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Lord Smith's film review is a hit with the industry

18 January 2012

There’s been a very supportive reaction from the film industry this week to Chris Smith’s Film Policy Review, published on Monday.

The report’s 56 recommendations have been described as ‘sensible and practical’ and ‘comprehensive’ by film industry executives that Televisual has spoken with.

Director Roger Michell, whose credits include Notting Hill, Enduring Love and The Mother and is former chair of Directors UK's film group, says: “The review is very positive, very detailed, very sensible - and pretty cheap. Most of the proposals they are making are not going to cost the government or taxpayer anything.”

Even before the Review was published, the industry was confident that Lord Smith was the right man to lead it. He earned a reputation as a knowledgeable, engaged Culture Secretary during his time in Tony Blair’s administration, when he oversaw the creation of the UK Film Council.

Lord Smith then gathered a solid, respected panel to work with him on the Review: Big Talk film producer Matthew Justice, Film4’s Tessa Ross, British Film Commission chair Iain Smith, Vue chief exec Tim Richards, Optimum Releasing founder Will Clarke, writer Lord Julian Fellowes, Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Michael Lynton and Olswang’s head of film and television Libby Savill.

Their input, plus their extensive consultation with the industry, means that the Review’s contents are pragmatic and considered in their scope. “It’s one of the few reviews I can think of in recent years where…there isn’t an awful gulf between government pronouncements and what practitioners on the ground say would help them,” says Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission.

Crucially, the Review doesn’t advocate a big bang, top heavy solution that promises to solve the industry’s problems, but sets out an evolutionary framework for improvement across a broad front - skills, education, funding, research and inward investment.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey has expressed his support for the Review, and is likely to accept many of the recommendations - as he should given its positive reception.

After all, there’s now a widespread view within the Coalition and amongst civil servants that the film industry is a grown up business and an important contributor to UK GDP, rather than a fluffy cultural nicety. As the report says, 2011 is shaping up to be the most successful year in over two decades for British film at the box office thanks to films such as The King’s Speech and The Inbetweeners. Inward investment from Hollywood films such as the Harry Potter saga, Pirates of the Caribbean and X Men: First Class also continues to boom.

Such success means that film is a key part of the UK’s creative industries, which have been fastest growing area of the economy over the past decade outside the financial sector.

The challenge now, of course, is to ensure that the 56 recommendations are implemented - and that will take time. There's likely to be opposition from some quarters, particularly broadcasters who have been asked to take a more pro-active role in the film industry. And there's a question mark over whether the BFI is adequately structured and resourced to take a lead on many of the proposals.

I spoke with Lord Smith just after the Review’s press launch and he said he would like to see all of its recommendations implemented. But he added that if he could pick just three points that would have the biggest impact, he said they would be: to recycle more of the financial success of films back to creatives; the joint venture proposal to bring producers and distributors together from the outset of a film’s life; and to encourage more broadcaster participation in film production and acquisition.

“If those three recommendations were the only ones implemented, we would be some way along the road to success,” concluded Lord Smith.

See Televisual's February issue for a full analysis and a report on the UK film industry in 2012

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