Tuesday, 3 August 2010

UK Film Council News - An Insiders Knowledge

Right, usually I wouldn't bother with such things as this but the closure of the UK Film Council and the big uproar that's happened in it's wake has really got to me. Firstly, before this causes so much backlash like my Lost article (death threats aren't great thank you), I WORKED for the UK Film Council so let me give you all a little insight into what kind of establishment this place was.
I doubt this will impair my career within film as not only is it ages ago, but no-one of any importance will read this and they never helped to get me into the film industry anyway and I landed in TV instead. Less money, less creativity, less time, yet more hours. It's what happens when you're not rich or related to someone on the inside.
So anyway, I worked in Development and for all you guys who don't know, this is where scripts get entered, digested and thrown back up. They decide essentially if something is good enough to fund and then they see it through. This department was headed by a woman and with about a team of fifteen people, there were three men, one was a very camp gay man, another an assistant and myself. In fact, rumours spread that they had been told off because they only employed women and it showed a lack of diversity. Naughty naughty. But then, it's widely known that TV, maybe not so much film but definitely TV, is a woman's game - and these girls stick together. I'm generalising, but it's an area where men are completely outnumbered and unless you're gay, you usually have to work harder to get a look in. Either that or you have to be good looking or lick arse. A lot of people would argue this, but more would probably agree.
So, what did these women do at Development meetings and such? Well, and I'm telling you now I'm not a sexist person, they would discuss their ex-husbands, the men they are having affairs with, gossiping about pregnancies, holidays etc. while we sit there smiling, laughing and looking like we're fine with this. I would sit there with the scripts they got me to read (to keep me busy) and we wouldn't bring it up at all. All that would happen is at the end of the meeting, they'd talk about what they're doing for the day.
A commissioning meeting would take place where they would dismiss independent films and only discuss anything that could, or has, a name attached. This means if they can't get any kind of US backing or a big star or director involved, they weren't interested, but they make up for it by commissioning shorts. Cheap, cheerful and representative of young filmmakers. It's bollocks.
They don't give a shit.
One meeting with a screenwriter I was involved with had me getting 10 minutes to quickly read the script and then overhearing one of the producers saying 'yeah, I looked over it last night but the fucking kids were running around everywhere. Doesn't matter, it's not as if we're going to get it made' then laughed. When I went into the meeting it was actually a cool little horror story that wasn't perfect, but she wanted to change it into more of a love story. I fought his corner, which he got excited about as I understood where he was coming from and rest assured I wasn't spoken to by this woman again for the rest of my contract. Also, the film never got made.
They also hated anything that was male-orientated unless it fitted into what they thought was for 'lads' - hence Danny Dyer in 'Severance' for example. Which was worse on page than it was on the screen. They were going crazy over a script that they were trying to get commissioned which was this - and I joke you not - a rich man (which was going to be Pierce Brosnan apparently) has his own zoo and one of the workers there gets in an accident and dies, so the wife of the dead worker goes to complain but ends up working there herself, she then befriends a chimp and falls in love with the rich man who she hated. That's it. If this film did get made can someone tell me because they were in love with it, and it sounded like someone had been sick on a plate and then took a shit on it and poured it down my ears.
So when people are crying that it will affect film, I agree that it's a good thing to promote British film, obviously, but I assure you the UK Film Council was a horrible establishment that paid itself up to £100k a year each for the big wigs and was solely interested in big budget movies that they could slap their name onto instead of putting the money into the actual British industry. Take a look at what films you see their logo in front of, it's very interesting.
In my opinion, they aren't worth a pot to piss in and I hope they find trouble getting another job, but let's be honest, I'll still be making them tea by the time I'm 50.
So don't commiserate because the money we were wasting on these wankers isn't worth it. It's better off going back into film via another route and I think the gutsy decision to close it down was the right one. Why have an inept Film Council? It doesn't make sense. I just feel sorry for the poor Production Assistant who worked there who would cry at her desk because she wasn't being paid enough to make rent and decided she had to give up her dreams and leave to get another career. Meanwhile, the 40-odd year old women are analysing their shoe purchases. I'm not making any of this up. But alas, it's the way of the world in this industry.
No rich parents, no family connections, no hope.
Doesn't matter how hard you work - if you can't pay through your nose to do a job you enjoy, then no wonder creativity in the British film industry is stifled - and it's NOT about piracy. It's about people like the UK Film Council.
Begin death threats now please ...


