Work is finally set to begin in the autumn on the building of the British Film Institute’s new £12 million National Film Archive “sub-zero storage facility.” The aim is to have the new facility, housed at Gaydon in Warwickshire, by early 2012.
The move comes as the BFI battles to preserve titles at risk in the National Film Archive.
Archives sources claim that 35% of its master collection (comprising 200,000 titles) had been at risk of being “lost.” This includes films from directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean, Powell and Pressburger and Humphrey Jennings.
The construction of the new site comes almost three years after then-UK Culture Secretary James Purnell pledged £25 million toward the UK’s national and regional film archives in October 2007.
It emerged last month that the current UK coalition Government has clawed back some of the money that had been promised. Originally, the BFI had originally planned £2.2 million of the cash pledged by Purnell to invest in creating an integrated digital database that would open up the archive’s holdings to the public. This project has been put on hold.
Behind the scenes, BFI sources are expressing severe disappointment at cost-cutting moves that are bound to reduce access to the archive’s holdings. However, this is tempered by relief that the Government is allowing the sub-storage facility to go ahead.
The BFI receives its grant-in-aid funding of £16 million a year via the UK Film Council. Last month, Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey revealed that plans to merge UKFC and the BFI have been shelved. Vaizey promsied “a wide-ranging reassessment of Government support for film.”
Details of this reassessment remain skimpy. However, the BFI is understood to be keen to establish its own direct relationship with Government. “We are not an industrial body. We are here to inspire the filmmakers of tomorrow, not to make interventions about tax breaks,” said one BFI source.