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The BFI today announced their long-awaited five year plan for the UK film industry, which will see a total of £500 million being invested over that time. Entitled Film Forever: Supporting UK Film, it is the result of what BFI CEO Amanda Nevill described as “a long national conversation over 18 months.”
As a result of the extensive consultation process with industry bodies and the general public, which took in the views of over 1000 people, Nevill explained that the BFI is going to be “investing where we think we can most make a different, where we see potential for creative excellence and where can be a supportive catalyst for change, innovation, business growth and jobs.”
“With film industry growth currently outstripping the economy as a whole, we want to invest to ensure continued success,” said BFI Chair Greg Dyke. “This is a real moment for film and a bold long term vision for the sector, and I look forward to us from today turning all the discussion into action.”
In distributing the increased funds, raised through a combination of Grant In Aid, the BFI’s earned income and National Lottery Funding, the BFI plans to focus on three key strategic priorities: education and audiences, British film and filmmaking and film heritage. These priorities will be “intelligently linked”, said Nevill, with funds and initiatives working together to create a coherent strategy for the future of UK film.
Priority One: Education and Audiences
(Annual Investment of £44.2 million)
The BFI’s dedication to improving education and learning opportunities, as well as expanding audience choice, is a crucial part of their five year plan.
It will be actively working to get more film education for 5 to 19 year olds into schools across the UK, while the country’s existing film schools will be supported by a one-off £5 million in capital funding by 2017.
The new BFI Film Skills Fund, in partnership with Creative Skillset and BIS2, will be committed to growing skills training. A Youth Film Academy network for 16 to 19 year olds is also planned in partnership with Pinewood and BAFTA, to draw new talent from across the UK, and new animation development labs in partnership with Aardman are also on the agenda.
The education and development of audiences is also a priority, with a key initiative being the creation of audience development hubs throughout the country. Led by local organisations, such as cinemas, archives and broadcast networks, these will put an emphasis on getting a wider variety of films shown in local cinemas, town halls and other community locations. “We want to regenerate opportunities for audiences to access films at local level,” explained Nevill, “so giving more people the opportunity to view a wider variety of film, particularly outside London.”
Film festivals will also be catered for, with £1 million per annum being set aside for events of both international and local importance.
Priority Two: British Film and Filmmaking
(Annual Investment of £32.3 million)
Another priority for the BFI is the increased support of British filmmakers, and of the UK as a filmmaking destination.
There will be more investment in UK production, rising annually to £24 million by 2017, with new opportunities for filmmakers working in documentary and animation. There is to be a greater emphasis on development of projects, and the existing Prints and Advertising Fund will be remodelled to become the Distribution Fund, responding to the changing demands of the industry and exploring new ways of getting films to audiences.
To bolster these plans, producers and distributors will be encouraged to work more closely together, further closing the gap between films and their audiences.
The new BFI Business Development Fund, in partnership with Creative England, will provide seed funding to new businesses, and a new International Fund will include increased funding for the British Film Commission, which Nevill says will continue to be “a leading voice at the table.”
Nevill described the BFI’s new international strategy as ‘joined-up’, pulling together both inward investment and export, with the BFI also aiming to provide leadership from a policy perspective on the international stage. Nevill went on to explain that, having done extensive research into territories outside Europe and the USA, the BFI will be placing particular focus on Brazil and China as it moves forward.
Incentivising international co-production in the UK will also be on the agenda, with BFI Director of Film Fund Ben Roberts explaining that such awards will be flexible and able to respond to changing demands. The fund’s money will be spread across development and production, depending on where it is most needed year on year.
In choosing what films they will support, Roberts asserted that the BFI is committed to working with “strong filmmakers with original ideas”, and that he does not believe that “commercial and critical appeal cannot co-exist”. The BFI Film Fund will be “open and transparent” about how it operates, meaning that filmmakers will be clear about exactly what they need to do in order to work with the BFI.
And, with 150 development awards and just 20 production awards to distribute each year, projects will have to reapply for funding at production stage, even if they have received development funding. That way, there will be constant analysis of BFI-supported projects at every step in a film’s journey to screen.
Priority Three: Film Heritage
(Annual Investment of £9.9 million)
Finally, the BFI plans to unlock the country’s vast film archive for a wider audience to enjoy, by digitising 10,000 films over the next five years; the first wave of which is to be decided by public vote.
They are also investigating the different ways that the public can interact with film content in this digital age, and are developing apps to view content online and through smart TVs; leading to the planned launch of the dedicated BFI player in 2013. “Broadcast is changing, but there will be massive access to film through Internet TV [in the future],” explained Dyke. “We are just trying to make sure that the BFI is there and branded.”
In presenting its five year plan, the BFI made it clear that these new initiatives will radiate out across all regions of the UK, with more money than ever before being spent outside of London to encourage increased filmmaking and audience activity across the country.
“A central part of Film Forever is to reach and nurture business growth and cultural vibrancy across the whole of the UK, with a particular emphasis outside London,” said Dyke. “We are no longer the London Film Institute. We are the British Film Institute.”
You can read and download Film Forever in full at www.bfi.org.uk/about-bfi/policy-strategy/film-forever