As the Film Policy Review is being examined again, Panel leader Chris Smith and BFI chief executive Amanda Nevill talk about progress made since 2012.
The Film Policy Review’s March 2012 report A Future For British Film had 56 “conclusions and recommendations” for bolstering the British film industry.
Over the past few months, the Review Panel has again been gathering evidence for a “review” of progress made. Next month, it will deliver a new progress report to Government.
Screen International spoke to the Panel’s Leader, former Secretary of State Chris Smith, and to BFI Chief Executive Amanda Nevill about what they feel has been achieved since the report was published.
There are 56 recommendations, how is the industry coping in implementing them?
Rather than looking at every single recommendation and giving it a red, amber and green light, what we’re doing is looking at some of the big themes we had in our report – the need to get more coherence in film education for young people, the need to do more to help develop audiences for film, the idea of rewarding success in the way Lottery film funds are made available, the wish to see greater investment by broadcasters in British movie and so on.
There was a big burden on the BFI.
Quite a number of our recommendations were made for the BFI to take forward. Because one of the major new factors in the world of film in the UK now is the lead role that the BFI can and has to play. There will be quite a number of things looking at how the BFI has stepped up to the plate and what is being done. But there will also be other areas where there are other people who need to be looked at as well, especially for example with what is happening with the broadcasters.
Are there now better lines of communication between the film industry and the broadcasters?
It varies quite a lot between different broadcasters. We may want to say something about that in our report.
The BFI seem to be in a paradoxical situation with increased responsibility and power and yet decreasing Grant In Aid.
I wouldn’t comment on the specifics of funding for the BFI. That’s a matter obviously for them and for Government. One of the things, though, that I hope they (BFI) will be able to do is to use both Lottery money and Grant In Aid imaginatively and in synergy with each other – that these shouldn’t be regarded as two completely different silos. There is scope for both Government and the BFI to be imaginative in the way in which they view Lottery money and how it can be deployed alongside alongside Grant In Aid without breaching the fundamental principle of additionality that applies to Lottery funding. There are ways of making it easier and less bureaucratic to use.
How does the landscape for British film compare to that in 1997 when you, as Culture Secretary, launched the Lottery franchises?
I think the industry has moved forward enormously. It has made huge strides in inward investment. It has also continued to make a splash internationally with really good high quality movies originating here, being made here, being distributed around the world by British firms. At the heart of the British film industry is the small independent very good quality sector. That remains in reasonably good shape (but) it needs all the help it can get.
Do you feel the Review has brought different sectors of the industry closer together?
In the lead up to the initial report, we were really pleased to be able to get writers, directors, producers and distributors talking to each other, working together. I hope we can encourage more of that.
What about the issue of diversity? At the recent Screen Diversify conference, some experts were calling for racial quotas.
I certainly wouldn’t go down the road of quotas but one of the things we said in our report was that there needed to be more attention paid to diversity both in front of the camera and behind the camera and in all the associated fields. That’s something we need to continue to keep reminding people about.
How easy has it been for you to deliver on the report’s recommendations given that at the same time you’ve had Grant In Aid cuts?
We are only just a year into announcing our new industry strategy (Film Forever). In terms of the unexpected, we knew we were going to get a cut in Grant In Aid. We were just surprised that film got more (of a cut) than the other cultural organisations.
There was a big burden on you in the review.
There were 56 recommendations and the lion’s share it was expected that the BFI would address. We have addressed those in Film Forever as far as we are able to do within the financial envelope we’ve got. The real great thing about the way this has been done – and it was the same when Chris was doing his first review – is that there is no sense of the BFI being put through its 11 plus. It’s the opposite. It’s actually really useful.
For us, it is really, really early. Normally, with a Lottery fund alone, it can take 6 to 9 months alone to get it out of the door by the time you’ve written up the guidelines, consulted on it, printed it up, launched it.
Do you want more flexibility regarding Grant In Aid and Lottery spending?
It’s a careful eco-system. Lottery can go down as well as up. The most important thing is that it is all public money. The responsibility we have in the investment of that money is terribly, terribly important. That is almost more important than worrying about the flexibility between the two.
Have you seen real change already since the Film Policy Review published its report?
Do I think that having launched our strategy only a year ago, there is going to be a substantive change within a year? It’s not going to. But an awful lot is really working very well. We’ve got talent executives around the regions and the Talent Network, we’ve delivered the first BFI Film Academy, we’ve got the Audience Network up and running, the Film Fund has been completely re-shaped. We had 12 films in Toronto, which was amazing and I am very confident about Sundance and Berlin. We’ve set a new tone.
We want to hear what people have to say and be comfortably open with us – we’ll be comfortably open back. We’re not taking responsibility for the film industry. With £50 million of Lottery funding, that would be hubris of the highest idiocy. What we can say is that we are the incubator and can really try to push an industry strategy. Chris Smith and his review team were very pragmatic about what they can achieve. There is still this will of the wisp utopia that people still talk about (but) film has never been better in the UK.
What about your international strategy?
We have the fantastic relationship with the US that is growing and is strengthening year on year. Our job is to look way beyond the three or four year horizon, at 10 or 15 years – what are the big territories coming up and where is the opportunity for growth beyond the US? (In the past) it was very scattergun. We weren’t very professional about the way we presented ourselves internationally. We, the BFI, commissioned this research. I wanted to know what were the most important territories for us long term to develop. What came out is the US is a slam dunk but then there are China and Brazil. China is already doing great guns. Using the BFI’s cultural programme has been the most amazing way to show goodwill and build relationships there.
And what about Europe? Is Eurimages something to revisit?
The Cinema Communication has just been passed. We worked so hard finding wording that would be acceptable to everybody and really building up our relationships with the other European film agencies. That in itself will give a stability that will make co-productions so much easier.
In terms of Eurimages, we made the pledge we would look at the cost benefits. There isn’t any more money. We would have to take money already in the Film Fund and decide to lock it up in this…We knew we couldn’t look at it in the first year. We just haven’t got the resources. We will.
I don’t think it will be in the next six to eight months but some time toward the back end of the second year, we will start to look at it. We have to be absolutely crystal clear that there would be a net benefit because money is so precious.