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'Mid-range' film production deserves more support, says union

8 February 2010

BECTU has called upon the UK Film Council to give more support to UK-originated production with budgets from £3m-10m.

Making its submission to the UKFC's consultation UK Film: Digital Innovation and Creative Excellence, BECTU describes this mid-range sector as:

 "the heartland of British film production .... it is where the skills of our domestic workforce are developed and employed across all departments. Culturally and creatively, this is where we have built our film tradition."

The document distinguishes mid-range production from inward investment in high budget US-originated production and from low and micro-budget production.

Low and micro-budget production is not a viable model

Speaking of low-budget production the submission says:

"We recognise this as a training ground for creativity and talent.

Equally, however, we have never seen this as a viable and sustainable business model for our production sector as a whole. There are serious concerns about exploitation, especially of young people and new entrants. 

Precisely because of a 'work for little or nothing' ethos, this area is less vulnerable to general economic trends - but all for the wrong reasons."

The submission which was made in December 2009, came just weeks after the success of the Nicola Vetta v London Dreams Motion Pictures Ltd  tribunal which ruled that employers have a legal duty to pay at least the National Minimum Wage even where jobs are advertised and accepted as expenses-only.

The case has since prompted lively debate on industry websites with some players lamenting that creativity will be stifled as a result. Others, however, have welcomed the tribunal's decision as an important marker on the way to curbing the exploitation of new entrants and to improving the industry's image.

The UKFC launched its consultation to seek the industry's views on the current challenges to film production. The Council is also focussed on how best to direct investment in training to assist the transition to digital production. 

The union used its submission to call for more craft and technical skills training and for a continuing emphasis on quality training for new entrants, not least through FT2.

BECTU also highlighted its continuing commitment, through its work with the Creative Coalition Campaign, to combat piracy.

BECTU also welcomed the possibility that the UKFC might have its remit extended to cover the video games sector but warned against any attempt to import the micro-budget approach to film-making there into mainstream production.

Read the full submission

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BECTU's submission was authored by Andy Egan, the union's research officer. 

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