UKFC spreading wealth

Boosts funding by $11 mil annually

The U.K. Film Council dipped into its reserve funds Thursday to fuel an additional £5.5 million ($11 million) in annual spending across the movie industry here over the next three years.

The extra money is being drawn from the government-backed organization's cash re-serves, which are stoked by the recoupment positions the UKFC takes on projects when allocating production funding, a system often criticized by producers.

A UKFC spokesperson said in an interview that the organization has opted to splash the cash rather than sit on it because "there was no point in saving it for a rainy day."

Any industry prayers for a wet season have been answered as the council announced a range of initiatives including a U.K. Film Festival Fund, which will receive an investment of £1.5 million ($3 million) a year through March 2010 to "create a thriving film festival scene in the U.K. giving the public better access" to film from around the world.

The council also is putting an extra £2 million ($4 million) toward ramping up the efforts of its p&a fund. The extra investment for the p&a fund brings a name change, with the cash pool becoming the Digitization and Marketing Fund. The new name and look will aim to grow even wider the theatrical and online distribution of British and specialized film already being bolstered by the p&a fund of old.

The UKFC also said it is making £1 million ($2 million) a year available to a new U.K. Digital Film Archives Fund "to open up access to the nation's unparalleled film heritage."

And the organization is establishing a Partnership Challenge Fund, with an annual £1 million ($2 million) budget, to "bring new funding partnerships together" with other sectors including media literacy and film education and any London 2012 Olympics related film initiatives.

A spokesperson said the actual mechanics of the new funds and how decisions on who gets what are still being ironed out, with the funds expected to be up and running later this year.

The UKFC spokesperson also stressed that the existing production funds — the Premiere, Development and New Cinema cash pools — will remain in place with the same levels of funding currently available until March 2010.

But up to £1 million ($2 million) of the annual £8 million ($16 million) cash for the Premiere Fund could be allocated to help pay for market test costs on British movies, which do not have to be supported by the Premiere cash.

The funding plans were published Thursday in a document titled "Film in the Digital Age" and follows a three-month period of consultation the organization had undertaken with the industry here.

"Our new activities are deliberately aimed at building the areas of activity that came through most strongly in the consultation exercise, namely, more focus on audiences, especially through digital distribution, and more impact by working more effectively with other funding partners," UKFC chief executive John Woodward said in a statement.