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BFI launches US distribution fund

Pilot P&A fund to launch at Sundance to help UK films break into North America.

The British Film Institute (BFI) has launched a pilot scheme to help eligible UK films premiering at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival attract theatrical distribution and reach wider audiences in the US.

Three films are currently eligible for funding from the pilot US Distribution Fund: Hong Khaou’s Lilting, the opening film in Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition; Stuart Murdoch’s God Help the Girl, premiering in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition; and Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s drama-documentary featuring artist and musician Nick Cave, 20,000 Days on Earth, premiering in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.

The scheme is initially limited to British films currently without US distribution, which are world premiering in official selection at the Sundance Film Festival 2014 and have a production budget less than £2m.

The BFI will make awards of up to £25,000 per eligible film available to US distributors, in a bid to throw more weight behind the marketing campaigns for the US theatrical release and in particular support the promotion of UK film talent to US audiences.

BFI Film Fund director, Ben Roberts, said:“We know the UK is consistently producing films which wow audiences and critics at A-list festivals around the world, but in a competitive international market some of these excellent films can nevertheless struggle to secure that all-important US distribution, which can do so much to showcase UK talent to cinema audiences and critics in the states. The point of this pilot is to see if we can help to change that.”  

The move forms part of the BFI’s International Strategy, which has identified the US as a growth region and a priority for exporting British film alongside China and Brazil.

The BFI’s US Distribution Fund pilot aims to increase UK exports, promote British talent in the US and “help level the playing field” with international P&A support already attached to local product from countries including France, Italy, Switzerland, Brazil, Russia and Germany.

The US distributor will only be eligible to apply to the BFI US Distribution Fund if it acquires one of the three eligible films within three months of its premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and intends to release the film theatrically in the US (with screenings in a minimum of five of the top 25 EDI US markets) within 12 months of the acquisition.

Applications will need to be made to the BFI by the US distributor at least 14 weeks before the film’s US release date.  The application form will require the US distributor to set out its marketing and release plan for the film including the proposed P&A budget (inclusive of the requested award from the BFI). 

The maximum funding available per film will be the lower of £25,000 or an amount equal to 50% of the total distribution costs of the theatrical release (a definition of allowable distribution costs will be set out in the guidelines). 

The award itself will need to be spent on publicity and advertising costs (including talent travel and associated publicity costs) and/or prints, DCP production and associated costs. 

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