The UK Film Council: A Case Study of Film Policy in Transition

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Culture & Creative Arts

Abstract

'Film matters. It matters because it is both a powerful engine of the creative economy, and a form of cultural expression which reaches huge audiences and influences lives. Yet without a well-structured set of interventions by Government, the UK film sector cannot begin to realise its potential. The UK Film Council was set up to provide a framework [for such] intervention[s]' John Woodward, CEO of UKFC (UKFC, 2004:4).

Established in April 2000 but wound up at the end of March 2011, the UKFC was the key strategic body responsible for supporting the film industry and film culture in Britain for over a decade. Set up by the Labour Government (1997-2010) with a remit to build a 'sustainable' film industry, the Council's agenda shifted and broadened over its lifetime reflecting differing expectations in relation to the underlying purposes of public support for film. While the model of support it offered ensured the funding of a wide range of films and was viewed by some as effective, the more ambitious aims with which the UKFC was originally charged - of making the UK film production sector sustainable and of securing a global position in distribution - were not achieved. After only a few months of coming to power in May 2010, the new coalition Government announced a general cost-cutting strategy, part of which was the abolition of the UKFC and a reassignment of its responsibilities, mainly to the BFI.

The UKFC's short-lived experience as lead support body for film raises fundamental questions about how strategic interventions for film in the 21st century may be framed and put into operation. While earlier research has addressed the history of film and film policy in the UK (Dickinson & Street 1985; Hill 2004; Murphy 2009; Richards 2009: Sargeant 2005; Street 2009), none has developed specific case studies that scrutinise how policy is understood and implemented institutionally and organisationally by public support bodies for film. The proposed research, focusing on the history of the UKFC from inception to demise, provides an exceptional and timely opportunity for such a case study and for in-depth investigation of the changing pressures on models of public support for film in the 21st century.

The project sets out to investigate the history of the UKFC, to examine its effectiveness as a model of public support for film and also to analyse the policy implications of its closure for film in the digital era. The research will examine how and why the objectives pursued by the UKFC changed over time; how competing economic and cultural objectives were negotiated; the performance of the UKFC in fulfilling its objectives; the role of the Council in helping the UK film industry adjust to a digital environment; and ask what strategic lessons may be drawn from its overall experience. The principal data-gathering techniques include the assessment of documents and texts, analyses of secondary statistical data, archival research, and interviews with key actors to whom the project team are confident of achieving excellent access. The PI (Doyle), Co-Is (Schlesinger and Boyle) and PDRA (Kelly) collectively bring multi-disciplinary expertise in media, creative and cultural industries and policy analysis. Whereas the Co-Is' input will be focused mainly on interviews, analysis of findings and dissemination, the PI and PDRA will work on all phases of the research programme.


Refs:
Dickinson & Street (1985) Cinema and State: The Film Industry and the Government, 1927-1984, BFI.
Hill (2004) 'UK Film Policy, Cultural Capital and Social Exclusion', Cultural Trends, 13(2).
Murphy (2009), The British Cinema Book, BFI.
Richards (2009), Best of British: Cinema and Society from 1930 to the Present, I.B. Tauris.
Sargeant (2005), British Cinema: A Critical and Interpretive History, BFI.
Street (2009), British National Cinema 2, Routledge.
UKFC (2004), Our Second Three Year Plan: Funding and Policy Priorities 2004-2007.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit?

Non-academic beneficiaries will include elected representatives (e.g. UK Culture Minister), policy-makers (e.g. DCMS), advisory bodies (e.g. Film Policy Review panel; BSAC) and regulators concerned with culture, media and esp film at regional, devolved, UK and international level, and also film support bodies (e.g. the BFI and UK regional screen agencies). In addition, the project is intended to benefit audiences and society at large who are affected by the quality and range of films to which they have access. A further set of beneficiaries will be those working in film industries.

How will they benefit?

By improving knowledge, the proposed study will increase the effectiveness of public policy and thus help foster an improved economic performance on the part of the UK film industry. The lack of sustainability of indigenous production industries is a pressing concern for policy-makers and screen support bodies in the UK and internationally.
Knowledge generated about the experience and performance of the UKFC will contribute towards a more informed understanding of how public agendas for support of film can best be implemented.
Policy-makers will benefit from enhanced knowledge about the efficacy of organisational cultures and practices within public bodies dedicated to the support of film, the effectiveness of specific support initiatives for film, as well as the strategic role that frameworks of public support for film can play in helping industry and audiences exploit the advantages offered by digitisation and growth of the internet. Improved knowledge in these areas is expected to contribute to a more informed, evidence-based approach to the design of policies and legislation intended to support film at regional, national and international level.
At a time of technological transition, those in the film industry require knowledge of how strategic support can affect their performance. They also need to know what impact growth of the internet and advances in digital delivery are having on the economics of making and supplying film and which forms of public intervention might assist the industry to adjust effectively. By contributing to improved knowledge in these areas, the project aims to foster a strengthened policy environment, and thus to improve the ability of businesses and organisations in the film sector to achieve creative and commercial success.
By engendering the conditions for more effective film support policies and therefore enhanced performance on the part of UK producers and suppliers of film, the project aims to help enhance the quality of UK film output, thus over the longer-term contributing to cultural enrichment and improved welfare for film audiences and society at large.

How will engagement and benefit be ensured?

