30/07/2010

Loss Of Film Council 'Deplorable': Neeson

Just a day after the acclaimed film-maker Mike Leigh condemned "shocking" government plans to scrap the UK Film Council - the body which supports the British movie industry - Co Antrim actor Liam Neeson has called the decision to axe the organisation "deplorable".

Ballymena-born Neeson was speaking at the UK premiere of The A-Team in which he plays Hannibal in Joe Carnahan's big screen remake.

His comments came on foot of the announcement on Monday that the Council is to disappear as part of a cost-cutting drive by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Examples of the organisation's work include funding to Breakfast On Pluto and The Other Man, both of which starred Liam Neeson.

Speaking to BBC radio 5 live, Neeson said: "I think the decision is... the word 'deplorable' comes to mind. We have to do something about it.

"We need movies. It's a powerful industry that provides a credible entertainment for millions of people and I think it is wrong, I just thing it is wrong.

"I know we need to tighten our belts but not with our movie council. They can't, we need it. It is a lifeblood for any culture," the actor said.

Underling his comments, it has emerged this week that Northern Ireland Screen - a 'local' version of the UK Film Council - has been successfully injecting large amounts of money into the economy.

In its annual report NI Screen's main production investment fund returned £22 million to the local economy at a ratio of 5.5:1, on an investment of £3.9 million.

The report said that films like, Your Highness, a major feature film from Universal Pictures, which shot in Belfast's Paint Hall and various other locations around Northern Ireland, brought in £11.78 million of this.

Seemingly ignoring such statistics, the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants to axe the UK's national equivalent organisation to ensure 'greater value for money'.

The proposal has already seen director Mike Leigh add: "It's very shocking indeed and it's from left of field in a very sudden and devastating way."

"It's remarkable and extremely worrying. It's very hard to know what they are actually going to sustain and what they will abandon...It really is no way to operate."

Leigh said the announcement had come 'out of the blue' as far as the film industry was concerned and said: "It's like 'We're abolishing the NHS'... It's totally out of order."

The Film Council was set up by the Labour government to develop and promote the British film industry.

Funded by the National Lottery, it channelled around £160m into more than 900 films over the last 10 years, including Bend It Like Beckham, The Last King of Scotland and Streetdance 3D.

See: NI Screen Returns £22m To Economy

See: Pact Focus On UK Film Future

See: Axe Falls On UK Film Council

(BMcC/KMcA)

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