Three areas of concentration are education and audiences, filmmaking and film heritage; Film Fund will rise to £24m annually by 2017.

The British Film Institute has today (Oct 3) unveiled its eagerly awaited five-year Future Plan. Film Forever (Supporting British Film) is the new document published which lays out the blueprint for public film policy in the UK over the next five years.

The BFI is expected to invest almost £500m in UK film over the next five years. This is a combination of Lottery money, grant-in-aid money and the money the Institute earns itself.

As expected, the policy document cleaves closely to recommendations put forward in the Film Policy Review, which was launched last January led by Chris Smith. However, there were further details about just how the Institute aims to achieve its strategic aims.

“We’ve got roughly £50m a year in Lottery funding to distribute,” BFI chair Greg Dyke commented at the London press launch on Tuesday. He said the decision was taken by the BFI board to focus on three key areas: education and audiences, filmmaking, and film heritage.

The BFI Film Fund’s development and production funding will rise to £24m a year by 2017.

Dyke made it very clear that the BFI (the lead organisation for film in the UK) would no longer be “the London Film Institute.” “A lot of this money is going to get spent outside of London,” Dyke said.

BFI CEO Amanda Nevill revealed details of what are expected to be increasingly close ties between the Institute and such agencies as Creative England, Film London, Creative Scotland, Northern Ireland Screen and Film Agency For Wales.

“We do want to try to encourage and empower decision making at a local level whenever we can,” Nevill said.

The old P&A Fund has now been remodelled as “the Distribution Fund.” This will run on £4m a year and will have four categories of support – big audience awards of up to £300,000, “breakout” awards to enable films to reach beyond their core audience, “new models” for innovative distribution strategies and, finally, a more flexible scheme for supporting “sleepers,” upcoming or in-release films that have taken the market by surprise and will benefit from late support.

The BFI announced a raft of new partnerships and investment initiatives. Nevill spoke of the Institute’s “new ways of looking at film finance,” among them new investment for grassroots business development which will be led by Creative England.

  • Nevill confirmed that there will be additional money both for festivals of international importance and for local festivals;
  • There will also be eight to 10 locally-led “audience development hubs”;
  • The BFI is creating a one-off £5m “capital fund” specifically for film schools;
  • As expected, the BFI is looking to support joint ventures encouraging producers and distributors to work more closely together;
  • Responding to widespread criticism that the BFI wasn’t paying enough attention to diversity, there will now be a “Diversity Fund”;
  • Dyke revealed that the BFI is working with the Big Lottery Fund on a joint proposal to “build, educate and inspire audiences at the grassroots level”;
  • The BFI is also forming an “animation lab” with Bristol-based Aardman Animations; and
  • Among other initiatives is the “youth film academy” on which the Institute’s partners will be Pinewood Studios and BAFTA.

Meanwhile, The BFI is exploring a range of ways in which to make its materials available to as broad an audience as possible. These include five new “BFI Apps,” among them a BFI smart television “platform” developed in collaboration with Samsung. The aim is to launch a “BFI Player” by late 2013.

One area that neither Dyke nor Nevill touched on in their initial presentation was co-production. However Ben Roberts, head of the Film Fund, suggested around £1m a year initially is likely to be set aside for co-production awards. This will be administered through the Film Fund.

Asked what the new plan held for sales agents, former Protagonist head Roberts confirmed that the BFI is committed to export initiatives, stating: “I definitely feel we need a stronger UK brand at markets and festivals.” 

As part of its ongoing film heritage drive, the BFI has committed itself to digitising 10,000 titles. A public vote will be held as to what the first titles should be.

The plan can be read here:

The industry reacts

A range of leading UK industry experts comment on the BFI plan

Carl Clifton

Partner, sales & marketing, K5 International

“I am most interested to see how the BFI will work with the government and the broadcasters over the Communications Bill and the BBC Charter, since it is effective engagement there that will create a real and lasting impact on the UK film landscape. Separately, the extra money for export-based activity is long overdue and certainly welcome.”

Alex Hamilton

Director, eOne Films UK

“It’s great the BFI has clearly not just considered distribution as a strictly homogenous sector, and has listened to those who have been calling for ways and means to bring producers and distributors together for the kinds of movies the Film Fund might support. Hopefully the rigour of the consultation process will follow through into the implementation of the proposals highlighted in the plan.”

Damian Jones

Producer, DJ Films

“It is an excellent development that investment across the country is increasing and expanding for the future. Without the support of the BFI and its predecessor, the UKFC, more than half of my films would never have been made.”

Kevin Loader

Producer, Free Range Films

“British producers will be better placed if the BFI’s strategy goes according to plan. Tackling the structural bias against British storytelling in the distribution sector is welcome. The locked box and Vision Awards proposals will help British companies build businesses. And many of us working with the BFI are detecting a new sense of helpfulness in the air, a sense the BFI wants passionately to help British film talent connect with the widest possible audience.”

Rupert Preston

Co-CEO, Vertigo Films

“The BFI is showing a much more joined-up approach across development, production and distribution that has to be applauded. The plans and ideas for distribution support are both more flexible and more appropriate in this ever-changing and very challenging marketplace. One area the BFI must, and can, tackle more aggressively though is piracy. Literally millions of pounds are extracted illegally from the independent film sector every week and this should be a number-one priority for the BFI.”

David Thompson

Producer, Origin Pictures

“Having lived through many different incarnations of film strategies over the years, this is the most coherent, persuasive and imaginative strategy that I’ve encountered because it really does seem to pull things together in a rather striking way. I think the emphasis on education is rather inspiring. There is an emphasis on new talent and risk-taking, which is also very important because my experience in film is that some of the biggest hits come from the least proven talent. The BFI has come up with something that is pretty vivid and compelling.”