The project team will use contacts and establish new links with film industry communities and policy-making and advisory bodies (incl the Film Policy Review panel) to create a dedicated network of stakeholders. Regular communication and exchange will be conducted via internet fora. The project's website will serve as a primary focus and access point for information. Target beneficiaries in policy-making communities and professional film industry circles will be proactively alerted to key findings as they emerge to encourage engagement and ensure impact is maximised. The project team will foster dialogue with target users via participation in consultations and public debate. CCPR seminars on key emerging themes will be used to ensure productive engagement with target users, e.g. the BFI, DCMS, Creative England and Creative Scotland. Engagement will also be achieved through targeted dissemination of published outputs, attendance at conferences and industry meetings, and an End of Project symposium. Accessible summaries of main outcomes will be posted on the project site and disseminated as a support resource at the final symposium.
 
Description Established in April 2000 but wound up at the end of March 2011, the UKFC was the key strategic body responsible for supporting the film industry and film culture in Britain for over a decade. This research project examined how and why the objectives pursued by the UKFC changed over time; how competing economic and cultural objectives were negotiated; the performance of the UKFC in fulfilling its objectives; the role of the Council in helping the UK film industry adjust to a digital environment; and what strategic lessons may be drawn from its overall experience.

Focusing on an 11-year period during which the UKFC's role as the main strategic support for film developed and evolved - a period of significant technological and political change - the research analysed how these key factors have shaped policy design and implementation. The study has contributed to knowledge about:
- how, in theory and in practice, cultural funding bodies negotiate competing policy objectives over time and through shifting economic and political conditions;

- how to frame a coherent and workable set of objectives for the support of film in the UK; and

- the strategic role that frameworks of public support for film can play in helping industry and audiences exploit the advantages offered by the digital age.

Extensive fieldwork was conducted, including a wide range of interviews with key policymakers, former UKFC personnel and film industry stakeholders, alongside analysis of policy and strategy documents, board minutes and relevant academic literature.

Findings suggest that, following an initial focus on 'sustainability', the objectives pursued by the UKFC changed and broadened significantly over its lifetime, driven by a variety of factors. Shifts in the UKFC's agenda provide valuable lessons about the sorts of challenges and demands that national support bodies for film must contend with in the 21st century, including the complex nature of public expectations surrounding film policy, disparate industry interests, the need to negotiate differing international influences, advancing technology and ever-present risks associated with political change.

Project findings have been disseminated through papers and presentations given at a number of international conferences and symposia and through publications, including a research monograph published by Edinburgh University Press in October 2015.
Exploitation Route Knowledge generated by the project about the experience and performance of the UKFC will contribute towards a more informed, evidence-based approach to the design of current and future initiatives and frameworks of support for film production, distribution and audience engagement. Enhanced knowledge about the effectiveness or otherwise of specific support schemes and initiatives for film, and about the efficacy of organisational cultures and practices within public bodies dedicated to the support of film, will help influence public policies and legislation at regional, national and international level.
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

URL http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/cca/research/ccpr/researchinccpr/theukfilmcouncilacasestudyoffilmpolicyintransition/
 
Description Industry engagement and knowledge exchange activity has included a symposium at the RSA to present project findings in September 2014 which was well attended by film-makers, industry strategists and policy-makers. The research-related knowledge which the project has generated about how film policies are designed and implemented and about the effectiveness and potential deficiencies of differing frameworks and models of public support for film will feed into better informed and therefore improved policy-making. By increasing the effectiveness of public interventions to support film, the project aims, over the medium-term, to help foster an improved economic performance on the part of the UK film industry. A strengthened industry performance, in turn, may be expected to impact positively on the quality and range of indigenous films to which UK audiences have access, thus delivering social and cultural benefits over the longer-term.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description The UK Film Council: A Case Study of Film Policy in Transition, End-of-project Symposium
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Event contributed to improved understanding on the part of industry practitioners, film support bodies and policy-makers of the efficacy of differing models of public support for film.
 
Description A History of the UK Film Council: A Round Table Discussion, Public event at BFI Reuben Library, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A History of the UK Film Council: A Round Table Discussion, Public event coinciding with launch of project research monograph published by EUP at BFI Reuben Library, London, October 5th 2015.
Presentation stimulated discussion and debate and contributed to improved public understanding of film policy, differing models of public support for film and the challenges facing cultural/film support bodies in the 21st century.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Film Industry and Film Policy, PhD workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation workshop facilitator
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Gillian Doyle, Organiser, Researching Film Institutions, Film Industry and Film Policy, PhD workshop, University of Glasgow, 26th September 2014.
Event well attended by PhD students and early stage researchers interested in film policy, film industry and institutions plus other leading scholars in film policy. Presentations stimulated discussion and debate.

The workshop provided a forum for exchange of knowledge about issues surrounding research into film policy, film industry and institutions and an opportunity for project team to share experience and know-how with early stage researchers. Following the event, dialogue with participants about their own projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Invited public presentation on 'The UK Film Council: lessons for policy from the rise and demise of an iconic screen support agency' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Staff, PG students, industry practitioners and other parties with an interest in the film industry attended this contribution to the LJMU Screen seminar series on November 2, 2016. Presentation provoked discussion and debate around UK and international film support agencies and policies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Public Lecture:The Rise and Fall of the UK Film Council 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Philip Schlesinger, The Rise and Fall of the UK Film Council, Public Lecture at the University of Glasgow, Glasgow, 13th November 2014.

Event has stimulated more interest in project outcomes
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description The UK Film Council:?A Case Study of Film Policy in Transition, End-of-project Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation workshop facilitator
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Gillian Doyle, Organiser, The UK Film Council: A Case Study of Film Policy in Transition, End-of-project Symposium, RSA, London, 2nd September 2014. Presentations given by all members of the project team. Event well attended by film makers, film industry analysts and policy-makers. Presentations stimulated extensive discussion and debate.

After the event, ongoing dialogue about project findings with industry strategists, policy-makers and film-makers. Increased interest in project outcomes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014