THREATENS FILM INDUSTRY
Copyright 2002 www.theindependent.co.uk
[ January 21st 2002 ]
year will be disastrous for the British film industry
unless actors and producers settle a vicious dispute
that has halted productions, the British film
commissioner has warned.
Steve Norris, a former film producer, said Hollywood
film -makers were refusing to bring work to Britain
while there was a risk of strike action, which
meant the UK was, potentially, losing hundreds
of millions of pounds. The dispute involving the
actors' union, Equity, follows a similar rift
between American studios, actors and writers that
delayed many films last year, including some that
would have been made in Britain.
contributed to a 57 per cent drop in outside investment
in British film production for 2001, down from
pounds 539m in 2000 to pounds 230m. Total expenditure
on film production fell from a record pounds 750m
in 2000 to pounds 410m, according to figures to
be released by the British Film Council this week.
The council was usually involved in talks on up
to a dozen international film projects at this
time of year but the stand-off meant there were
no serious talks, Mr Norris said.
producers and actors are in deadlock over the
actors' demand that they share in the profits
of films that are successful on video, DVD or
television, in the same way as their American
counterparts. Threats of a strike by actors and
writers in the United States encouraged studios
there to complete all productions before the end
of June, when existing agreements were due to
run out. Britain had virtually no American work
said: "The situation is extremely grave. Right
now, a wide number of countries are actively and
aggressively courting Hollywood and, if people
go to film elsewhere and have good experiences,
they may not return," he said. "I predict a catastrophic
year ahead in terms of inward investment because,
apart from Harry Potter and the new James Bond,
we have no other US-funded films expected."
including the next in the Tomb Raider series were
to have been filmed in Britain this summer but
could be lost if the dispute is not settled and
stability restored. Equity has forged individual
agreements with some production firms to enable
certain films - including Harry Potter - to go
ahead. The next James Bond has also been saved
by such a deal although some insiders believe
Eon Productions had no option but to agree because
of a tight production schedule. But Equity has
otherwise ordered members not to sign up for new
who worked on films including The Killing Fields
and The Mission before becoming the film commissioner
in 1997, said the uncertainty was destroying an
industry that had grown by 800 per cent in the
past nine years.
was not the cheapest place to film but it usually
offered stability, quality and efficiency, he
said. "The moment we start to pick away those
pieces, we will lose business." A spokesman for
the Producers' Alliance for Cinema and Television
(Pact) said they were extremely concerned. "We
know US studios are already scrubbing out productions
they would usually send to the UK," he said.
had met 90 per cent of Equity's demands but American
studios had made clear that they would find any
more concessions unacceptable and would refuse
to come. He said: "This is an amazingly price-sensitive
business." But an Equity spokesman said the actors'
claim would account for less than 0.5 per cent
of the profits from video and television sales
on a reasonably successful big-budget film. The
demand, if met, would still leave British actors
with a worse deal than the Americans, he said.
"We simply don't believe that's make-or-break."
Film Council will go to Hollywood in February
to try to bring business to Britain, with a delegation
including staff from the Pinewood and Shepperton
studios, visual effects experts and media accountants.
The council will also go to the American Film
Market, which hosts Miramax and smaller independent
film-makers. But Mr Norris said: "It will be worthless
us going to persuade them to come to a place they
evidently can't make films in."