1. Those who gained something tangible and useful from the UKFC
2. Those how gained little or nothing from the UKFC
It’s clear that these groups also hold broadly opposing views (though not exclusively). They could be charcaterised as…
‘The UKFC is great and the government has made a big mistake’
‘They never helped me, and I ended up wasting time trying to get their help…Good riddance’
(or as one amusing tweet put it, ‘Oh no! Who’s going to reject my scripts now?’)
The dysfunctional inner child in me did grin when I heard the UKFC was being axed as I have had little or no useful help at all from them. In fact their existence has made my life as a film maker more difficult by helping create and maintain a playing field that is very far from level.
But that is just my experience and I do know that everyone at the UKFC really does want to make a positive difference to UK film. And no matter what action they take, someone will always bleat about it. So if it’s not me bleating, it would be someone else.
Having said all that, I do believe the UKFC really does need to evolve. Left alone, I don’t believe it would change over the next few years, it would remain business as usual.
2010 is VERY different to 2000 when the UKFC was in its infancy. Their own statistics which were released last week show just how much the industry has changed. Link here.
So while I feel the Government has been hasty in its actions (but perhaps tough choices were made in tough times), I also feel that the UKFC needed an overhaul. And it was never going to do this from the ‘inside out’, it needed an external catalyst.
So rather than moan about past transgressions, why don’t we all begin to shape our own NEW UK Film Council dreams and make them a reality?
In years gone by, Government would ask some smart people to give their opinions on what these kinds of bodies should do – the broad stuff like ‘grow the film business’, ‘support culture’, ‘help sustain exports’ etc.
But we live in 2010, with Twitter, social media and blogs now contributing to the debate, with much greater access for all and the ability to mount fast moving, dynamic and vocal campaigns.
We all now have a voice. And by heck, we SHOULD ROAR!
WE should be leading the debate, helping the new government create a focussed, lean and effective NEW organisation. A UKFC for 2010, to represent the new industry. Not the ‘good old days’, but the vibrant future we can all share.
So who exactly is the ‘WE’ I refer to?
Broadly, the 95% of film makers who were never helped by the UKFC. As well as the 5% of film makers who WERE helped by the UKFC. We are all in one boat. Let’s get rowing together.
So what do I think this new entity should do?
In no particular order, here’s my thoughts…
1. Abandon support for any projects that are ‘culture for cultures’ sake. Let the market and consumers be our guide of what British culture is, defined by their choices at the box office. The UK public should celebrate and look forward to new British films, not avoid them like the plague. I know this is an easy thing to say, but we should be feeding the demand, ideally with our own cultural spin, but that spin must NEVER cost us the commercial edge. WE MUST MAKE MONEY. I don’t propose a cookie cutter approach, just a process that celebrates the audience rather than punishes them.
2. Continue the good work the UKFC has done working with bigger productions and bringing US$ into the country, or keeping our GBP£ in the UK. This is essential and one reason why closure of the UKFC is a bit silly. It’s all too easy to throw the baby out with the bath water, and it looks like the Government has done just that.
3. Embrace new models and encourage prolific and sustainable low budget films that deliver quality movies to targeted audiences, all sub £500k in budget. I would argue around £300k is even better. Create small and lean training academies that help new film makers realise their visions for these £300k films
4. Invest in writers. Hugely. In fact if this is all that the new entity did, I would be happy. A good script will usually find money. All too often a bad script gets rushed into production.
5. Invest in sales and distribution outfits in such a way that film makers have safe hands into which they can deliver their completed films. If I had received the money I should have received from the films I made, I would have a sustainable business. There is too much thieving in sales. These organisations should also reach out to writers to help focus their talents on saleability. It’s essential that if a film makes money, that cash MUST flow back to the entrepreneurs who created the product.
6. One day a week, all staff should have a ‘Google’ style blue sky day. For that day they should work on innovation in the industry, spend time with ALL levels of producer, asking questions, answering questions, connecting and creating new relationships. To me, the UKFC was largely a mystery. I gave up asking for meetings. They didn’t care who I was or what I was doing, largely because they didn’t know I existed and so there was no real way for us to connect. And so everything I did, from my own films, to my Guerilla Film Makers books, to the free outreach ideas that I have initiated (like our film production show ‘The Production Office’), all went completely under the UKFC radar. Sadly, they had no idea that my short film ‘Gone Fishing’ was the only UK short to be Oscars shortlisted in 2009 for instance. How is that possible? Did they not read the full page article in Variety and think, goodness, maybe I should drop these guys an email? The current UKFC seems to only look inward and rarely outward to the wider film community. I am sure they would vehemently disagree. The fact that they don’t monitor films in their year book that are budgeted under £500k will tell you that they are completely disconnected from the current micro budget revolution.
7. If a new entity is created, cherry pick the best of the current staff. There are some really, really smart and dedicated people at the UKFC. Honestly? I believe there are more dedicated, experienced and talented people at the UKFC than most of us really acknowledge. I think the current ‘political entity’, complete with its rules and regulations and forms add-infinitum, probably stifled many dynamic and creative voices from within the actual organisation. That’s a real shame.
I am sure I can add to this list, and I would love to hear your thoughts too, on how you would like the UKFC v 2.0 to reboot. This is our chance to take the reigns guys, let’s make it happen!
UPDATE – I got this email, confidentially, and so have withheld the name…
"Great post Chris. As an ex-employee of UKFC, I often felt frustrated by some of the policy and funding that was present but also didn't think it was too far away from being a really useful organisation. Just a rethink and adju
stment was, and will now be, required. Perhaps a more flexible approach to an industry that seems to be shifting constantly, although, as you say any such funding body will always have it's detractors. I particularly like points 3 and 4, as that's something that I feel really could and should be addressed." Name Withheld by Chris
Onwards and upwards!
Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author