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More Anime on Film4 Thanks to the Queen?

by - on the 20 November, 2009 at 3.57 pm

film4The head of the monarchy has a huge role to play in the UK, although a lot of what our Queen does today is ceremonial, a huge amount of ultimate power rests in the hands of her office. However, when Parliament returns from their break and the Queen’s Annual Speech is made, it’s normally just a piece of prescripted literature by the government in power at the time, outlining their vision for the future. Or in election years, as we will soon be facing, their campaign agenda.

What makes this year slightly different to the usual hollow campaign agendas is something very specific to broadcasting. Broadcasting in the UK has been suffering heavily since the turn of the year, with the recession hitting advertising revenues hard, thus impacting the profitability of ITV, Channel 4, Five and the rest of the digital channels. The BBC have managed to escape seemingly OK, with the exception of the weekly Daily Mail article that attacks their “overpaid” talent or “there’s too much management and middle management and none of them should be paid more than the Prime Minister; who, incidentally, we don’t like anyway” – this is due to the fact that the BBC is entirely paid for by the license fee. BBC Worldwide, World Service and America are all private companies funded by advertising or with the World Service actually funded by the Government directly.

ITV are private and have been hit hard with some bad investments and hit even harder with the fall in advertising revenue, although this year’s X-Factor and Katie Price appearing in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here will help their viewing figures and by extension their bank balances greatly. Channel 4, on the other hand, is in a very unique position.

uk film councilChannel 4 has advertisements on its station, that’s clear to see. Anyone who switches over to Channel 4, or any of the digital stations such as Film4, More4 and 4Music all have advertising. This is what a commercial station has to do to survive in this cutthroat world; however, Channel 4 is also partially funded by the License Fee as part of the Channel 4 charter is to provide “Public Service” programs. This year the Queen’s speech extended this remit to include film and importantly they need to back film and potentially have even more to do with the UK Film Council.

The UK Film Council are incredibly influential for British Films and are also incredibly influential about what films get additional marketing budgets, by their own definition they are:

The UK Film Council (UKFC) was set up in 2000 by the Labour Government as a non-departmental public body to develop and promote the film industry in the UK. It is constituted as a private company limited by guarantee governed by a board of 15 directors and is funded through sources including the National Lottery.

Sophie, The Witch of the Wste, Markl and Heen

Sophie, The Witch of the Wste, Markl and Heen

To many this still means nothing and even less relevance on a UK Anime and Manga website; however, the UKFC have been supporting the anime and asian cinema scene in the UK since it’s creation in 2000, which can be seen by the table below:

Anime and Western Animation:

Title Distributor Fund Total allocated
Waltz With Bashir Artificial Eye Film Company Ltd National Lottery £250,000.00
Persepolis Optimum Releasing National Lottery £180,000.00
Howl’s Moving Castle Optimum Releasing National Lottery £150,000.00
Belleville Rendez-vous Metro Tartan National Lottery £80,000.00
Spirited Away Optimum Releasing National Lottery £40,000.00

Japanese/Chinese live action:

Film Distributor Fund Total Allocated
Curse of the Golden Flower Universal Pictures International UK & Eire Ltd National Lottery £300,000
Lust Caution Universal Pictures International UK & Eire Ltd National Lottery £200,000
Mongol The Works UK Distribution Ltd National Lottery £150,000
House of Flying Daggers Pathe Distribution Ltd National Lottery £100,000
2046 Tartan Film Distribution Ltd National Lottery £80,923
Zatoichi Artificial Eye Film Co Ltd National Lottery £70,000
I’m A Cyborg Tartan Film Distribution Ltd National Lottery £20,000

Any anime fan will immediately see that without the help of the UKFC that the likes of Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle may not have received a UK airing, or only had a very limited run. For Asian Cinema fans, The Curse of the Golden Flower, Mongol, House of Flying Daggers and Zatoichi are all amazing films and Curse of the Golden Flower would simply not have made it across to the UK without their help.

Gong Li as the Empress in Curse of the Golden Flower

Gong Li as the Empress in Curse of the Golden Flower

Channel4 and specifically Film4 being legally required to have more to do with film and by extension more to do with the UK Film Council has untold benefits for the British film scene, but will also greatly benefit the distribution and mainstream appeal of anime and Japanese cinema in the UK. In comparison to many of the European countries, anime in the UK is tiny; it’s fans overly fussy and release timescales fairly prompt. Yet, aside from the odd murder where anime and manga is blamed, anime is virtually unknown in the UK, there are the children’s TV shows which are just orange ninjas or mystical pets attacking each other. There’s no mainstream acceptance.

Now that Film4 are legally required to have more to do with film, it’s a good bet to say that they will have influence over the UKFC. Film4 have backed many great British films and are already firmly behind Anime and the Asian Cinema. Which can be seen as recently as last week with their Asian Cinema Season and Grave of the Fireflies being aired in a few weeks time. With Film4 on board we will surely start to see an increased trickle of Japanese films. With much potential for anime films (such as Angel’s Egg, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and if we’re lucky some of the Tenchi Muyo films) to receive real cinema releases and more TV timeslots, rather than the same tried and tested Studio Ghibli fare.

Thanks to Andrew’s blog for the figures above and for Film4’s Twitter Feed for pointing out the new law.

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