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Q&A: Tanya Seghatchian, UKFC

31 January 2011

Here's a Q&A interview with the head of the UK Film Council's Film Fund, Tanya Seghatchian.

The UKFC, one of the most high profile victims of the government's spending cuts, is due to start winding down from this April. Many of its key functions will then transfer over to the British Film Institute, including its flagship Film Fund which invests £15m a year in British productions.

The following Q&A sees Seghatchian outline what the changes mean for film producers. The interview is taken from a feature on the British film industry in Televisual's upcoming February issue.

What do you make of the fact that The King's Speech is the Bafta and Oscar frontrunner, just as its key funder the UK Film Council is about to be closed?
I am genuinely delighted for the filmmakers and for everyone involved in making the film that they are getting this level of recognition from their peers in the industry. To see that it is also being lapped up by audiences, taking a £1m a day at the UK box office (with £13m of receipts in 13 days, it is now our biggest success story) and is all the more ironic in the light of the abolition. To put it context, it is running at twice the pace of Slumdog in terms of ticket sales. If you take a step back, you have to consider that we are the only public funder in this film, so it is vital that there is a robust public funding alternative which enables all kinds of quality films to get made and supports the talent in the UK - we make the difference and make things happen.

Is there any news yet about what will happen to the Film Fund team. Will you be going over to the BFI?
It is too early to talk about what is happening to the Film Fund team, or indeed anyone at the UK Film Council, because the transition process for employees and details of the discussions are subject to due diligence as set out in employment law - Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE). TUPE rules will apply to the transfer of some the responsibilities and corresponding work from the UKFC to the BFI and to Film London.

What advice would you give to a producer looking for funding for their film at the moment? Should they get in touch with the UK Film Council or wait until after 1 April to contact the BFI?

We are continuing to accept applications and make funding awards to film projects and in terms of the transfer of activities to the BFI, the aim is to make the transition process as smooth as possible for filmmakers, so our advice would be to apply for funding at the time that is right for the project. Also, once the funding responsibility has transferred from the UKFC to the BFI, the BFI will honour all Lottery award commitments made by the UKFC through the Film Fund.

What is the climate for British film-makers like at the moment - is it improving as the economic climate gets a little better?
It may be too early to say but from talking to filmmakers, it is difficult to get financing. Part of that is undoubtedly to do with film's own finance ecology with the pre-sales market gone, DVD revenues falling, the revenues from online only beginning to emerge, etc. Where films have key elements that the market can respond to, certain talent attached for instance, they will find finance but whenever the economic climate becomes tougher, it is the riskier projects that find it even more difficult to get funded. And, of course, riskier projects might be those with new or emerging talent, which is why public funding is even more vital right now.

Which recent UKFC film investments are a good example of the kind of projects that the Film Fund likes to back?
We've tried to build a talent driven home for filmmakers in the UK, and are always looking out for the most ambitious work. We're trying to ensure that British talent can be supported every step of the way, be they first or second-time filmmakers, or signature filmmakers, whether they are developing material or are looking for production or completion funding. Essentially we are continuing to look for creative excellence in the shape of great vision and good stories which can reflect and impact on the culture. Clio Barnard's The Arbor, Terence Davies’s The Deep Blue Sea, Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk about Kevin, Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights, Joe Cornish's Attack the Block, James Marsh's Project Nim, Steve McQueen's Shame, Phyllida Lloyd's The Iron Lady, and James Watkins The Woman in Black are some of the titles which currently show the breadth and ambition of our investments.

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