A little cash goes a long way in Wales

Welsh film industry makes the most of $2 mil support

LONDON -- It's all about leveraged cash as public funding for Welsh filmmaking enjoys success with the Oscar nomination documentary shortlist for "Mugabe and the White African."

The documentary's success in the Oscar race is the latest feather in the cap for the Film Agency of Wales.

It details the story of a white Zimbabwean farmer whose family is attacked and loses his farm while the country starves under president Mugabe.

The doc is one of a slew of projects backed with cash from the Welsh Agency, which said Tuesday it has injected over £1 million ($1.6 million) into the local industry to year ending March 2009.

The cash may not seem very much but it is often a key component in the birth of a project.

"One of the substantial financial benefits not evidenced in the throughput of our accounts is the leveraged partnership funding for the various feature films that we support, as the majority of each film's budget is sourced from one or usually more third parties," said Welsh film agency chairman Peter Edwards.

The Agency said the £1.15 million ($1.9 million) it has pumped into the industry from April 2008 to end of March this year played a part in enabling the development of 20 features, the production of eight movies and has also fueled film societies, local movie festivals and four special film events to enhance specialist film exhibition across Wales.

"We have seen 15 Film Agency-funded films either start or complete production with an estimated Welsh spend of £4 million ($6.6 million) and total partnership funding in excess of £11.1 million ($18.4 million) -- that's a huge achievement given our limited production funding input of just £2.1 million ($3.5 million) since we began life in 2006," Edwards said.

"Working with stakeholders throughout the industry, the team has focused on exploiting the benefits of a digital economy, embracing the future of digital delivery in Wales while engaging our future talent and young people with the Welsh film industry."

The Welsh Agency works with partners including BBC Wales, S4C, Film London, Film4, the U.K. Film Council and the Wales IP Fund along with international co-producers, financiers and sales agents.

Projects with backing also include documentary "Little Matador" and the Edinburgh Film Festival selected "A Boy Called Dad."

But the agency now finds itself under considerable pressure as it seeks to convince its backers -- which include the Arts Council of Wales, the U.K. Film Council, both national lottery fueled, and the Welsh Assembly Government, via Creative Business Wales -- to commit to a similar level of funding from April 2010. It is staring cuts in the face amid a global economic downturn and nationwide strains on funding as the Olympics in 2012 loom large.

A spokesperson for the Agency said the organization is hopeful that the investment levels should be able to hit similar levels from next year. "This year, the levels of investment are pretty similar to the figure for last year. It would have a devastating impact on the whole Welsh film industry if funding levels were cut from 2010," a spokesperson said.

The organization is already anticipating cuts in its budget available for education and exhibition but is hopeful development and production budgets will not be reduced.

A case of a little cash going a long way. All eyes are now on funding levels from April next year.