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One less public sector vacancy to fill

The UK Film Council has been scrapped. I am not sure why it was needed. According to a Guardian article, its inclusion in the quango scrappage scheme is a catastrophe. Presumably that is luvvie hyperbole for a bad outcome. Yet, who has come to this conclusion. Tony Hayward, Chief Executive of the UK Film Council. Not an impartial view then. More a biased testament of UK Film Council puffery helped by the Quango Support Group at the Guardian.

One must remember that any industry will gladly accept other people’s money if it is doled out to them. It seems that the UK Film Council was indispensable, as a middleman, broking films to ministers:

History tells us that governments do not understand cultural industries: they are too complex, with too many moving parts and too many competing factions. When there was trouble in the film world, the UK Film Council acted as a translator to government and a critical friend to the industry: that function saved the film sector’s bacon more than once. But no more – so in that respect, too, it’s back to the dark ages.

Words missing from this epitaph include audience, profit, success, blockbuster, and popular. Another example of redistributing taxes to fund elite culture (unwatchable films) under cover of some utilitarian rationale for supporting an ‘industry’. One less public sector vacancy to fill.

40 comments to One less public sector vacancy to fill

  • History tells us that governments do not understand cultural industries: they are too complex, with too many moving parts and too many competing factions.

    So they are just like most (all?) other industries then.

    This is actually an argument for the free market.

  • Good riddance and anything that makes the rent seeking scumbags that infest the media dyspeptic is fine by me.

  • Drscroogemcduck

    You have to wonder how generous the funding was. I’m guessing the government ended up taking a lot of the downside risk on the films it funded but didn’t get a fair share of the upside. Socialise the losses and privatise the profits…..

  • Alasdair

    If the UK Film Council has genuine value, then the film industry can fund it, right ? It doesn’t have to be just paid for from the public purse …

  • Verity

    Excellent post!

  • Laird

    “it’s back to the dark ages.”

    The very definition of hyperbole.

    And anyway, we should be so lucky.

  • Relugus

    Most of the films turned a profit, especially In The Loop, Gosford Park, Touching the Void, Girl with a Pearl Earring.

    It would be nice if our bankers actually invested in film-making, but they are too busy wasting money on gambling on houses.

    There should be massive investment in the rapidly growing and massive video-game industry, the lack of it suggests the City is stupid and ignorant.

  • RAB

    Want some gritty real life drama do ya Luvvies?
    Do as the Americans do and wait tables while hawking your scripts. If they are any good they will sell.

    I dont remember Shakespeare banging on Govts door demanding a handout, quite the reverse…

    “Oy Shakey, you in there? This is the Lord Chancellor. Put down that Quill and stand well away from the inkwell and parchment. The place is surrounded. That new play of yours Romeo and Juliet is pure filth my son and the bird is under age too. Got you bang to rights this time…”

  • Sean O'Callaghan

    Michael Jennings beat me to the punch but I’ll add that I find the term “cultural industries” amusing. “Industry” and “artists” are not things often equated. Also, would it not be more accurate to replace “industries” with “institutions” as things the government does not understand?

  • Nuke Gray

    You’ve got to have government funding, or there won’t be any culture! Here in Australia the government has funded such great movies as… as… as… Stop harassing me- I’m sure I’ll remember some, sometime!
    Not that we need government funding here in Australia- As Sir Les Patterson once boasted, “Australia has got more culture than a vial of penicillin!”, or words to that effect.

  • Brian, follower of Deornoth

    You forget, you cruel heartless beasts, that the Film Council recruits staff from time to time, and they do this by advertising in the Guardian. So that’s thousands of pounds worth of advertising gone west, and the paper is losing money, don’t you know?

    Still, they got a whiny editorial out of it, which filled up some space in the silly season.

  • “with too many moving parts and too many competing factions.”

    And so too many for a monopolistic QANGO, too.

    The problem with such an entity is it becomes just that – monopolistic. It dominates and film makers, to get government dosh, must dance to their tune.

    Innovation and diversity is threatened. It is a gateway drug to propaganda.

  • manuel II paleologos

    Is there a UK Rock Music coucil too?

    How did the likes of the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin ever make it without a “critical friend” to explain the complexities of the music business to government, I wonder?

