David Baddiel explains why film subsidies should be axed

January 13, 2012 5:32 PM

The Prime Minister recently said that the British film industry should support "commercially successful pictures". The statement has obvious important implications for the British Film Institute, which takes taxpayers' money and subsidises film-making in Britain.

Mr Cameron's assertion makes sense, but many have pointed out the difficulty in selecting successful films before they have been made. In a discussion on Wednesday evening's BBC Newsnight, film-maker David Baddiel explained to presenter Gavin Esler why films ought to be funded privately despite appearing to argue for more taxpayers' money for his industry.
DAVID BADDIEL:
The problem is what constitutes commercial viability as far as David Cameron might think it.
To choose the example of the film I made last year or two years ago, it was funded independently, privately, cost a million pounds. It's now taken over five million dollars worldwide so it's commercially viable in his terms but it's about a Muslim who discovers he was born a Jew.
Now, I am convinced (in fact I was convinced at the time because people did say "no"), that if I took this to the quango or whatever it is set up by David Cameron looking for commercial viability, they would say "that's not a commercial idea" they would say it's too niche that not that many people would come and see it. That turns out not to be true.

GAVIN ESLER:
But you got it made because you're good doing these things so you perhaps didn't need the money.

DAVID BADDIEL:
We did need the money. We absolutely needed the money: it took a while to come in and people took risks on it.

The fact that private investors take risks and therefore take their time to assess a project is precisely why they, not some bureaucrat spending other people's money, should be controlling which projects get funding and which don't.

Britain has a huge budget deficit and it's a matter of practical urgency to axe things like film subsidies to help us avoid a sovereign debt crisis like those engulfing some of our European neighbours. But even if we didn't, taxpayers shouldn't be asked to cough up so that film investors don't have to think before they take risks. We should scrap these subsidies.

(Photo courtesy of Distant Cloud Photography)The Prime Minister recently said that the British film industry should support "commercially successful pictures". The statement has obvious important implications for the British Film Institute, which takes taxpayers' money and subsidises film-making in Britain.

Mr Cameron's assertion makes sense, but many have pointed out the difficulty in selecting successful films before they have been made. In a discussion on Wednesday evening's BBC Newsnight, film-maker David Baddiel explained to presenter Gavin Esler why films ought to be funded privately despite appearing to argue for more taxpayers' money for his industry.
DAVID BADDIEL:
The problem is what constitutes commercial viability as far as David Cameron might think it.
To choose the example of the film I made last year or two years ago, it was funded independently, privately, cost a million pounds. It's now taken over five million dollars worldwide so it's commercially viable in his terms but it's about a Muslim who discovers he was born a Jew.
Now, I am convinced (in fact I was convinced at the time because people did say "no"), that if I took this to the quango or whatever it is set up by David Cameron looking for commercial viability, they would say "that's not a commercial idea" they would say it's too niche that not that many people would come and see it. That turns out not to be true.

GAVIN ESLER:
But you got it made because you're good doing these things so you perhaps didn't need the money.

DAVID BADDIEL:
We did need the money. We absolutely needed the money: it took a while to come in and people took risks on it.

The fact that private investors take risks and therefore take their time to assess a project is precisely why they, not some bureaucrat spending other people's money, should be controlling which projects get funding and which don't.

Britain has a huge budget deficit and it's a matter of practical urgency to axe things like film subsidies to help us avoid a sovereign debt crisis like those engulfing some of our European neighbours. But even if we didn't, taxpayers shouldn't be asked to cough up so that film investors don't have to think before they take risks. We should scrap these subsidies.

(Photo courtesy of Distant Cloud Photography)

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