02 Monday 02nd August 2010

The UK Film Council, which died on Monday 26 July 2010 of scrimping Tory fever, was no stranger to controversy. There were the staff salaries averaging in excess of £50,000; there were accusations of arrogance, bureaucratic ineptitude and lack of imagination. There was Sex Lives of the Potato Men. But, over the last ten years, the UKFC has funded some truly innovative, uncompromising and important British films. We pay our respects with a selection of some of our favourites.

2002: Heart warming but never saccharine, Gurinder Chadha’s Bend it Like Beckham, tells the story of the friendship between two Hounslow teenagers Jess Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) and Jules (Keira Knightly). Negotiating your identity is never easy, not least for Jess who has to balance her strict Sikh parents’ expectations with her obsession with football. Bend it Like Beckham deals with big questions of multiculturalism, feminism and football with a light and thoughtful touch.
2006: Another coming of age flick, Shane Meadows’ brutal but poignant This is England. Troubled 12 year old Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), who has lost his father in the Falklands, finds a new sense of belonging in a group of skinheads but the return of racist, older skin, Combo from jail has devastating consequences. While the story has its roots in the alienation of Thatcher’s Britain, Meadows excels at capturing the timeless appeal of being part of a subculture. Watch out for the forthcoming TV series This is England ’86, it promises to be a must-see!
2008: Man on Wire, directed by James Marsh, revolves around complete nutter/total genius Philippe Petit’s now infamous tightrope walk between the twin towers. Through interviews with Petit and his team, Marsh reconstructs the stress and excitement of the hours of planning and preparation that went into the realisation of Petit’s dream. After the frenzied anxiety leading up to it, the tightrope walk itself has a stillness that feels quite magical. Marsh seems to achieve the impossible – to expand five minutes of breathtaking footage into an utterly absorbing feature length documentary.
2009: In the Loop is Armando Iannuci’s bitingly funny satire set in the period immediately prior to the invasion of Iraq. Foul mouthed Government head of communications Malcolm Tucker is played brilliantly by Peter Capaldi. In the Loop shows an all too familiar political world held together in a tangled web of lies, cynicism, aggression and borderline psychosis.
2009: Social drama about teenage girl on gritty Essex council estate. On paper it sounds like a cliché but Andrea Aronld’s Fish Tank is far from it. The depth of the performances by Katie Jarvis and Michael Fassbender bring out the complexity of their characters’ highly ambiguous relationship. With its intense cinematography and brooding script, Fish Tank is a beautifully crafted film.
The remit of the UKFC was to support the British film industry through the allocation of Lottery money. This meant funding film production but, more importantly, it also meant investing in films during the development stage. As any independent film-maker will tell you, it’s all very well having a great idea but until you’ve got a script to show for it you’ll be struggling to find the financial backing to get your project off the ground. Without the support for independents to take risks the content of British film will become increasingly commercially oriented and conservative. Funny that. The UKFC is survived by a culturally depleted nation and a rather gutted film industry.
UK Film Council, quango, born 2000 and died 26 July 2010.
Or is there life in it yet? To put your name to the campaign to save the UK Film Council go to