  • That is a very interesting question, Manuel II P., as it brings to mind the classical music business, which, as we all know (or at least are being told by the media) is rapidly declining in audiences and revenues. Am I wrong in thinking that this “industry” is at least partially subsidized by governments in most of the West, and if that is the case, wouldn’t it be interesting to investigate the idea that government subsidies may be bad for entertainment/culture/arts? I get the feeling that in the long run the UK film industry should be thankful for the scrappage of the Film Council.

  • mehere

    The good news is now someone can make a movie about the ups and downs (and eventual demise) of the UK Film Council. A story rich with pathos and bathos, and starring someone who once had a walk on part in EastBenders.

    It could even be called “Last Quango In London”

  • Paul Marks

    The “UK Film Council”£ person speaks as if “the government” was something different from his own organization – who does he thinks funds his enity?

    This is one of the weird things about the modern world – people in organizations (forceably) funded by the taxpayer somehow think they are not part of the state, that they are part of civil society.

    Indeed when government ministers talk of the “independent” or “voluntary” sector they normally mean groups of people the government pays (which is an extreme distortion of language – a distortion so extreme it is worthy of Orwell’s “1984”).

    In this case the “UK Film Council” was not even made up of unpaid volunteers – they are state hacks, they just do not have official Civil Service status.

    “This is all Dark Age thinking” – only to a fool.

    By the way – thinking that one can create some great age of film making by government subsidies or “guidence” is absurd.

    If stating the truth makes me a “Dark Age” Saxon – then so be it. Perhaps I will get on to the 12 person village council. Few slaves, no serfs, property rights for women – the Saxons were not all bad.

    Seriously Classical Civilization had been in decline for CENTURIES before the Saxons (and the Goths and so on) came. And it was in decline because of the statist attitudes that the spokesman for the “U.K. Film Council” shows.

  • Paul Marks

    Of course this small (but welcome) action of getting rid of the UK Film Council (and so on) means that I must, in justice, say the following:

    Good for you Mr Cameron.

    However, the man is now off saying foolish things in Turkey so – “normal service is resumed”.

  • Kevin B

    I’m assuming that the yArts Council is still there, still totally subsidised by the taxpayer and still providing jobs for the boys and girls?

    I’m also assuming that lottery funding is still available and a fully staffed lottery comission can interced on behalf of any ‘worthy’ films that need to be made.

    And I have a disquieting sense that we may well end up like that small town in California that found out that several of their Council executives were earning more than a million dollars a year. They marched on the town hall and forced the resignation of the greedy executives, only to find that they were now paying them a million each in pensions.

  • John K

    You forget, you cruel heartless beasts, that the Film Council recruits staff from time to time, and they do this by advertising in the Guardian. So that’s thousands of pounds worth of advertising gone west, and the paper is losing money, don’t you know?

    Indeed. Wasn’t this gang of thieves recently advertising in the same rag for a “Head of Diversity” at £85k? The heartless government does not realise that unless the taxpayer funds more diversity officers, the cultural industries are doomed. Doomed I tell you!

  • Tony Hayward, Chief Executive of the UK Film Council

    From BP to the Film Council. He didn’t hang around!

  • RAB

    Yes it is the monopolistic aspect of the British Film Council and other taxpayer funded outfits like it that is the most offensive.

    Culture is what our Elites believe we should have more of, whether we like it or not. Culture that they “approve” of, of course.

    Popular is what we plebs actually want and pay for ourselves, and as such will be frowned on at the very least, or actively discouraged at the worst by our ruling elite.

    These taxpayer funded bodies are in no way independent or free of bias.

    There is a movie being made of Maggie Thatcher starring Meryl Streep (wot no English actresses available? Oh got to think of the international box office, I forgot!) and is a joint venture between Pathe and Film 4. Now Film 4 to the best of my knowledge is Govt subsidised isn’t it?

    The film is apparantly of a senile dementia ridden Thatcher, reflecting by her fireside on the 17 days she fought to save her career before the Falklands War turned up and saved her.

    17 days out of the 11 years she was Prime Minister, I think we know already how fair reasonable unbiased and accurate this film is going to be don’t we?

    But folks, if I were to turn up at the British Film Council with a script that lauded Mrs Thatchers smashing of Union power during the Miners Strike, painting Scargill as a Marxist fascist who decimated, not only the livelyhoods of his Unions members by refusing to call a ballot, but of the whole Coal industry, hands up all those of you who think I would be leaving the building with a large bag of money, rather than accompanied by two burly gentlemen from Security?

