New fund to back at least 12 documentaries per year.

BFI cinema

The British Film Institute (BFI) is seeking a partner to help deliver its new BFI Documentary Fund.

The initiative, which will allocate £1m in National Lottery funding each year until March 2022, will enlist a partner to work closely with the BFI on delivering its key objectives.

The selected partner will be a UK-based organisation that has documentary expertise, but is not a production company (scroll down for full list of criteria).

Each year the fund will provide monetary awards to a minimum of 12 documentary projects by way of development, production or completion.

They will also provide pitch training to a minimum of 24 teams of filmmakers, with the goal being to help them develop their film pitches to help them secure funding (whether through BFI pots or not).

Ben Roberts, director of the BFI Film Fund, explained the thinking behind enlisting a partner to held deliver the fund:

“By working with a partner we think we can provide a more focused level of support for the particular needs of the documentary community, as well as offering specific development support for new and emerging documentary filmmakers as part of BFI NETWORK.

“We are seeking a partner with considerable expertise and knowledge, as well as access to finance and distribution strategies, which will improve our support of documentary filmmaking in the UK and ensure we continue to be a world leader in this arena.

“We are passionate about documentaries: films that open minds, spark protest, celebrate heroes and travel the planet. Having supported a range of significant, award-winning films and filmmakers over the past few years - from Notes On Blindness and 20,000 Days On Earth, to A Syrian Love Story and How To Change The World - we want to build on our commitment to docs.

Through the projects and teams supported, the BFI is aiming to support a mixture of new and established filmmakers, including identifying diverse cinematic voices as well as backing films that have the potential for theatrical release and box office performance.

For the new and emerging filmmakers, the organisation will provide short film funding and a development programme to help the teams build their skills. This will form a part of the BFI’s NETWORK programme.

The initiative is a part of the BFI’s five-year strategy BFI2022, which was revealed last November.

The partner

The BFI is seeking a partnership for the initiative with an organisation that is based in the UK and is a legally constituted, not-for-profit organisation. Existing documentary film production companies are ineligible to avoid conflicts of interest.

The criteria for the partner are as follows:

  • Significant knowledge of the history of the documentary form
  • Significant knowledge and experience of the British documentary field and the international documentary landscape
  • High level expertise in the development, production, legal, compliance and creative aspects of film
  • Significant experience in financing documentary films and of rights and clearance issues associated with documentary filmmaking
  • Strong understanding of the needs of new and emerging talent
  • Understanding of current film industry demographics and routes to diversifying the industry
  • Track record of identifying new and emerging talent
  • History of facilitating creative excellence and of nurturing talent
  • The staff infrastructure to administer a major funding scheme, including to support the employment of scheme staff, finance administration including payments to awardees, the provision of legal and business affairs, etc
  • Demonstrable existing partnerships or relationships within the documentary and wider film industry
  • A strong online presence in the documentary world (a physical presence as a ‘creative hub’ would also be desirable)
  • Experience or knowledge of grant-making and grant management
  • Demonstrable outreach experience

Applications are now open for the scheme, with a closing date of July 6. The successful applicant will be informed in September this year. Read the full call for applications here.