The Evil Imp

The Union Is A State

Old Rope Image

If you’re an independent film maker then getting your hands on money to finance your project is hard, if you’re a dance film maker then getting your hands on money to finance your project is almost impossible. Unless of course you are a close personal friend of Anne Beresford or Portland Green but I digress.

To try and correct this issue, with regard to financing film, the European Union set up something called the Media Desk in 1991. The 2007 version of that project is now running amok with plans to spend £500million over the next 6 years on developing European film and television.

Our non European readers may need a bit of filling-in about the good old European Union, comprised of 27 European countries, first however.

Let’s take the US Constitution as an example. This particular document was written in 1787 and if printed onto sheets of paper the size of a normal book it would run to about 25 pages. Within these pages it covers the fundamental building blocks upon which all of the laws within the USA are built. It works rather well, at least it used to.

The European Union by contrast, when required to produce a constitution, came up with a document running to about 700 pages of very small text that no one, not even the people who wrote it, could understand. It cost over £100million to produce but it was eventually thrown into a very large dustbin because nobody wanted it.

That is what the European Union does. They spends huge sums of money doing things that nobody wants and they do this very, very slowly. The EU organisation is based in Brussels, Belgium which does the Belgians no favours but apart from Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker, very little does.

Last week Article19 was, inadvertently, invited to a seminar being held by the UK arm of the Media Desk. The point of this seminar was to explain how UK film makers could wring some money from the EU by suckling at the teat of bureaucracy gone feral.

In keeping with the “justify our existence” thinking of anything connected to the EU the qualification criteria are as convoluted as they are easy to bypass. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say that navigating Dantes Inferno in an invalid carriage would be a cakewalk compared to the qualifying criteria for this nonsense.

If you’re a dance film maker then forget about it. Just move on, nothing to see here.

None of the qualification criteria actually matter though because if you personally don’t qualify all you have to do is bring onboard a “Producer” who does qualify and you’re all set. This producer doesn’t have to actually do anything, they just need to have their name on the form and all will be well.

Once you have overcome the hurdles of actually qualifying to apply for funding then the real pain begins in the shape of filling out the forms. Believe me when I tell you, the EU knows a lot about forms!

You have to bear in mind that the funding is split up into 16 different pots of money and just one of those pots of money has a 32 page application form, 20 pages of guidelines, an annex to the guidelines (which is called, I kid you not, “[The] table of equivalence relative to certificate of company registration end memorandum of association”) and another document in 29 languages.

Three former recipients of funding were in attendance to explain the virtues of getting money from this red tape laden bundle of joy. After failing to introduce themselves completely, so I have no idea who they were, and banging on about all the fun they had at various seminars, junkets and meetings they have had all over Europe they did say the paper work was a nightmare. Well, at least two of them did.

The scruffy bloke in the trio, who couldn’t be bothered either sitting up straight or unzipping his jacket, said it was easy enough once you had read it 45 times and lost all sense of reason. He didn’t actually say the last bit but he might as well have done.

Not once did any of them talk about films or film making or any of the films they had actually produced.

At no point did anyone sitting in the room interject that this was all complete madness and the whole thing should be stopped immediately on suspicion of being completely crap and a massive waste of time and money. Presumably because they wanted some of the loot.

The final icing on the cake was the seminar’s host telling us that, unlike the Film Council for example, the EU doesn’t even care if you actually make the film or not. Nobody’s going to check up on you, nobody’s going to kick up a fuss. Just fill out the appropriate form and all will be well.

If you want to understand why the European film industry is so comprehensively shrouded in productions about sour faced, mental patients who have lost all hope and are struggling against the odds to carry on, usually in black and white or as near as makes no difference, this is why.

Considering this project covers 27 countries, 16 different types of funding, thousands of pages of documentation and is funded in part by the National Lottery, I would helpfully suggest that you actually play the Lottery instead. You have more chance of winning and the form is really, really simple. Not only that but your film won’t have the stench of this “scheme” all over it!