Lord Puttnam calls for film production unity

Story by Jack Foley

 

ONE of Britain’s leading film-makers has called on Channel 4, the BBC and the Film Council to launch a joint distribution arm to boost the UK film industry, in the wake of FilmFour’s failure.

David Puttnam, the London-born director who won an Oscar for Chariots of Fire, believes the move would help to reduce costs and give UK films a better chance of success. Working alone would cost too much, as none of the companies generate enough hits by themselves.

Lord Puttnam made his comments to the BBC as the debate about FilmFour continues to grip UK film-makers. The company has been forced by Channel 4 to close its sales and distributions arms, leading to job losses, and lesser investment in UK movies.

However, according to Lord Puttnam, distribution remains one of the keys to the success of any film and he cited figures which show that more than 50% of British films ever made fail to receive a screening because of poor distribution.

The director is also quoted as saying that he can see no reason or impediment why a collaboration would not work.

Channel 4, under the FilmFour banner, is responsible for some of the biggest UK hits in recent years, such as Trainspotting and East Is East, although it has yet to have a hit for three years. The likes of Sexy Beast, while critically-acclaimed and award-nominated, failed to generate a buzz at the Box Office.

BBC Films, meanwhile, which accounts for the film-making arm of the BBC, has been responsible for the British hits Iris, Billy Elliot and Mrs Brown, while the Film Council hands out £20m per year for new UK films, including Gosford Park.

According to Puttnam, who is also vice-president of BAFTA, the law of averages would dictate that, between them, they would have one or two major hits in a year; enough to keep them afloat and stave off the costly ‘failures’ which led to FilmFour’s demise.

Channel 4 responded to the comments by agreeing to look at any proposals put forward, although they maintained it was too early to consider new projects in the wake of the FilmFour decision.

However, as previously stated, current filming commitments have not been abandoned, with Buffalo Soldiers (starring Joaquin Phoenix) and Edgardo Mortara (with Anthony Hopkins) among several high-profile projects still to be completed.

A statement released by Channel 4 revealed: "At the moment all areas are operating as usual and the closure will be tailored over the coming months to follow through existing projects. We will work hard to ensure there is a smooth transition."

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