New body to back UK film industry

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The Independent Online
CHRIS SMITH, the Secretary of State for Culture, yesterday announced that the Film Council, which will replace all the other film quangos, will begin work next April.

His announcement came at the same time as the Arts Council confirmed that no film made with National Lottery funds has made a profit.

Speaking in Cannes, Mr Smith said: "The Film Council will develop a coherent strategy for film culture, the development of the film industry and the encouragement of inward investment, and determine the allocation of resources between them.

"Over the next three years total investment of public and lottery money in films is expected to reach pounds 150m, at least pounds 145m of which will be channelled through the Film Council."

The money for the Film Council is not new money. Rather it is money that will be transferred from the other film quangos. But the Film Council will replace the Arts Council as the conduit for lottery money for new films from April.

Charles Denton, the Arts Council's lottery film panel chairman, confirmed in Cannes yesterday that no lottery financed film had made a profit. He said: "No lottery-funded film that I know of has so far recouped more than 100 per cent of its costs."

Lottery-funded films include Wilde, Hilary and Jackie, Hideous Kinky, and the new release An Ideal Husband. One of the lottery franchises, DNA Films - run by Duncan Kenworthy, producer of Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Andrew Macdonald, producer of Trainspotting - has not made a film in more than a year with its lottery money, pounds 29m of which has been sitting in the bank. They said yesterday that they now have films ready for development.

Challenged about the fact that no lottery film had made a profit and that one of three lottery franchises, Pathe Pictures, was French-owned, Mr Denton said that lottery money for films had "improved the cultural life of the country".

In the past four years the Arts Council has awarded pounds 67m to 79 feature films and pounds 95m to three film franchises to produce films. Some 32 of the films have so far been released in British cinemas. Six have failed to get any cinema release. The rest are in production.

Earlier, Mr Smith announced that film producers making films in Britain had agreed to give up to pounds 1.5m a year in voluntary contributions towards training film technicians. Hollywood studios that make films in Britain will be making the contributions along with British producers. They have told the Government they will pay 0.5 per cent of their budgets up to a maximum of pounds 39,500 each.

Mr Smith said that among other things the initiative would help train more black and Asian film-makers. He said there was formidable talent in Britain which the industry now had to develop.

Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, said: "Britain is a most dynamic, professional and investment-friendly country. Its actors, actresses and technicians are among the finest in the world."

Mr Smith also said yesterday that he strongly disagreed with Sean Connery, who earlier in the festival had said that there was no British film industry as film-makers were dependent on American money.

Lottery-Funded Movies That Failed To Hit The Jackpot

Hideous Kinky

Kate Winslet plays the daughter of the artist Lucian Freud, who leaves her husband and takes her small children to Morocco in the Seventies to try and find the answer to life. It didn't find the answer to the Arts Council's balance sheet. Directed by Gillies MacKinnon, it is beautiful to look at but lacks plot and has not gripped audiences.

Hilary and Jackie

A brilliant Oscar-nominated performance by Emily Watson as the cellist Jacqueline Du Pre in a film that was unfairly maligned by the classical music world, which felt it sullied Du Pre's reputation. In fact it was a moving and subtle film. But despite the box office boost from the Oscar and Bafta nominations it has not been the financial success of other Oscar-nominated films.

Wilde

Stephen Fry played Oscar Wilde in one of the first lottery-funded films. Fry's performance was well received in a part he seemed born to play. Jude Law played Wilde's young lover, Bosie. Despite some critical acclaim, the film was not the box office hit that its makers had been hoping for.

An Ideal Husband

Wonderfully funny interpretation of Oscar Wilde's play. Rave reviews for Rupert Everett, Minnie Driver and Julianne Moore should mean good box office. But this period drama is unlikely to be a blockbuster. The Arts Council will have to be satisfied with the reviews and, in lottery panel chairman Charles Denton's words, "improving the country's cultural life".

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