  1. Thank you. At least someone like you had the guts to say what many people who are trying to get into film but do not have a rat's arse of getting in think of the UK Film Council. Even on my own blog, I was a bit too wimpy to slate them off completely. But it is true what you said, look at the films they supported, and you had to stand back and think 'who would ever watch this crap'.

    Anyway, as a tax payer as well as a (wannabe) film maker, I have to question why should my pay packet support 'fun'. If there are no bums on seats, then tough luck, let the industry sink. I would also go along and abolish all of the regional film councils too - we are in a recession!

  2. Fuck it. I want to see that chimp movie.

  3. That may well have all been true when there was a Development Fund, but the Film Council got rid of it earlier this year in an effort to cut wastage and overheads. Plus, anyone who works in the industry can guess who the people referred to in the article are - and they all left the Development Fund over three years ago.

    That's like slagging off the current government for something that Labour did while in power. I.e. utterly pointless and ill-informed.

  4. Excellent article. Apart from the profanity, which as a family friend site SAVE THE BRITISH FILM INDUSTRY can not use, it would be something we would be glad to post.
    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. Just a shame and a pain that he has left them in work for 2 years with 6 press officers and now more seconded staff to rubbish your accurate facts. So expect more anonymous posts.
    If you know any people who foolishly signed the petition to save the fat cat UK Film Council then their heart is in the right place, but the very best bet of them 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 them getting on the ladder.
    On your taxes and public money, 75 people took between £70 000 and £150 000 each every year AND HAD OTHER JOBS. 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.
    You should 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 people get a chance at a career in film making and The UK a viable self-financing business model.
    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 Council 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.


    Very best of success to you in getting a film job with as you say "No rich parents, no family connections, no hope"....there is hope for you because the tide HAS turned.
    Jonathan Stuart-Brown

  5. Sam, people need to read your article info... with the profanity cleaned up.
    Is it possible to write a letter to Clint Eastwood and make it an open letter emailed to Variety, LA Times, Hollywood Reporter, Perez Hilton, Washington Times, UK nationals including The Telegraph letters editor, and the regional newspapers etc ?
    Rather than petition to save UKFC, people 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. Yes, ideally we get UK film financing and distribution. But people adore Hollywood blockbusters and adore to work on them. So why not have both ?
    Lest the very young forget...‘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…….
    There is hope but not if people fall for The UKFC con tricks. We were better off before them, and will be better off after them. You might even get a few film jobs soon.
    Once again very best of success to you in getting a film job with as you say "No rich parents, no family connections, no hope"....there is hope for you because the tide HAS turned. The letter in Variety or British papers, even The Metro, might get you a break. All the best.
    Jonathan Stuart-Brown

  6. Sam, a mate of mine, who has merely worked on more than 200 movies you have heard of

    and who has his BAFTA
    has this advice for you


    Vic is acknowledged by Spielberg, George Lucas, Arnold Scwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Martin Scorsese, Stallone, Christopher Lee, Joss Ackland, as the best film technician in the world AND he is British.
    Here is a 9 minute sample of Vic’s genius. The last 90 seconds are sensational.
    A real unsung hero of British film manufacturing.


    Plus his service to Dutch film making



    Take heart Sam. Dream BIG !
    Write your info to papers, MPs, The Culture Secretary, The Prime Minister, Variety, Clint Eastwood's agent...regional papers..this can be your break.

    Jonathan Stuart-Brown


  7. Thanks Jonathan, it's appreciated. Also to 'Anonymous' - I realise that this was a couple of years ago, I was slagging them off then believe me, but I'm just writing it in reference to the current media frenzy over saving it. It might have changed for the better or worse, it's just a personal opinion and viewpoint.

  8. Couldn't agree more. Good riddance to the gravy trainers. I hope this guarantees the likes of North West Vision are dead in the water too. What an absolute joke these institutions were. People who knew fuck all about film lording pockets of development money over everyone else.

  9. http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/aug/11/michael-winner-uk-film-council
    and even Michael Winner agrees with you!

  10. Ed Vaizey has busted UKFC. They overplayed their hand. Maybe your email to him helped put him wise.