BFI head Amanda Nevill talks through the thinking behind the BFI’s new five-year plan.
You’ve undertaken to ensure every child in the UK aged 5-19 has film as part of their education. Will film become part of the National Curriculum?
Nevill: Our job is to advocate that but it’s not to deliver. That’s for The Department Of Education. What the plan looks at is the virtuous circle - how you get a really vibrant film culture and prosperous industry. If you want a really, prosperous, successful industry, you need people watching films. People are only going to watch films if we’re making great ones. That’s why we’ve got these three focus points - audience & education, filmmaking and heritage. We want to do with public money what the market cannot do. Part of that is long-term. The real primary motivation behind wanting to make a very significant investment in education is to engender a love of film and to embed the cinemagoing habit. We will continue to advocate for film being on the curriculum but where we really want to focus is growing the audiences of tomorrow…assuming that the consultation applauds this, we will say we are looking for someone who will deliver this for us - an organisation that will come back and deliver this for us. And we would expect them to bring some matching moneys in.
Coproduction is mentioned only in passing. is there any chance that the idea of re-joining Eurimages will be revived?
We haven’t said we will or we won’t (rejoin Eurimages). What we have said is that there is nowhere near enough evidence to to make a sensible decision. It’s a very expensive move to rejoin Eurimages. It would probably cost us about £3 million. Plus we would have to have a bespoke, standalone coproduction fund. That’s a big slug of money…we would need to be really, really certain (it was worthwhile.) Basically, you take this money and you give the cash to somebody else. That is three less films we could invest in, for example, plus the coporudction fund would only be available for coproductions. You’d be locking up a lot of money. It could be that it’s worth doing that but what we’ve said in our forward plan is that we don’t know and we’re certainly not going to do it without a real evidence base.
What size will the P&A Fund be?
The proposal is £4 million (per year.) We increased it this year (to £4 million) as a one-off and what we are proposing to do, subject to the consultation is to keep it at that amount.
The Fund does three things really. It supports films we think have great break-out potential. We hope to try and recoup on those films. It also puts P&A into films so that audiences, no matter where they live, will have a chance to see them. It increases choice. And it invests in new distribution models, particularly in the digital arena.
Will you need to to expand the BFI to deliver on the Future Plan?
There will be parts of business development that Creative England will probably deliver for us. We will fund the Film Hubs directly but we’ve got monitoring teams here already. The Film Fund has already got people in it. The festival (fund) is not a big piece of administration. I am very confident that we are easily set out to do this. We are committing to an 8% cost of delivery, which is low.
How big will the fund for festivals be?
There are two new funds. One is what we are calling the “Programming” fund (£2.5 million a year). That fund is there to support the hubs so they can support more diversity of choice. It will include the proposal we have for rural and community cinema. It will also support local festivals. There is the separate international UK film festival fund (£1 million a year), It’s specifically to support those festivals of international importance which have a really important industry role as well as an audience development role. Typically, we’d be looking at Sheffield Doc/Fest, Edinburgh, possibly Encounters and obviously London.
As far as rewarding successful producers, how are you going to do that?
There is already the 37.5% corridor that goes into a locked box for producers. That is already operating. The additional things we are looking at very warmly and probably will do, subject to the devil being in the detail and state aid (requirements) is for the producer to keep the tax break as producer equity, also into the locked box. We are also looking at recycling the development monies. The last thing is the “joint venture.” The “joint venture” isn’t an additional fund. It is a different way of structuring the investment we make in a film. There is a task force at the moment, made up of lots of producers and chaired by Matthew Justice, looking at how it might work.
How will the plans to bring together BBC Worldwide, The British Council, The British Film Commission, Film Export UK and BAFTA in a joint international strategy work in practice?
There is £1.2 million set aside for this in addition to the grant in aid, which is a different pot we are not consulting on. The BFI’s role in this is as a catalyst for collaboration. We all got together. There were about 28 of us around the table. We said here are some critical things. Inward investment and export are absolutely vital. If we look at what we all do, we all do bits of things very well but in a sort of scattergun approach. Surely we could get more than the sum of our parts if we were to work together in some targeted areas. From a targeted area perspective, North America is vitally important so we are going to start collaborating. What we’ve also done is a piece of research to identify what are the most important three or four territories beyond North America for inward investment and export. We don’t want to just assume it’s China, Russia, India or the BRIC countries because we also want to look at things like propensity for piracy, censorship, where we would meet most fertile ground culturally. What we’re all committed to is when we’ve got those three or four territories, we will collaborate in trying to make a real impact there. It’s cultural advocacy as a big way to open the door.
What about Film Export UK? Will you continue to support sales initiatives?
As you know, we responded very quickly and put in place the interim export fund which indeed is supporting some of the British films trying to find additionalsales in Cannes. The money we’ve put aside will strengthen the British Film Commission’s position and provide funding to do these tactical collaborations together.
What’s the thinking behind the Regional Hubs?
Outside the M25, only 7% of screens regularly show non-mainstream films. If you step outside the M25, the choice of film plummets. We’re talking about a new deal for audiences out there.
Everyone said the Digital Screen Network would offer a new deal for audiences. Has it not done so?
We need not to look backwards all the time but look forwards. By January of next year, nearly every screen in Britain will be digital. Yes, there are issues with the VPF (Virtual Print Fee) and there are blank spots, which is why we’ve brought in this idea to ensure there are 1000 community venues equipped for showing films. The real thing is that you can put in all the technology you like but actually you need to intervene on the programming and audience development level. It seems to me a natural next step that we would say the technical bit has been done now. Actually, what we want to do is intervene to make certain that we can use that to deliver the choice for audiences. If you look at the box-office over the last 10 years, the average market share for British films has been 6%. Last year, it was 13%. In the last quarter of last year, it was 23%. There is an audience hunger out there for more British films.
Is there anything about diversity and inclusion in the Future Plan?
The whole plan is based on the fact that we want a UK-wide reach. Whether it’s the schools or the hubs or the focal point for talent, we don’t want to centralize this….there is a really commitment to working UK-wide and ensuring there is a much more easy trajectory/open runway for all the talent across the UK to get together and access the Film Fund. We haven’t used the word “diversity” but we’ve used the word “choice” and UK-wide” throughout.
How easy is the BFI finding it to adjust from being a cultural organisation to one that also deals with industry?
Film is both a fantastic creative tool and a really important business. It is also something that captures the hearts and minds of Britain. All those ingredients work best when they’re cooked together. It’s almost a relief in a way not to ghettoise different bits but to look at it in the round.
See news story about five-year plan here.