  • David Crawford

    It’s rather ironic that the one western country that doesn’t have that huge government subsidized film industry (the USA) is also the home of a large sub-group of film-making known as “the indies”. That is independent film. Where people like Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino and such started. And how did they get their first film or two made? They scrimped, and they bummed and borrowed, maxed out their credit cards, and used any number of dodges and schemes to get it done. Can anyone imagine what Reservoir Dogs would’ve looked liked if it had to have been vetted and approved and funded by some government agency? I shudder to think.

  • Well well, there is a counter-argument (Link) here… Apparently the guardianistas are on two minds about this.

    “Yet, as Ryan Gilbey argued in the New Statesman last year, the industry has become hooked on recreating hit films modelled on the likes of Four Weddings and a Funeral or The Full Monty. From Bend it Like Beckham to Calendar Girls to Slumdog Millionaire, the tendency has been towards feelgood, aspirational stories (not unlike the sentiments expressed in New Labour’s theme tune Things Can Only Get Better, in fact) aimed at a primarily American audience. This is where an enlightened funding body should step in to promote riskier projects, but the box-office successes have arguably come at the expense of more innovative film-making.

    I other words the Film Council was still not paternalistic and elitist enough. More money should have been spent on ‘politically daring’ leftist drivel and less on movies that had an actual audience.

    I despise these people and everything they stand for.

  • “Yet, as Ryan Gilbey argued in the New Statesman last year, the industry has become hooked on recreating hit films modelled on the likes of Four Weddings and a Funeral or The Full Monty.

    I would point out that highest grossing film on that list by far -The Full Monty – was actually a production of 20th Century Fox. That is, although it was made in Britain by a British cast and crew, it was paid for by Rupert Murdoch rather than the Arts Council or the Film Council or the National Lottery or anything like that. The Guardianistas are probably incapable of dealing with that though.

  • Sam Duncan

    Exactly, RAB. State “culture” has always rung false to me, whether its the former British Film Council, or some local-authority-run arts “workshop” in the local “community centre” (which, similarly, has bugger-all to do with the local community); it’s not real. Culture is what we do, not what they tell us we should. Sadly, the fake kind has grown like topsy over the last thirty years, and continues to do so.

  • Relugus

    As Francois Trufaut wisely observed, the terms cinema and British are a contradiction in terms. The British, unlike the French and Japanese, have no visual culture, and that’s why British films are rubbish.

    Let’s be honest, there is nothing interesting in this country to make a film about. The British are cultural retards. The Full Monty is a load of dull rubbish. Trainspotting, on the other hand, is brilliant, the best British film of the 90s, while Moon is the best British film of the 00s.

    You don’t need talent to succeed in the film business, look at Michael Bay, the worthless hack who has completely ruined Transformers by making it about stupid humans.

    You also ignore the fact that the video game industry is where it’s at. The film, TV and music industries are creatively inferior, and irrelevant.

    Grand Theft Auto is more successful than any British film or album.

  • Verity

    Sam Duncan ‘ D’acuerdo, but how did it happen?

    How did politicians pandering to aspirational morons (in other words, the ones that needed “funding”) manage to convince various government ministries that the talent-free deserved taxpayer money?

    I think this is an interesting question.

    By which I mean, not ciu bono? But how did it work?

    How could someone present an idea, which had clearly been judged non-commercial by potential investors, get judged worthy enough to have working taxpayers’ money loaded into it without their by-your-leave?

    Commercial ideas that would work find ready investors. So my question is, who where these people empowered to orverride market decisions, and why? This is where the cui bono bit fits in.

  • (not unlike the sentiments expressed in New Labour’s theme tune Things Can Only Get Better, in fact)

    They didn’t pick No One Is To Blame for their theme song?

  • John Thacker

    One might think that if “[h]istory tells us that governments do not understand cultural industries” one wouldn’t want to put the government in charge of subsidizing the cultural industries and deciding which ones get funded, etc. But no, Tony Hayward moves in an entirely opposite direction.

  • Verity: ‘commercial’ is icky and vulgar. A piece of art is by definition good – moreover, it is by definition ‘art’ – only if it is not commercial.

