Minister accuses UKFC of campaigning

Ed Vaizey: 'Film Council have been overzealously briefing'

LONDON -- The ongoing spat between the U.K. government and the U.K. Film Council is slowly descending into a very British kind of farce.

Tension has been building since the government announced it was shuttering the government-backed funding body.

The perhaps unsurprising deterioration between the government and the body it is axing seems to have been most recently sparked by industry insider chatter that the latest picture in the vampire franchise "Underworld 4" will shoot in Canada rather than the U.K.

Reports linking the decision made by the production to shoot in Canada rather than here with the UKFC's closure appear to have sparked government ire.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey has penned what has been described as a terse letter to UKFC chief John Woodward expressing concern that the body might be campaigning against the government in order to try and stave off the body's closure.

Vaizey's letter, excerpts of which appeared in Tuesday's Independent newspaper, ask Woodward and other senior members of the Council to come and talk to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) about whether or not UKFC has been briefing against the government.

"It looks as though the Film Council have been overzealously briefing in order to protect their interests," Vaizey writes. "As a result, they may be damaging the film industry that they purport to represent. This is completely wrong and I will be seeking urgent reassurances that the Film Council will promote the interests of the film industry rather than its own from now on."

The UKFC immediately fired out its own official reaction flatly noting how badly the government's decision to wield the axe had been taken in certain industry quarters.

"The future of the U.K. film industry is the only thing the U.K. Film Council is interested in. We will continue to do everything we can to reassure people that any change to us will not affect the U.K.'s film offer to the world," came a statement from a UKFC spokesperson, who added: "Understandably, however, there has been enormous concern about the future of the British film industry since the government decided to abolish its film agency. In the past three weeks, the UKFC has been contacted by hundreds of organizations and individuals seeking assurances and expressing their concerns about future funding and other related matters. We [the UKFC] will continue to be as positive as possible under the circumstances."

Vaizey, it has been pointed out, may have to wait a while as several members of the UKFC are currently enjoying vacation time.

The DCMS, meanwhile, says claims that projects are locating shoots elsewhere amid an environment of instability caused by the UKFC closure are simply not true.