For a few weeks now, the ‘Guardian’ has been running a series of posts under the subheading ‘The Cuts Get Personal’. Some of them have been those stories you’d expect (cuts to disability benefits, etc), but most of them, well, they’ve merely shown the parochial interests of the ‘Guardian’ readership.
Rachel Millward is one such plaintive voice:
I launched the inaugural Birds Eye View Film Festival in 2005, with a small amount of sponsorship and an entirely voluntary team. I didn’t have any access to public funds, or the faintest idea how to get any.
Well, good! Your initial success showed you didn’t need any, didn’t it?
To my naively ambitious mind, if I did this well enough, the funding would fall into place. I already knew it was important. It just had to be good.It was good, and it got better. Over the next six years the festival grew to reach an audience of 12,000, with another 6,000 through touring, and an incredible 650,000 via online and broadcast channels.
Which is still pretty niche, but then we are talking about an organisation promoting films by female directors, here. I suspect she’s fishing in quite a shallow pool.
A huge achievement for a micro-organisation. But what about funding?
Yes, what about funding? Surely, if you’re making a commercial product, the commercial film companies will be queuing up to give you money?
In 2007 we first received support from the UK Film Council’s Diversity Grant in Aid to the tune of £30,000. In 2009 we were one of only eight national film festivals (outside London and Edinburgh) to receive the support of the UK Film Council’s Film Festivals Fund – at £58,500 a year.
They did get some corporate sponsorship, however. While times were good, and it looked like a good idea to have a ‘female interest’ charity donation on the books.
When the credit crunch hit, of course, such things dried up. As you’d expect.
That was an immense achievement, but it came at the same time as the credit crunch, when our growing corporate sponsorship disappeared. There has been no opportunity for core funding – the Film Council never supported organisations in the way Arts Council England has, and trusts and foundations tend to rule out film from the start. But we muddled through, with a too-frequently changing low-paid team and with all the favours we could pull.
But that credit crunch hasn’t gone away…
This year, after the sudden closure of the UK Film Council, and transference of funds to the BFI, we found ourselves with a 90% drop in the festival budget. Thus we will not be able to run a film festival in 2012…
You know what? I think the film industry’ll survive without you.
We will be back, I’m sure of it. But 2012 will lack a festival that has become vital to our culture.
It has? How come I’ve never, ever heard of it, or you?
Is it perhaps because my decision to watch a film – like most people’s – is based on what it’s about, or who is in it, and never, ever on what the sex of the director is?
Women still make up less than 10% of film directors and 15% of screenwriters.
So what? Last I looked, the film industry was doing ok. Plenty of women seem to have no problem seeing a film directed by a male director. Are they missing something?
You hear it said that times of cuts are good for culture: “talent will out”. But we do not live in an equal world. If we lose the best efforts of the last decade to counter inequality, we will lose access to the creative vision of half the population. And what a loss of creativity that would be.
Well, on all the evidence before us, it doesn’t seem to be. If you need taxpayer’s money to make this stuff, it can’t be very much in demand by the public, can it?