Eastwood urges rethink over U.K. Film Council

Says without it he wouldn't have made 'Hereafter' in London

LONDON -- Jeremy Hunt must be feeling lucky. The British Culture Secretary has shrugged off criticism from none other than Clint Eastwood over his plan to shut down the U.K. Film Council.

The actor/director is the latest industry heavyweight to support the Council, which receives £65 million ($103.7 million) a year in government grants to support filmmakers. Last week the body was earmarked for closure.

Despite opposition from a lineup of talent including Bill Nighy, Timothy Spall, Emily Blunt and now Eastwood, Hunt insists that the move will benefit the movie industry here.

Eastwood, who recently finished shooting "The Hereafter" in London, had written to Treasury Secretary George Osborne, warning against closing down the Council.

The five-times Oscar winner said that without the support of the Council, his Malpaso production company would not have been able to make the Matt Damon-starrer in the U.K.

"I cannot stress how important the U.K. Film Council is to me ... The prospect of losing such a valuable resource is of great concern as we contemplate future projects," he wrote.

"Without such assistance in the early stages, the likelihood of a London shoot would have been greatly diminished. Locales with active, knowledgeable film commissions are far more appealing to us as producers."

But Hunt, writing in the Observer newspaper on Sunday, said that the decision remained sound and that the Film Council had overpaid its executives and wasted cash.

"It is simply not acceptable in these times to fund an organization like the U.K. Film Council, where no fewer than eight of the top executives are paid more than £100,000," the culture secretary said.

"Stopping money being spent on a film quango is not the same as stopping money being spent on film," he added, pledging that the amount of money being spent to support the British film industry would actually increase by £3 million ($4.8 million) a year.
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