So Ed Vaizey has set out his “exciting new vision for the British Film industry” which was welcomed by BFI Chairman Greg Dyke “as a bold move to create a single body to champion film across the whole of the UK and provide a clear focus internationally.” Hmm..wasn’t that just what the UKFC was set up to do? Never mind, the increased Lottery funding for film and the BBC and Channel 4’s increased commitment to British movies are indeed ‘good news stories’ though there is precious little new thinking in anything the Minister has announced (though it was nice to see him ‘encourage’ Sky TV to think about investing in film…again. Younger readers may be unaware of Sky Pictures, the Murdoch behemoth’s previous foray into UK production helmed by Elisabeth M. which was not quite an unalloyed success. Still there will be quite a few former UKFC staffers not transferred to the BFI who will be looking for a job shortly so it might be an opportune time to have another go). Yes the BFI will assume most of the functions of the UKFC and the English Regional Screen Agencies have circled the wagons and formed themselves into three super-regions with a wider creative industries remit under the banner ‘Creative England’ (now where did they get that idea one wonders?). But that is all about structure not policy or priorities. The one hint at the latter comes in the Minster’s enthusiastic references to PACTs proposals to amongst other things reform the equity position taken by public film funders and a passing reference to the ‘debate on exhibition and distribution’.
In essence today’s announcement is largely a rearrangement of the deck-chairs although the Lottery consultation Vaizey has announced and the reformation of the BFI’s Management and Board do represent a window of opportunity to influence the direction the ship takes in the future. Sadly British film policy continues to lurch two steps forward, one step back, as it has done since the 1930s and, notwithstanding Ed Vaizey’s rhetorical attempt to deny, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that the US film industry in the UK and the UK industry itself are in many ways at odds with each other doesn’t bode terribly well for an informed debate about its future course under this Government.