The British Film Institute has unveiled its much-anticipated five-year Future Plan, which they’ve dubbed Film Forever and which spells out a comprehensive blueprint for public film policy in the UK over the next five years. With a substantial chunk of change to invest – nearly £500m drawn from National Lottery funding (roughly £50m a year), grant money and the BFI’s own earnings – the primary targets are developing creative talent and audiences outside of London, more investment in film production and development and the continuing heritage conversion of worthy British films into digital format.
A big winner is development and production funding, which will rise from £15m when the BFI absorbed the UK Film Council last year to £24m by 2017. The BFI Film Fund will make approximately 20 major production awards per year although going forward, there will also be a greater emphasis on development (both talent and project-based) and new opportunities for filmmakers working in documentary and animation. The declared aim is to “put exemplary filmmaking talent at the heart of our strategy, supporting bold new visions from emerging and established filmmakers” – a signal that the BFI wants to be more transparent in its decision-making and move away from the “club factor” that some critics claim existed during the UK Film Council’s reign. (If you were in, you were in – if not, woe betide you.)
Equally crucial is the intention to distribute more resources outside London, with Greg Dyke, chairman of the BFI, firm in his resolve that the organization will no longer be called “the London Film Institute.” He sees regional growth and development outside London as vital to the future success in the British film industry. As such, the Future Plan outlines a strategy to “build, educate and inspire” audiences at the grassroots level through the providing of equipment, seed money to create the next generation of film-savvy cinemagoers and partnerships with local organizations including cinemas, art galleries and local media.
Several other partnership and investment initiatives were announced, including more money for film festivals, a one-off £5m “capital” fund for the UK’s film schools, a Diversity Fund, an animation lab in association with Aardman Animations and a youth film academy for 16 to 19 year olds in partnership with Pinewood Studios and BAFTA. BFI CEO Amanda Nevill also revealed details of stronger ties going forward between the UK’s primary film organisation and the regional agencies like Creative England, Film London and Creative Scotland, declaring that they want to empower more decision-making at a local level.
There is also a Distribution Fund (replacing the old P&A Fund) to help films reach the marketplace, which will operate on £4m a year and support audience awards, “breakout” awards, innovative distribution strategies and a flexible scheme to back “sleepers” – films with the potential to break out that may benefit from late support. Other plans include a newly created International Fund (including extra money for the British Film Commission), a UK-wide A&R-style scouting system for potential filmmaking talent, as well as the digitization (and essential rescue) of 10,000 “culturally important” British films. A public vote will determine which titles to include.
Film Forever is the result of 18 months of energetic consultation between the UK and international film industries, various cultural organisations and the British government. What’s emerged looks well placed to uncover new talent and audiences and keep the British film industry flourishing for years to come.