Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Ed Vaizey's Speech

After yesterday's announcement which I summarised here, it's interesting to read through Culture Minister's Ed Vaizey's statement. One of the strangest elements of the statement was this section:

I want to continue to encourage other parts of the private sector to support British film as much as they can. I am therefore delighted that Odeon is announcing today a series of proposals to support the industry. They will reward Odeon Premiere Card holders with additional points every time they go to see a British Film; use their website to promote British films; and become a regular source of online information for British Film fans, including ODEON’s recommended “British Film Of The Month”. They will also consider giving guaranteed on-screen support to a British Film Of The Month, with a view to showing a wider choice of British films as a result.

Vaizey chose to highlight this quite paltry offer from Odeon as some kind of proof of the role that private business plays in our 'Big Society'. That this scheme will make no difference at all to the success of British film doesn't matter.

The minister on probably the most important topic of all for the industry:

In converting to digital technology, the cinema sector is experiencing its most significant change in perhaps 80 years. While this offers huge opportunities, we know it also represents a significant financial challenge to a large number of small independently-run cinemas across the country. That is why I am delighted that - with the support of the major cinema operators and studios – the industry is seeking its own solution through the UK Digital Funding Partnership. Recognising the social, cultural and economic value that many of these sites provide for their local communities, the Government very much supports the work of the Partnership in seeking to ensure that no cinema is left behind during this momentous change.

Unfortunately, a very vague statement that makes no commitments and offers no support beyond lip service. Leaving it only to the industry will guarantee that hundreds of cinemas will not be able to afford the equipment and risk closing down.

And finally, the most telling of all his statements:

Some people think there are two film industries in this country – the US film industry, and the UK film industry - and that somehow one side’s success is dependent on the other side’s failure. I do not share that view. I believe that the two industries are two sides of the same coin. We benefit massively from Hollywood’s investment in this country.

So no hope there for a homegrown, healthy, commercially robust UK film industry unless it's completely reliant on the studios. No chance of building a French-style business model that can enhance the British film profile at home and internationally unless it has a Warners logo on it.

If we have the properties (Potter, Bond, Narnia, etc), the actors, the writers, the directors, the studios, the locations, the tax credits - why aren't the projects originating here, with profits staying here beyond contractual work? Simply because the capital is missing. Maybe that's what a government strategy should persue: bringing the capital into the the equation.

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