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The King’s Speech wins big at the Oscars – as too it seems did the EU…

Tuesday, 1 March 2011
As was widely anticipated, 'The King's Speech' – the true story of Britain's King George VI, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it - was the big winner at the annual Oscar award ceremony this week in Hollywood scooping the gongs for Best Picture, Best Director (Tom Hooper), Best Actor (Colin Firth) and best original screenplay (David Seidler). But it seems the EU is taking some of the credit, or as the Daily Telegraph commented "the European Union is already trying to claim credit in a shameless act of ludicrous self-promotion".

This predictable eurosceptic comment came as a result of a press release distributed soon after the feted Academy Awards ceremony in which Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner responsible for education and culture, declared it was a "a great night for the European film industry and the MEDIA programme".

The award-winning film, received €562 000 in distribution support from the EU MEDIA fund for cinema, while another MEDIA-backed film, 'In a Better World', directed by Denmark's Susanne Bier, also won an Oscar for the best foreign language film.

In the press release, Commissioner Vassiliou said: "Europe loves cinema and the world loves our films! My congratulations to Tom Hooper and Susanne Bier, who showed that you don't need a massive budget to make world-beating films. This shows that the European film industry can compete with the best."

The film's director Tom Hooper made 'The King's Speech' for less than €11 million which is a shoe-string budget by Hollywood standards, and so the funding the film received from MEDIA aims to encourage distribution outside the country where it was made – in this case, outside the UK. As for the Danish film, 'In a Better World', it received €540 000 from MEDIA for distribution support.

Two other EU-backed films were also nominated for Oscars – 'Dogtooth' (Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece, best foreign film category) was awarded €21,000, and 'The Illusionist' (director: Sylvain Chomet, UK/France, best animation category) received €126,000.

The amount of funding distributors receive from MEDIA is based on various criteria including previous ticket sales of non-national films. The funding is re-invested in future distribution costs and in helping to off-set risks. Films can also receive pre-production development funding from MEDIA.

South West MEP Graham Watson said the MEDIA programme gets relatively little from the EU budget but has been the basis for success of many now-famous films which could not otherwise compete with the power of Hollywood. "Nowhere in the UK coverage of the Oscar victories for The King's Speech did I find reference to the EU's MEDIA programme," he said. "Yet without the half a million pound grant which the producers got from it, the film would probably never have been made."


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