UK films plagued by poor scripts

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The Independent Online
The downside of the British film industry was glimpsed yesterday when the people in charge of giving lottery money to new British films revealed that most of the scripts they are sent are sub-standard.

Carolyn Lambert, director of the Arts Council's National Lottery Film Unit, said many of the scripts sent in by production companies have "weak characterisation, poor dialogue and poor plotting.

"Some films that we have put money into are pretty weak. British scripts go into production too soon. The typical four drafts - if you're very lucky -- are simply not enough for a polished product."

She added that producers were still submitting a high proportion of adaptations of classic novels, and she said that in future money would be going into original scripts "a new Full Monty rather than another Jane Austen".

Yesterday, the Arts Council announced a new pounds 1m fund from National Lottery money to help producers develop scripts. On average, a script for a British film costs between pounds 30,000 and pounds 40,000 to develop, with money going towards commissioning the original screenplay, rewrites and lawyers' fees.

The Council has already put pounds 45m of lottery money into 85 new British films over the last three years, and recouped pounds 945,146. Only 15 of the films have so far been released. There have been some successes such as Wilde and The Woodlanders, but a number of critical flops,, including Keep The Aspidistra Flying with Richard E Grant and Helena Bonham Carter, and True Blue, the boat race film which was chosen for the Royal Film Performance. The 85 films funded are less than a quarter of the 400 scripts seen by the lottery film panel.

Charles Denton, chairman of the Lottery Film Panel and formerly head of drama at the BBC, said: "Too many scripts are coming in to the Arts Council which are simply not good enough and in some cases are not ready. There are too many duff scripts out there."

The pounds 1m announced yesterday is only the first phase of diverting more lottery money to help British film. The Arts Council and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport will be making a joint announcement next month about putting several million pounds into film distribution, with the objective of persuading the big cinema chains in the UK to take more British films as opposed to Hollywood movies.

The money is likely to go into marketing and promotion of British films to the largely US-financed distribution networks.