British movie moguls line up for the riches of Camelot

Stars come out in force to support film-makers' bids for slice of pounds 156m lottery cake
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The Independent Online
Elton John and Ewan McGregor were among the stars who lined up behind film companies yesterday to bid for a slice of the pounds 156m of lottery money being made available to make British feature films.

Intended to help overcome the fragmented and ad hoc character of the domestic film industry, the Arts Council lottery scheme will award up to pounds 8m each year to four "franchises", or consortia, for six years.

The initiative follows a consultants' report which suggested that the Arts Council was "in a unique position to be the catalyst of change" within the British film industry by means of its lottery income.

There is no question of Hollywood-style budgets, however: funds will be limited to pounds 2m per film and the required private funding is unlikely to push that much beyond pounds 6m.

The Arts Council hopes to recoup its grants from film profits - but will plough such income back into more productions.

The bids which went in for yesterday's 6pm deadline included one from Studio Pictures, a BBC-backed consortium led by its former head of single drama, George Faber.

It boasts the support of BBC Films, and Ewan McGregor, who shot to fame in Trainspotting, and who has set up a talent company with his co-star from that film, Jonny Lee Miller, to develop opportunities for actors in Britain's film industry.

Also hopeful were UK Filmworks, headed by Mike Newell, who directed Four Weddings and a Funeral, David Parfitt, who produced The Madness of King George, and Granada Films.

Another bid came from Partners In Film, a heavyweight consortium which includes Elton John's Rocket Pictures and Merchant Ivory Productions, famed for hits such as A Room with a View and Howards End. It says it will make 34 films in the six years.

A fourth consortium, Double Negative, is led by Working Title Films, the successful British production company which catapulted Hugh Grant to fame in Four Weddings And A Funeral.

Its partners include Revolution Films - formed by producer Andrew Eaton and director Michael Winterbottom, who made the feature film Jude - and The Jones Company.

Pathe Pictures offered a heavyweight application boasting producers Simon Channing-Williams (Naked, Secrets and Lies), Jake Eberts of Allied Films (Driving Miss Daisy, Chariots of Fire, Dances With Wolves), Norma Heyman (Dangerous Liaisons), Lynda Miles of Pandora Productions (The Commitments) and Sarah Radclyffe (My Beautiful Laundrette).

Penzance Films accounted for another bid from the consortium including Metrodome Group, the production company responsible for Leon The Pig Farmer, and the British directors Nicholas Roeg (Don't Look Now, The Man Who Fell To Earth) and Ken Russell (Women In Love, Tommy).

The Children's Film and Television Foundation also applied to service "one of the most neglected areas of the British film industry - the children's and family film".

Meanwhile, United Animations wants funding to make feature-length cartoons starring Rupert the Bear, Rumpelstiltskin and Odysseus.

The Arts Council received 400 initial applications. The winning bids will be chosen by its film advisory panel headed by Charles Denton, the BBC's former head of drama group, and announced in May.