A recent proposal by PACT, the Producers Association for Cinema and Television, to strengthen UK film producer’s businesses by allowing them to retain 100% of the revenue earned on public investment in their films has, on the face of it, much to recommend it. Like the ‘automatic’ schemes in France and other countries it would give producers a greater equity stake in their productions and, for those (few) that are successful, generate more funds to reinvest in future projects. On the other hand the film funds, like the UK Film Council and Scottish Screen, would lose out as they would no longer see a financial return on successful investments with which to top up their (declining) Lottery investment pots.
But there is a hidden and rather more worrying aspect to this proposal which would directly impact on Scottish producers. Of the £37million of Lottery funds which Scottish Screen disbursed between 2002 and the end of 2009, over a quarter (£9.5m) went to London based companies. (This compares to just over £1m of UK Film Council feature film investment that went to Scottish based companies in the same period). Should PACT’s policy be taken up in Scotland then its entirely possible that profits from investment by (what will soon be) Creative Scotland in projects produced by companies in London or elsewhere in England will then be recycled into projects with no direct benefit to Scottish film industry or culture. The present system, whatever its other failings, at least ensures that the admittedly meagre returns (approx 5%) are retained for investment in either Scottish based projects or Scottish based companies.
Let us hope that this downside features in Scottish Screen/Creative Scotland’s discussions with PACT.