Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Edward Schlesinger (arts 65)

Executive Summary & Introduction

I write as an individual, an independent filmmaker, who has lived and worked in both the United States and the United Kingdom. I am representative of filmmakers whose work is produced outside of mainstream broadcast and studio production systems. The work of the Arts Council England, the UK Film Council and Skillset have a direct impact upon my industry and changes to public subsidy may have the following effect:

-Funding cuts may reduce access to information on technological developments.

-Funding cuts may reduce the opportunity for professional growth and mentorship.

-Elimination of the UK Film Council may result in a higher barrier for UK filmmakers and producers for entry to the global film market.

-Cuts to funding may result in reduced access to filmmaking resources.

-Shifting from public to private funding of the arts will likely have a negative impact on the ability for organizations to consistently finance their operations and for the public to access the arts.

Factual Information

1) Cuts to arts organizations may result in a decreased access to high-grade information on technological developments in the film and television industry. Example: The British Society of Cinematographers, with funding by SkillSet and the UK Film Council, organized a conference for the purpose of a side-by-side evaluation of film and digital camera systems. The only other place in the world where a similar test has been organized to date is in Hollywood, California. This event was open to the public and attended by filmmakers, producers and imaging technicians. It served to keep the film industry up-to-date, cost-effective and competitive.

2) Cuts to funding may result in a reduction or lack of mentoring and growth opportunities for upcoming artists and filmmakers. Example: An event called "The Long and the Short of It", part of the 24th BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, where a panel of established filmmakers, producers and film distributors took an afternoon to give guidance and speak in small groups with upcoming LGBT filmmakers. Events such as these help nurture and develop new talent, and keep existing talent in London and the United Kingdom.

3) Elimination of the UK Film Council may result in a more difficult path for filmmakers seeking to use the UK as a base from which to enter the global market. Example: At the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, the UK Film Council organized a pavilion at the festival that served to attract producers from foreign countries to shoot in the United Kingdom and to assist producers, writers and filmmakers from the UK who were bringing projects to Cannes. I prepared for the festival with information published on the UK Film Council’s website, I attended one of the many workshops at the pavilion designed to assist filmmakers at the market and used the pavilion as a resource for networking with other filmmakers from the UK and Europe. These resources help filmmakers from the UK operate more successfully at global markets such as Cannes.

4) Cuts to funding may result in reduced access to filmmaking resources. The United Kingdom has an amazing array of resources that has helped me as an artist and filmmaker. Spending cuts will likely reduce these opportunities. Three examples: The Cultural Industries Development Agency, which has helped me with business advice and support, Space Studios, an organization that has provided low-cost access to workspace and filmmaking technology, and Own-It, an organization that has produced events I have attended to learn how to use and protect intellectual property. These are just a few of the outstanding organizations that make London a creative and intellectual hub and help the growth of myself and other filmmakers and artists.

5) Regarding the role of businesses and philanthropists playing a long-term role in funding the arts at a national and local level, I have lived and worked in the United States, where arts organizations derive a large degree of their funding from individuals and corporations. Because funding from the public and corporations is variable and inconsistent, arts organizations constantly struggle to keep their doors open. I have worked with arts organizations where, unfortunately, large amount of time and resources have to be spent raising the money from the public and from private foundations that let them keep their programs running. I have seen other organizations, the kind that currently provide services to artists here in London, forced to close due to lack of private funding. Another cost is that to the public: in the United States, the majority of museums and art exhibition centres depend on public and private funding and one way they raise money is by charging admission for entry. This has the effect of reducing the opportunity for the public to attend. One great thing about England’s museums and art exhibition centres is that the majority of them do not charge for admission, one can go and spend time regardless of financial ability.

Recommendations for action

I urge the continuation of levels of public funding that keep London and the United Kingdom a global creative hub, accessible to artists and the public alike. Additionally, prior to a shift towards depending on business and philanthropic subsidy, I recommend further study of the effect private funding has had on the arts in the United States.

September 2010