC made ZULU and THE DAM BUSTERS as well !!! Very hard to deal with mass ignorance and massive disinformation from UKFC through their official PR strategy of "THIRD PARTY PR ADVOCACY"...


Let's hope it fizzles out quickly...


The very real threat to The UK Film Industry is the threat to the existence of the 24 sound stages at Pinewood and Shepperton.


The real issue is sound stages or there will be zip Hollywood big budget and medium budget investment in The UK.

Ironically people have got it wrong...Richard Bernstein of Crystal Amber is the best bet (not a 100% bet) but the best bet of more sound stages in The UK and the best bet of keeping as much of Pinewood and Shepperton as is. Theother bets were moving to turning the whole show into other property interests while moving the sound stage rental business to Malaysia, Canada, Germany and China. They had a team out in Shanghai last week negotiating a deal.

Interesting that UKFC report referred to working towards tax credit NOT being confined to productions based in The UK !!

If Pinewood and Shepperton go, leaving us with Elstree as biggest studio (six sound stages) then we become hand held camera film producers WHILe the French open 9 sound stages in Paris in 2012 to get Hollywood productions. Do we also get an indiginous film industry like the French ?
At least the perilous state the 34 Sound Stages at Pinewood and Shepperton -owned since 2004 by a plc in which shares can be freely traded - is now just getting on the msm media agenda.


What is interesting with The UKFC is that the report Jon Williams has brilliantly analysed also mooted changing the tax credit to shooting OUTSIDE The UK...maybe Pinewood Malaysia opening in 2012.

Everything Jonathan Gems and Jon Williams write on the need to invest in UK films NOT TOTALLY DEPENDENT ON HOLLYWOOD FINANCE which in turn is dependent on Pinewood Shepperton shareholders guaranteeing the sound stages stay where they are (or even expand in the UK). A distinct lack of guarantees at the moment.

We need in The North-West, North-East, Midlands, South-West, Wales, scotland at least an Elstree in each. Six sound stages and about 9 acres. It at least opens up the nation to Hollywood largesse and jobs, as well as high quality indie and British financed shoots.
Watch this. For me Chris Atkins is a credit for providing this insight. It's nothing we didn't know but hopefully it will educate a large amount of the people who are signing petitions, largely because they don't know the full facts.

Guardian - video expose by Chris Atkins

And credit to Matthew Vaughn for this...

And could someone send the usually reliable, but this time sorely misguided Armando Iannucci, a message with some real facts? It seems someone handed him a pamphlet filled with UKFC spin.
Matthew Vaughn has gone further, outlining a manifesto for the future of British cinema. Just as we've all been saying he's very concerned to see British film-making develop so that British facilities companies can become less dependent on servicing Hollywood.

As he points out, Hollywood benefits from being given tax credits and then exports all the profits to America so we get nothing. Vaughn argues that, just with any other industry, film tax credits should be an investment with, if the film is successful, the tax-man getting his share which should then be invested in British productions.

Read it all here: http://www.deadline....wood-film-plan/
Matthew Vaughn is getting warm. Still very London-centric but that is his world. A fine effort by him and it is a useful draft to hang the debate on. But we must get on to the debate.

Shame The UKFC March yesterday flopped !! No real grassroots to the bogus protest. PR companies do not work on Bank Hols. I thought they would at least hire 1000 actors as did Kirk Douglas as mourners at a funeral in a great movie. I think they have given up.

UKFC is over.

As a leading Canadian Hollywood writer said:

On The so called UK Film Council “I haven’t seen such tactical brilliance since World War 1 where the generals thought it was sheer genius to march slowly into machine gun fire”.


and again

Well, I’m leery of government financing of film production, while the idea of ‘free’ production financing sounds great, the reality can become too cliquish and promotes films that are more anti-audience than pro-art. So how can they avoid this?.

1. TERM LIMITS: The head of the organization should only serve between 1-2 years then they’re out. This keeps them from forming the cliques that dominate such groups.

2. EXPERIENCE ESSENTIAL, BUT NOT PREFERRED: If you must, the person that takes the job must not have pre-existing connections to the industry. Because those are automatic indicators of favoritism, if not downright nepotism. Recruit some hard-ass from the City who knows money, loves movies as a fan, and is willing to put up with producers for 2 years in exchange for scoring young actresses and a knighthood.

3. RESPONSIBILITY: If the films they finance don’t sell any tickets, then that should reflect on the new council’s budget. Seek a return on investment.

4. SMALL STAFF: In bureaucracies the more staff that gets hire, the more little empires are formed. This new group should be more like the original British Screen organization which only had 4 employees.

If Jon Williams and Canadian Furious D ever get together, the book will be a best seller !!

Then, maybe then, you might be able to get something functional
The irony is thast UKFC are still getting their millions for 18 months, they are still being silent over UK sound stages in peril, they still have no plan B if next week a new party bids for Pinewood Shepperton plc shares and over 50% of shareholders take the price on offer. This new party could be anyone. Say a Libyan playboy looking for two London 60 acres, one 108 acres. The UKFC should be surcharged for bacvk pay not paifd for 18 months while nurses get axed, fire stations close, and UK film makers go unfunded.


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