EXCLUSIVE: EIFF to significantly boost prize money, introduce a documentary award and double the number of galas.
The Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) is to give a significant boost to its cash prizes and double the number of gala screenings for the 68th edition as it continues to reclaim its position in the festival hierarchy.
The Michael Powell Award, previously worth £5,000, will now come with a cash prize of £20,000. It will also be open to all British fiction features at the 2014 festival, which runs June 18-29, having previously been limited to a specific strand.
Documentaries will no longer be in the running for the Michael Powell Award but given their own prize, currently known as the EIFF Documentary Award. This will be worth £10,000.
The Best International Film award will remain but will see its prize money doubled from £5,000 to £10,000.
Bob Last, chairman of EIFF parent organisation Centre for the Moving Image, told ScreenDaily that the move marks “a serious statement of intent” to “remind people that Edinburgh is the place to bring your feature”.
Speaking publicly for the first time since taking the chairman role last November, Last said: “EIFF is on a journey back to greatness. There was a year zero  at Edinburgh, prior to the involvement of the current team, when organisers threw all their sticks in the air and tried to reinvent the festival. They got it wrong.
“But the festival turned a corner a couple of years back with the appointment of Chris Fujiwara as artistic director and we are rebuilding,” added Last, pointing to a 10% rise in admissions for the 2013 edition.
Speaking about the Michael Powell Award, Last said: “One of the key things I want to do is put the Michael Powell Award back at the heart of British filmmaking and increase engagement with those filmmakers.”
Earlier this week, Last spoke about the award with Thelma Schoonmaker, veteran editor and Powell’s widow. “Thelma is excited that we are building the legacy of that award, after some disappointment when the festival abandoned it a few years ago,” said Last.
“The Michael Powell Award comes with a very positive heritage that evokes extraordinary British filmmaking and imagination.”
The 2014 EIFF will also add a further two galas to the existing opening and closing films.
“We are looking at the right moment to programme those but hope it will generate a similar level of attention and talent that the opening and closing films receive,” said Last.
Asked about the importance of world premieres, Last added: “They are crucial to generating excitement. It’s about glamour. It’s bloody difficult to make a film and filmmakers need energy, which can be partly delivered by festivals.”