British Film Institute to Sharpen Focus

Recent British film successes have included Ken Loach’s 'I, Daniel Blake,' which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes

The British Film Institute unveiled its five-year strategy Tuesday with objectives that include increased spending outside of London, a drive to encourage 16-30 year olds to watch more British independent and specialty movies, and a looser definition of “film” so that the government-funded organization can back more innovative work.

BFI chair, Josh Berger, who launched the 2017-2022 strategy alongside the BFI’s CEO, Amanda Nevill, at an event in Birmingham, England, said the film business contributed £4.3 billion ($5.37 billion) a year to the U.K.’s gross domestic product. He said between 2009-2013 employment in the core U.K. film sector grew by 21.6% compared with a 3% rise in jobs in the British economy as a whole in that period. The BFI’s budget for 2017-2022 is projected to total £489 million ($610 million).

Recent British film successes have included Ken Loach’s “I, Daniel Blake,” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey,” which won the festival’s Jury Prize.

Berger said in a statement: “The BFI’s job is to champion the future success of film in the U.K. and this plan is designed to do that — we want to back the brave, the new and the experimental.”

The BFI has committed itself to spending 25% of its production funding outside of London, and will set up a small number of BFI Regional Production Funds to support talent, skills and infrastructure around the country. The BFI will focus its resources on creating “creative screen clusters of international influence.”

With regard to its focus on 16-30 year olds, the BFI strategy states: “As screens proliferate and moving image becomes the predominant way that young people interact with the world and with each other, there is a clear need to encourage cultural curiosity and risk-taking among this group.”

Online platforms, such as the streaming service BFI Player, will play a central part in the organization’s efforts to engage with young people and encourage them to watch more British independent and specialty movies.

Addressing the overall rise in online viewing, the BFI will adopt a more flexible approach to its definition of film, which “will mean anything that tells a story, expresses an idea or evokes an emotion through the art of the moving image.”

The BFI will make its funding criteria more flexible to allow it “to support certain non-theatrical, episodic, hour-long or other non-feature-length work, a greater variety of animation and digital work, and narrative filmmaking on other platforms, including immersive and interactive work.”

Other measures include the digitization of up to 100,000 British television shows, which are currently stored on video, and the creation of fresh film and digital prints of at least 100 of the “great classics” of British and international cinema, which will then be given a theatrical release.

The BFI will seek also to create a more diverse workforce in the film business by working with producers to “create the right conditions so that all U.K. productions can voluntarily adopt the BFI Diversity Standards.” These standards aim to address under-representation of people based on disability, gender, race, age, and sexual orientation.

As Britain begins its negotiations with the European Union to leave the political and economic community, the BFI will beef up its in-house expertise in international trade, it said, “in order to advise effectively government and support industry in the development of future trade deals.”

The BFI sets out its intention to maintain strong links with Europe. It said it would “sustain strong partnership working within Europe to benefit the U.K. screen sector through working with our European film agency counterparts on active E.U. policy negotiations, and making the case for the U.K.’s continued membership of Creative Europe” [the E.U.’s funding body for film and other creative activity].

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