The UK Film Council (UKFC): A Case Study of Film Policy in Transition
Established in April 2000 but wound up at the end of March 2011, the UKFC was the key strategic body responsible for supporting the film industry and film culture in Britain for over a decade. This research project examined how and why the objectives pursued by the UKFC changed over time; how competing economic and cultural objectives were negotiated; the performance of the UKFC in fulfilling its objectives; the role of the Council in helping the UK film industry adjust to a digital environment; and what strategic lessons may be drawn from its overall experience.
Focusing on an 11-year period during which the UKFC's role as the main strategic support for film developed and evolved - a period of significant technological and political change - the research analysed how these key factors have shaped policy design and implementation. The study has contributed to knowledge about:
- how, in theory and in practice, cultural funding bodies negotiate competing policy objectives over time and through shifting economic and political conditions;
- how to frame a coherent and workable set of objectives for the support of film in the UK; and
- the strategic role that frameworks of public support for film can play in helping industry and audiences exploit the advantages offered by the digital age.
Extensive fieldwork was conducted, including a wide range of interviews with key policymakers, former UKFC personnel and film industry stakeholders, alongside analysis of policy and strategy documents, board minutes and relevant academic literature.
Findings suggest that, following an initial focus on 'sustainability', the objectives pursued by the UKFC changed and broadened significantly over its lifetime, driven by a variety of factors. Shifts in the UKFC's agenda provide valuable lessons about the sorts of challenges and demands that national support bodies for film must contend with in the 21st century, including the complex nature of public expectations surrounding film policy, disparate industry interests, the need to negotiate differing international influences, advancing technology and ever-present risks associated with political change.
Project findings have been disseminated through papers and presentations given at a number of international conferences and symposia and through publications, including a research monograph published by Edinburgh University Press in October 2015. Further details can be found in the sections below.
- Doyle, G., Schlesinger, P., Boyle, R. and Kelly, L.W. (2015), The Rise and Fall of the UK Film Council: Film Policy in Transition. Edinburgh University Press.
- Boyle, R. 2015. Digital Divides? UK Film Council Strategy and the Digital Screen Network. International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, 11(1), pp. 3-20.
- Kelly, L.W. 2015. Professionalising the British Film Industry: The UK Film Council and Public Support for Film Production. International Journal of Cultural Policy. (Early Online Publication)
- Doyle, G. 2014. Film Support and the Challenge of ‘Sustainability’: On Wing Design, Wax and Feathers, and Bolts from the Blue. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 11 (2-3), 129-151.
- Schlesinger, P (2015), On the vagaries of production research, In: Paterson, C., Lee, D., Saha, A. and Zoellner, A. (eds.) Advancing Media Production: Research Shifting Sites, Methods, and Politics. Palgrave MacMillan: London, pp. 20-37
- Schlesinger, P. 2015. The Creation and Destruction of the UK Film Council. In K. Oakley and J. O’Connor, eds. The Routledge Companion to the Cultural Industries. London and New York: Routledge, pp 464-476.
- Schlesinger, P. 2015. Transnational framings of British film policy: The case of the UK Film Council. In C. Decker and A. Böger, eds. Transnational Mediations. Negotiating Popular Culture between Europe and the United States, Heidelberg: Universitatätsverlag, pp. 191-208.
- Doyle, G. Flying too close to the sun: Film support, sustainability and the UK Film Council, Invited paper at the University of Leeds on November 11, 2015 as part of the ICS research seminar series.
- Boyle, R. Digital Divides? The UK Film Council and Digital Strategy. Eurofilm 2014: The Inaugural European Conference on Film and Documentary, Brighton, July 17-20 2014.
- Kelly, L. Professionalising the British Film Industry: The UK Film Council and Public Support for Film Production. Film and Media 2014 ‘Visions of Identity: Global Film and Media’: The Fourth Annual London Film and Media Conference, University of London, 26-28 June 2014.
- Kelly, L. Film Policy in Practice: The UK Film Council and National Lottery Funding for Film Production. MeCCSA Annual Conference, Bournemouth University, 8-10 January 2014.
- Schlesinger, P. Institutions and cultural policies in the UK and Scotland: two case studies. European cultural policies after the cuts. Fundación Alternativas/Fundación Autor, Madrid, 13 December 2013.
- Doyle, G. Film Policy and National Institutions: The UKFC and the Challenge of Sustainability. European Film Cultures, ECREA Film Studies Section Interim Conference, Lund University, 8 November 2013.
- Schlesinger, P. Film Policy in the United Kingdom. American Media – European Cultures: Negotiation of Transnational Exchange. International Conference Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, 11 October 2013.
- Schlesinger, P. Reflections on the constitution of a national film agency. The 23 International Screen Studies Conference, University of Glasgow, 30 June 2013.
- Schlesinger, P. The Creation and Destruction of the UK Film Council: Two Moments in the Policy Process Anatomised. Centre for Film Studies Research Seminar, University of St Andrews, 16 April 2013.
- Gillian Doyle, Co-Organiser, A History of the UK Film Council: A Round Table Discussion, BFI Reuben Library, London, October 5th 2015.
- Schlesinger, P. The Rise and Fall of the UK Film Council, Public Lecture at the University of Glasgow, Glasgow, 13th November 2014.
- Gillian Doyle, 'The UK Film Council: lessons for policy from the rise and demise of an iconic screen support agency', public presentation given as part of Liverpool John Moores University’s Liverpool Screen School Research Seminar Series, November 2, 2016.
- Gillian Doyle, Organiser, Researching Film Institutions, Film Industry and Film Policy, PhD and Early Stage Researcher Workshop, University of Glasgow, 26th September 2014.
- Gillian Doyle, Organiser, The UK Film Council: A Case Study of Film Policy in Transition, End-of-project Symposium, RSA, London, 2nd September 2014.
Professor Gillian Doyle (Principal Investigator): Gillian.Doyle@glasgow.ac.uk