Brit producers lobby for film funding change

Call for public sector to leave returns with the producers

LONDON -- A who's who of British movie producers have signed a letter dispatched to a national newspaper here to make a plea to the Government to break their "suffocating cycle of reliance on subsidy."

The letter, fired off to The Daily Telegraph and signed by producers including Kevin Loader, Andrea Calderwood and Sarah Radclyffe, complains that "public funding, from the U.K. Film Council, BBC Films and Film4" is given recoupment priority before the producers get a cut.

"These bodies insist on recouping the majority of their investment before allowing any returns to the producers -- leaving the producers with no funding for their next projects, and creating a suffocating cycle of reliance on subsidy," the signatories, which also include Andrew Eaton and Rebecca O'Brien, claim.

Given that most British films are ultimately unprofitable, to get movies off the ground here public subsidy is a must in most cases.

The letter calls for the upstart coalition government to adopt independent producer trade body PACT proposals that would see the producers step up the food chain.

"They [PACT proposals] suggest that the public sector should leave any returns with the production companies, on condition that the money is ploughed back into future film projects," the letter reiterates. "This would give production companies the opportunity to build self-sustaining businesses and protect our world-class writers, directors, cast and crew."

Channel 4 has been quick to point out its standalone film arm, Film4, currently does not receive or spend any public money, rather depending on its ability to raise commercial revenues.

And BBC Films, which has a commitment to invest £12 million ($17.8 million) a year in movies, points to the fact any cash it recoups is already re-invested in film production.

The call for cash comes hot-on-the-heels of last week's Government promise to fundamentally reassess its support for the film industry here.