Friday, August 21, 2009

Corbett criticises proposed film bodies merger

Writers' Guild General Secretary, Bernie Corbett, has criticised the proposed merger of the British Film Institute (BFI) and UK Film Council (UKFC), announced yesterday by Film Minister, SiƓn Simon.

"A new, streamlined single body that represents the whole of the film sector will offer a better service both for film makers and film lovers," Simon said.

"There are practical issues which we need to resolve to ensure that this proposed merger brings about the benefits we want without impacting on the work currently done by the BFI and UKFC. DCMS will now work closely with both BFI and the UKFC to deliver a better service for film."

Corbett, however, disagreed. "No one in the arts and entertainment world will believe this is any more that penny-pinching intended to free up a few more pounds to be sucked into the Olympics black hole," he said.

"A merger between these two bodies makes about as much sense as a merger between the Science Museum and British Aerospace," he said. "Will it be this Government or the next one that finishes the job by throwing the fast-declining Arts Council into the same jumble-sale operation?

"Today’s announcement confirms Britain as a nation blessed with extraordinary reserves of talent and cultural heritage, delivering audiences and cultural tourists by the million, but governed by short-sighted philistines, box-ticking bureaucrats and self-deluding economists."

You can read Bernie Corbett's full statement on the Writers' Guild website.


  1. Anonymous6:20 pm

    So what is the WGGB going to do about it? Any vision? Any plan of action? Any lobbying? Getting together with the Producer's or Director's Union?

  2. Anonymous11:04 pm

    Bernie Corbett is correct - the people who 'govern' the film scene are idiots - the problem is how to get rid of them and create a film industry worth having. Nothing ever changes - just the usual lip service and people building their trendy careers in bodies like UK film council. I've come across some of them and it is a middle-class nightmare - complacent about the industry, anything but comlpacent about their own self interest.

  3. Anonymous I: please remember that the WGGB is member-led so the question is, what are all of us prepared to do about it? We can also write letters/ start petitions, etc, and make our voices heard through the Guild.


    While I understand BC's suspicion of mergers in general I wonder if he is right to be completely against this one?

    With most members of the Guild struggling to earn a living wage and only a tiny handful reaching the cap level for subscriptions (last year £150,000), while the execs of the Film Council earn substantial 6-figure salaries (John Woodward was paid well in excess of £200,000 last year), a move to lighten the load at the top of the two bodies through "efficiences" - government-speak for job cuts- does not seem all bad.

    Surely the problem is not merging with the UKFC and BFI or with inward investment in film, which tends to enhance the indigenous industry. It is rather the lack of support for the independent producers and screenwriters in the long, hard process of development.

    While the Guild has not yet found a way to making writing a great script any easier, it does, in the new Film Guidelines, propose a practical improvement in contracting screenwriters.

    The Guidelines recommend that the writer of an original script, developed with money from the UKFC, BBC, Film Four, The Screen Agencies or other subsidy money, should be guaranteed at least a second draft and polish of their own work.

    This is the most direct way for UKFC et al to develop the talented scriptwriters this country produces and to encourage a sustainable industry with home-grown talent.

    Olivia Hetreed

    (not Gail Renard but otherwise unable to post!)

  5. While the guidelines proposed by the WGGB are laudible, there is no way of enforcing them. Producers can ignore them completely if they feel it makes their jobs easier (or increases their profit margins).
    When it comes to scripts -especially those from first time feature writers- it's always been a 'buyers market', but never more so than in these recession-hit times.
    Writers can of course refuse to accept certain terms, but for most of us the prospect of our work actually seeing the light of day makes that very difficult indeed.

    I agree with Olivia that a knee jerk condemnation of the proposed merger doesn't help matters- certainly not until we can clearly see what this merger will mean to development and production in the UK.

    David Lemon
    Writer, 'Faintheart'.

  6. Anonymous2:51 pm

    If Sion Simon supports the merger - that alone is good reason to discard the proposal.

    Let's wait and see what GD and TB have to say after due diligence.


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