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  • Guest: jonathan
    Wed 04 - Aug - 2010, 19:13
    If people foolishly sign the petition to save the fat cat UK Film Council then Your heart is in the right place, but the very best bet of you and others getting a career in The UK film industry has been dealt a fantastic ace by The Culture Secretary in getting rid of the fat cat bureaucrats who were stopping people like you getting on the ladder. I take it you know that it was not their money but your money (taxes, lottery tickets) which they gave out. But first 75 people took between £70 000 and £150 000 each every year. They paid £24 000 a week, £300 000 a year, £3 million in ten years on the most palatial office you can ever imagine. They had five star hotels on your taxes, first class travel, and one had £16 000 lunch expenses. Your money could and should have been spent much better on making movies, creating film jobs and opportunities. But that was not their goal. They had a super elite in club on your taxes and to put it bluntly, you were not welcome as a member ! You should after further research just rejoice they are gone AND thank The Secretary of State for Culture. There is now a real chance with the remaining Lottery Money that it will be used to help the likes of you get your chance at a career in film making. Having lobbied hard to get rid of The UK Film Council, those of us at Save The British Film Industry have obviously been celebrating all week and congratulating the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. For there to be a British Film Industry, there needs to be sound stages built around The UK. Ideally at least 4 in every county. Hollywood $50 million to $300 million productions can only go where sound stages are. For those who do not know, they are glorified warehouses, more normally found in The Midlands and The North YET curiously sound stages are confined to a very very small 200 acres in the area of west London, and just North and West of London. The Uk Film Industry fought tooth and nail to ensure not one penny of Lottery money was spent on building sound stages outside of this small 200 acre zone..thus guaranteeing a UK film industry could not arise. They did spend £300 000 a year on their ground rent. They did employ 75 people on £70 000 to £150 000 who often had several other jobs. But sound stages, post-production facilities, nope. If these existed across The UK, then many more entrepreneurs who invest in fast food franchaises, laundrettes, restaurants, shops, etc will take the risk and hire them to try their luck at film making for profit. It was the volume of risk taking entrepreneurs which created Hollywood, and they then built sound stages, before selling them for houses, and forever thereafter seeking to rent them elsewhere such as Pinewood, Shepperton, Elstree. Now the MD of Elstree earns a fraction of the salary of the average UKFC employee, yet he has delivered two years of block booking of Elstree sound stages by Hollywood Studios creating lots of UK based film jobs. Why is only little Hertsmere Council, owner of Elstree, wise about sound stages ? Why did The UKFC not educate people outside West London that they are the essential infrastructure of a real industry ? Now UKFC is gone, and hopefully certain very very high paid, huge expenses Regional screen Commissions with them, the sound stages can get built and UK film making enter a true golden age. We urge people not to sign any Petition to save UKFC fatcat jobs. It has nothing to do with The UK Film Industry, indeed it was the enemy of most people making films in Britain. You would do much better to get a Petition to Save Pinewood and Shepperton Studios. These have 34 sound stages. Each employing people in The Uk film industry, well only 80% of them. The plc owning it has sold the right to use Pinewood brandname in the last 12 months to competitor studios in Canada, Malaysia, Germany and The Dominican Republic. The origial UK studios will not compete against them for the Hollywood productions which rent in Iver Heath and Shepperton and employ all the film workers. The two biggest shareholders in Pinewood who this week got 51% of shares for the first time have both openly said they are interested in the property values of Pinewood and Shepperton, not especially the film making business on it. The biggest shareholder made his billions buying businesses to close them and sell the land they were on at a profit. Guess what The UKFC were mute during the transfer of the real film jobs outside The UK which is about to become accelerated. It was not even protecting The London Film Industry longterm. You are going to be left with Elstree (only about 15% of Pinewood-Shepperton capacity) unless you start campaigning, petitioning to the Government now rather than the misguided attempt to save fatcat bureaucrats while killing the industry and driving abroad its major investor. ‘Chariots of Fire’ was made quite happily without The UK Film Council. Ditto prior to the utterly wasteful on themselves bureaucrats getting your taxes to play with, yes PRIOR to The UKFC we had ‘A Fish Called Wanda’, ‘Four Weddings and A Funeral’, ‘Trainspotting’, ‘Shallow Grave’, ‘My Left Foot’, ‘Elizabeth’, ‘Crying Game; ‘Mona Lisa’ , ‘Notting Hill’ ‘The Winslow Boy’, ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’, ‘Shakespeare In Love’, ‘Sliding Doors’. ‘Little Voice’, ‘Mrs Brown’, ‘Hamlet’.'Brassed Off’, ‘Jude’, ‘Wind in The Willows’, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Madness of King George’, etc etc let alone The 007 James Bond films, and not forgetting the 15% of Hollywood movies made at Pinewood and Shepperton and Elstree Studios each year……. Vic Armstrong, the most talented filmworker the UK has ever produced, probably never worked on a UKFC project. He still had a staggering career and you have seen his work in over 200 films. There is hope as Aruna Shiellds has shown. She went off to india to become a star. But there is no hope if naive people fall for The UKFC con tricks. We were better off before them, and will be better off after them. You all might even get a film job now they are gone. Very best of success. Jonathan Stuart-Brown Post your comment