Diary: Getting the film industry to act

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The Independent Online
DAVID PUTTNAM has, in the past week, earned the unstinting gratitude of young film makers throughout Britain. For after a week of intense lobbying, the producer of Chariots of Fire has apparently saved the National Film and Television School from closure, a fate that only a month ago seemed unavoidable.

It had meant that Puttnam, as chairman of NFTS - one of the world's finest film schools - had to put the fear of God into 3,000 enthusiastic would-be film makers who applied for prospectuses for this year's course by warning them there might be nothing left to attend.

'The fact was that we didn't have sufficient secure funding for next year,' Puttnam told me between meetings yesterday. As a result, instead of the prospectus they were promised, prospective students received a letter outlining the dire financial situation.

This cliffhanger at the 21-year- old film school in Beaconsfield, which is 50 per cent funded by the Government, is partly the result of the reviled 1990 Broadcasting Act, which has led to increasing industry unwillingness to fund the school. Only a Herculean effort from Puttnam and other industry heavyweights such as Alan Yentob persuaded the independent television companies to stump up. 'It's not over yet,' adds a tired Puttnam, who has been promised pounds 750,000. 'Now it's up to the film industry to act.'

BERNIE GRANT caused a stir when he suggested this week that members of ethnic minorities fed up with racism should be given government cash to return to their countries of origin. Strange, then, that this is already enshrined in law. Section 29 of the Immigration Act 1971 allows for funds for non-British citizens to be flown back to their countries on humanitarian grounds. This was news to the Bernie Grant team. 'Oh,' said the Tottenham MP's assistant. 'Is that still in force?'

FRIENDLESS OPERA

Yesterday's all-day rehearsal of Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg at Covent Garden was, unusually, closed to the public. Normally such affairs are open to the Friends of Covent Garden, so it was an indication of the importance the Royal Opera attaches to the six-hour production, the high point of its season, that only employees were allowed to watch. Despite the paranoia, however, first reports suggest it is a huge success. Conventional designs (sighs of relief all round), commanding singing and a remarkable lack of unpleasantness during the rehearsal period. The only fly in the ointment has been a minor mutiny backstage over a newly instituted smoking ban. Forbidding signs abound, while the freshly designated smoking rooms are so overflowing that they have already been dubbed 'the gas chambers'.

AS THE intrigue surrounding today's marriage of the Hon Serena Stanhope and Viscount Linley mounts - yesterday she failed to turn up for the dress rehearsal - one mystery, at least, has been solved. The unidentified man accompanying the bride and her friends back from last weekend's hen party on the Riviera is 25-year-old Orlando Rock, who does something useful in Christie's furniture department. 'He was with a client in the area so the girls invited him to Sunday lunch,' a friend tells me, although Rock himself is less gracious. 'No comment,' he snapped yesterday. Obviously a case of pre-wedding nerves.

TORIES OFF TRACK

It seems Nicky Hawkins, MP for Blackpool South, was wrong to suggest in the wake of an InterCity cutback that the private sector could do better a job of transporting ministers to and from his constituency. With hefty promotion from Tory Central Office, a private charter firm owning the old Manchester Pullman offered a return ride throughout the conference - all for pounds 95, with meals. Yet only 60 of the 250 seats were taken. So the train was cancelled. Another market failure.

A DAY LIKE THIS

8 October 1827 Thomas Moore writes in his journal of a visit to Newstead Abbey, Lord Byron's former home: 'Much struck by the first appearance of the Abbey; would have given worlds to be alone; the faithfulness of the description in Don Juan; the ruined arch, the Virgin and Child, the fountain, etc, etc. Col Wildman out shooting, but was sent for; introduced to Mrs W and the ladies in the drawing room; the ceiling, which is restored, is very rich; supposed to be Italian work: Col Wildman arrived; showed me all over the house; the dining room which Byron used when he first took possession, the small apartment he afterwards occupied, dinner-, sitting- and bedroom; some furniture of his in Wildman's study brought from Cambridge; the monument to the dog; his own intention that he should be buried in a vault at Newstead with his dog and old Murray.'

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