Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Farewell, UKFC


If culture was hoping for a stay of execution until October’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), yesterday it was disappointed. 55 organisations chopped or merged, the most high-profile demise being the UK Film Council.

The UKFC bestrode a huge – perhaps unbridgeable – field. Simultaneously making the economic, cultural and educational cases probably proved an unmasticateable mawful, and in film funding it often tried to make sure the toast fell jam-side up, with minority shares in semi-bankable projects.

Their First Light fund successfully supported young filmmakers but there’s little for experimental and artists’ film: Nowhere Boy and Hunger, whatever they are, aren’t cutting-edge and arguably Taylor-Wood and McQueen could have found their money elsewhere. And the UKFC wasn’t interested in gallery video art.

Not that that’s necessarily bad: The senior management’s background was overwhelmingly commercial, and wisely chose to channel money to organisations who knew the subject. But there was precious little of it.

The BFI used some to programme and release on DVD artists’ films, and even commission installations from people including Mat Collishaw and the Wilson Twins. Then there’s the Independent Cinema Office, onedotzero and others servicing (usually) slightly different groups. The Digital Innovation in Film programme (co-funded by NESTA – relatively safe under its endowment) helped some small (and not so small) companies.

Beyond that are bodies largely or wholly independent of the UKFC. Having been kicked around far too much in past years LUX, with its superb archive of artists’ films is an ACE client – though they’ve also been helped by UKFC. no.w.here does some great work with precious little. There are galleries such as the Tate and the (possibly, still troubled) ICA and publisher/distributors like Wallflower Press. Outside London, though, the picture is patchier.

So how might the UKFC’s demise affect artists who work in film? At the moment it’s hard to say, but the temptation is to say “not much”. Their money – when they have it – comes from elsewhere.

So, we still await the CSR…

Thanks to axisweb, which commissioned this piece and ran it here


Anonymous said...

The Nowhere Boy/Hunger thing always puzzled me -- why do moving image artists always hanker after making 'proper' movies that are usually not a patch on their 'art' work? But then, I do have a soft spot for Young Soul Rebels...

Might, though, the UKFC itself, in the ten years of its existence, contributed to the divide between 'artists' film' and 'proper' film? There are other factors to be sure, like the increasing popularity of moving image in galleries; but didn't UKFC's initial very clear disavowal of its heritage (in particular, the BFI Production Board) in some way shift the territory? LUX used to be a BFI client; that it now gets it from ACE suggests that the perception of where what they do 'belongs' has shifted.

John Riley said...

It does seem odd but galleries in general find it a difficult medium and I wouldn't be surprised if artists themselves were dissatisfied. I remember seeing Brontosaurus at Tate, which they were projecting on one wall of a corridor. Hopelessly you stood, trying to watch it, as streams of people processed past.

Why that translates into less characteristic pieces is a harder one to answer. Perhaps, despite their egos, they're frozen into timidity by the amounts of money they're handed.

The UKFC's entire funding model seemed skewed to me and I'm pitching some broader thoughts which, whether or not they're taken up, I'll probably put here.