Oscars 2011: UK Film Council's final hurrah?
John Woodward is probably not a name you are familiar with. And given events at last night's Oscars, it's likely to be one he'd take a moment or two to recognise. Wherever he was last night, the chances are the ex-boss of the UK Film Council was toasting the success of his soon-to-be-abolished old employer.
Woodward established the UK Film Council a little over a decade ago. By his own admission it was always a bit of a fudge, and at the time the government decided to abolish it, Woodward was actively looking at ways he could merge his institution with the BFI. But it wasn't to be and the axe fell.
Jeremy Hunt told me recently he thought he made the decision too quickly but in hindsight he was pleased he had done so. I wonder if he will be saying the same thing next year. That is not to pre-judge how well the BFI might now pick up the gauntlet and support the British film industry, just that the culture secretary is a shrewd businessman and he knows as well as anyone just how difficult it is to build a successful company.
And there can be little argument that Woodward had built the UK Film Council into a successful outfit. After a slow start their nose for a good bet had become rather refined. Not only did they make a crucial investment into the King's Speech to allow it to go into production, but they helped facilitate the tax breaks that brought Hollywood production money to the UK. That led to another Oscar success last night. Double Negative, the Soho-based visual effects company, rightly won the best special effects award for the stunning computer graphics on Inception.
Those hard-won tax breaks have meant last year saw record foreign investment into the UK film production business, with over £1bn spent making, or partially making, movies here. The UK cinema had a bumper year too, with innovations such as the digital screens not only bringing movie lovers to the big screen, but opera, theatre and ballet buffs too. The digital screens were another UK Film Council-backed project.