Entertainment & Arts

Q&A: UK Film Council

The government has announced the abolition of film-funding body the UK Film Council. Here, the BBC's Media Correspondent Torin Douglas looks at what it does.

What is the Film Council?

The Film Council was established by the Labour Government in 2000, partly in response to the criticism that, while subsidised British films had artistic merit, they rarely made any money.

At the time, Culture Secretary Chris Smith said the idea was to get people who "lived, ate and breathed film" to make the decisions about where lottery money was spent.

Taking over from the Arts Council, the UKFC's first projects included an Oscar-winner, Robert Altman's Gosford Park, and director Paul Greengrass's headline-grabbing reconstruction of the Bloody Sunday shootings.

According to its website, the council aims "to stimulate a competitive, successful and vibrant UK film industry" and to "promote the widest possible enjoyment and understanding of cinema throughout the nations and regions of the UK".

What does the Council do?

It funds training and education for people who want to break into the film industry.

It promotes Britain as a film-making location and British films abroad.

It compiles statistics on the UK film industry and its contribution to the UK economy.

It has also funded film festivals, supported marketing for British movies, helped install digital screens and audio description services in cinemas across the UK, and supported regional film agencies.

It currently employs 75 people.

How much money has it put into films?

The council says it has invested more than £160m of lottery money in more than 900 films. They include Bend It Like Beckham, Fish Tank, Adulthood, Bright Star, The Constant Gardener, In The Loop, The Last King of Scotland and Vera Drake.

But it has supported many less successful films, too - from Sex Lives Of The Potato Men, to 4321.

Current lottery funding for films stands at £26m per year, which is expected to increase to £32m after 2012.

How does it decide what to fund?

On its website, the Film Council says it "will support filmmakers in the UK who are emerging or world-class and are capable of creating distinctive and entertaining work".

Money is also spent on promoting foreign films in the UK that otherwise might struggle to find an audience. Beneficiaries include Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar - for both Volver and Broken Embraces - and French prison drama A Prophet.

What does the culture secretary want to do?

Jeremy Hunt proposes abolishing the UK Film Council and establishing a "direct and less bureaucratic relationship" with the British Film Institute. He says this would support front-line services while ensuring greater value for money.

Ironically, £16m of the BFI's current funding comes via a government grant-in-aid, which is distributed by the Film Council.

What will happen to the lottery money for film?

Mr Hunt says government and lottery support for film will continue. His department will consider options for transferring the responsibility to other organisations.

What does the former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw say?

"The Labour Government was already reducing the number of quangos, but, like so much of what this government is doing, this appears hasty, ill thought-though and incoherent.

"The UK film industry has just had its best year ever, earning millions for our country, but the Government is axing the UK Film Council without saying what or who will do its important work."

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