    Also, it may be the case that at least some of our lords and masters have this notion of likening themselves to aristocracy of previous centuries who used to sponsor artists. And in fact they may not be so far off the mark, as the money of those sponsors wasn’t entirely their own either.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Excellent news!

    More, please, and faster.

  • Relugus

    Britain has a history of visual flair, but mostly it is just that, history.
    Imagination and creativity are dirty words in the UK.

    Ask four artists to draw a robot:
    The American will draw one built like a brick with huge guns.
    The Frenchman will draw something unconventional, strange, yet brilliant.
    The Japanese artist will draw the most amazingly sleek, elegant, yet believable thing you have ever seen.
    The Englishman, having no imagination, will draw a tin can with eyes on it (Doctor Who proves this thesis).

  • Alasdair

    Apparently Relugus does not realise just how cutting-edge Dr Who was almost 50 years ago, in 1963 …

    By comparison, the Robot in ‘Lost in Space’ only goes back to 1965, and ‘Star Trek’ goes back to 1966 …

    What were the Frenchman and the Japanese artist drawing back then ?

  • RAB

    Well if we are going to get picky…

    The robot in Lost in Space goes back to Forbidden Planet, in 1956. They are almost identical. In fact a hell of a lot of stuff goes back to Forbidden Planet, a seminal Sci Fi movie.

    And there were no robots in Dr Who till K9, if memory serves me, and that was a dog.

    The Daleks and Cybermen were half machine half organic.
    I mean come on! the Beeb spent most of the budget on the Radiophonic Workshop for the theme tune, they had to make do with tinfoil, glue and old bicycle parts for the props, and a disused quarry for locations.

    Relugus is being just a teensy bit biased towards the French and Japanese. I cant remember seeing a French Sci Fi movie for instance. Do their robots all smoke Gauloise, shag and drink a lot and are totally existentialist and angst ridden then? Just like the rest of their films then? 😉

  • Laird

    Dr. Who may have been “cutting edge” in 1963 (although I’m far from convinced of that), but what possible excuse can there be for having such cheesy Daleks in 2010? I’m with Regulus on this one.

  • I wasn’t familiar with Dr. Who until recently (the one with Tenant’s predecessor, wassisname – yes, I indeed have been living on a different planet), but the cheesy look was in fact one of the things I enjoyed most about the show. It was not overbearing and wasn’t nearly impressive enough to take center stage and to distract from the actual content. See the crappy Avatar as an example of the direct opposite.

  • Laird

    Avatar certainly was “crappy” for a variety of reasons, but distractions from the (alleged) content wasn’t one of them. The Daleks simply look goofy, and not in a good way. They aren’t credible villains, and that was true even in their original iteration back in the 60’s (and yes, I actually did watch it then, here in the US). If you’re going to have robot villains they shouldn’t look like art deco toasters.

  • ‘Alleged content’…well, that’s the thing about that movie: there was a content, and there was an ideological message underlying that content. The content (i.e. premise, plot, characters, dialog etc.) was less than nothing-to-write-home-about – hence the very impressive special effects: to distract from the crappy content, while still delivering the significantly-more crappy message.

    As to Dr. Who and Daleks in particular, I guess it is a pure matter of taste.

  • RAB

    It’s not a matter of taste, it’s brand recognition.

    Generations of dads and their kids sat down to watch Dr Who after the saturday sports. It is a kids programme! Not high art, not to be taken seriously and done on a shoestring like everything else on British tv in the 60s/70s. ITV had the wobbly scenery and scripts of Crossroads for heavens sake!

    So when they revived Dr Who with a bit of money and production values behind it, you couldn’t recreate the Daleks because every adult in the country had grown up with them, had a model of them in their bedrooms, had laughed their socks off that they couldn’t negotiate the stairs! They looked like dustbins with a sink plunger on the front and covered in painted half grapefruit skins with a little bloke on a tricycle inside, because that’s exactly what they were.

    No message, just half an hour of fun. A few good guys versus bad guys thrills for the kids and a well fit female assistant for the dads.

  • Mike Lorrey

    I seem to recall a certain episode of “Yes, Prime Minister!” in which Sir Humphries wrangled continued funding for the Film Council, was it not? Or was it for the museums or some other useless Quango? Seems like Cameron got the better of Humphries this time. He probably wrangled it in trade for looking elsewhere while the CRU Hockey Team got whitewashed and the Beeb renewed its weather forecasting contract with the Met Office.