This year’s London Film Festival showcases a rich selection of UK titles and celebrates the BFI’s new role in the production sector with style. And with funds only looking to increase in the next two years, it’s up to the film community to build on the current wave of quality.

The UK industry does not come together that often, instead depending on a handful of key dates throughout the year at which to congregate in style: the BAFTAs, of course, the BIFAs, and the opening night of the BFI London Film Festival (LFF).

The LFF is a key launchpad for films to audiences and a place where the local industry can gather, see its new films and network. The opening night – which this year took place last night with the gala screening of 360 and a party at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea – and the screenings and parties in the next ten days offer a vital and rare congregation of industry, members of the creative community and media.

With industry strands like the industry screenings and the Production Finance Market (PFM) taking place within it, the LFF is the nation’s foremost industry event and it has double significance this year since the host of the festival – the BFI – is now also the home of the UK Lottery funding for film production and distribution. Although Film Fund head Tanya Seghatchian recently stepped down to resume her producing career, the BFI has assumed stewardship of a strong production sector.

The films at the LFF this year which represent the UK are as good as any in the programme. Shame is probably one of the best films of the year; A Dangerous Method, The Deep Blue Sea, Coriolanus, Trishna, We Need To Talk About Kevin, The Awakening and Wuthering Heights have been flying the flag for the UK at festivals all year. New titles like Hunky Dory are being premiered and the New British Cinema strand features buzzy titles like Weekend, Sket, Wild Bill and Strawberry Fields.

Paddy Considine’s superb Tyrannosaur would, of course, have been in LFF if it hadn’t opened in cinemas last weekend.

If the UK feels exciting in terms of talent and a pool of name film-makers that extends far beyond Loach and Leigh, it could be getting even more interesting in the next couple of years. The BFI is preparing for a dramatic hike in Lottery funding for film once the Olympic Games is over. Meanwhile new guidelines for the Enterprise Investment Scheme introduced in March will see production companies able to receive up to £10m in tax-beneficial private investment as of April 2012. Next year will see a deluge of new investment in the industry and a slew of new funds.
One can only hope that this time the new wave of funding will not mean a deluge of mediocrity, as happened when the last tax-led investment cycle generated too many films which frankly shouldn’t have been made. Leaner times since the closure of Section 48 have necessitated a healthy investment of time and resources into the development process and getting a project right before it goes before the cameras. Long may that focus on script continue.
The LFF is a good opportunity to gather and prepare for the next steps in British film. It’s a tme to bury the rancour of the UK Film Council closure for good, and look ahead to a UK production sector which can only – if the quality levels are maintained – go from strength to strength.