The visual media has always affected the way we see ourselves as individuals and as a society. It shapes the way we feel about ourselves and life in general. It also gives us a voice, so it is important that we have a flourishing and productive film and TV industry. However, trying to get finance to make new and innovative films, is at the present time, almost impossible. This flags up the possibility of the UK becoming a country of out-of-work producers and directors, never able to make the kind of films that resonate with our audience because there is no money and no faith in the work. It might be, that our voices will be silenced, perhaps forever.
David Cameron has recently focused a spotlight on the film industry in the UK. He said that the industry in this country should support ‘more commercially successful pictures’ – (a review of the British Film Industry is about to be published). By commercially successful pictures, Cameron was referring to films such as The King’s Speech.
Our film industry contributes approximately four billion pounds to our economy. But some people feel that finance should only go to making films that will draw in the largest audiences. Thankfully, not everyone making film agrees. Independent filmmakers, distribution and production companies are concerned. It is obvious that Mr. Cameron has little understanding of how the industry actually works. Giving all the funding to films that are considered to be commercial and who probably will have a lot of investment anyway, is not a guaranteed way to make a profit, is it? Maybe more money should go to distribution, helping independent films reach a wider audience?
Okay, I agree that some commercial films will always have an audience, but is it possible to predict if they will always make money? The British film industry has a long-standing reputation for making unusual, diverse and socially relevant films. If all the money goes to what the financiers feel will be ‘safe’ options, with a focus only on profit, the industry will become culturally poorer and audiences will lose out.
Could we have imagined that a black and white silent film, The Artist would achieve such success? If all we are ever to see financed in the future are films thought to be commercially viable, The Artist might never have been made. Instead, it was funded by France and is making millions.
Does it matter if small, independent films don’t make huge profits? They can recoup some funds through DVD sales, although it is a risk to speculate that sales will be large. And independent films often have specialised audiences. To suggest that we must put profit before everything else, is short-sighted and will lead to the loss of the true voice of our film industry. And we must never forget that it is passion and innovation that is the engine of a thriving industry, not ticket sale
So what do people like me, who have an idea they passionately believe in and want to make it into a film? Where do I go for financial support? As an independent writer/producer/director, the work involved in pursuing adequate finance now totally overwhelms me and my team. The Banks are not interested any more, unless I put my house up as collateral and even then, they are almost impossible to convince. Private investors are less inclined to take a punt on a film, because there are fewer tax breaks for them. Co-productions are also less viable, these days.
We are now increasingly looking to get funding from public bodies, but as I know from my days as a theatre director of a small-scale community theatre, the pot of money gets smaller as the clock ticks and we have the Olympics to compete. Also, tax friendly schemes have all but vanished. Fewer independent films are being made, which is a sad loss to the industry. Any money that is out there is given with terms that would give the toughest of producers a very painful headache! Budgets have to be slim enough to fit through the eye of a needle. The indie producer is facing very hard times indeed.
Yet, all is not lost. Determination and passion will drive us forward, in the hope that other new sources of funding will appear on the horizon.