£22m Film Council to provide 'focused' funding

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The Independent Online

An overhaul of the public funding of British films was announced yesterday at the launch of the Film Council.

Lottery money and government funding will be directed at films likely to be a commercial success and in partnership with existing commercial organisations and studios.

The change follows criticism of the previous strategy, which Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, said had had "patchy" results. Under the Arts Council system £98m was invested in 256 films over five years, with only a handful achieving great success.

The Film Council incorporates the existing British Film Commission, the British Film Institute and its production department, the Arts Council of England's film lottery department and British Screen, which provides money for homegrown production.

Alan Parker, the council chairman and director of such films as Evita and Angela's Ashes, said: "There will be a focused rather than scattergun attempt ... everything will be geared to audiences."

Of a £22m budget, the Film Council will spend £5m a year improving screenplays and £10m on its "Premiere production fund", which aims to help secure industry funding for 10 to 12 films with a budget of £7m to £8m each.

The council will also build international links. Parker said that Hollywood was a "massive source of production finance" and nothing would persuade him or the rest of the council not to remain involved in co-productions with big US backers. Producers would also be encouraged to retain and to develop links with Europe rather than take a "little Englander" approach.

The British industry is experiencing something of a boom, with record box-office takings of £500m, prompted by "British" successes such as Notting Hill and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.