At the launch this month of the British Film Institute’s five-year forward plan, “Film Forever: Supporting U.K. Film 2012-2017,” BFI chief executive Amanda Nevill highlighted the importance of focusing on the international stage as a growth area for U.K. product. In 2011, global box office receipts for U.K. films reached $5.6 billion, representing 17% of the global theatrical market, while two-thirds of revenues generated for independent U.K. films were earned outside the U.K.

In September, the BFI announced the appointment of Isabel Davis to head international. Charged with taking a strategic overview of all international activity at the BFI and its funded external partners, she reports to BFI director Ben Roberts.

“To support our international growth, the U.K. needs to have a very strong international brand and presence,” Roberts says. “We need to connect our activity at festivals and markets. There’s a real argument for a very strong, coherent U.K. Plc brand that pushes those messages of excellence.”

Roberts adds that growth markets like China and Brazil are priorities. The BFI recently negotiated a co-production treaty with Ancine, the National Cinema Agency of Brazil. The treaty offers eligible film and television productions the benefits of national status in both countries, which will give U.K. films access to local tax incentives, federal public funds and favorable TV terms in Brazil.

Another area of international growth is exports of films and skills, and the BFI is capitalizing on that by increasing its export fund, says Roberts; film exports have tripled since 2001, totalling $3.4 billion in 2010.

The fund will work with the British Film Commission, which will see its funding from the BFI increase 50%, from $641,820 to $962,730 per year, as part of the five-year plan, to develop inward investment. In 2011, such films generated approximately $5.9 billion to U.K. GDP, with film production spending reaching $2 billion, a new U.K. record.

The BFI has worked closely with its partners in the nations and regions, including the BFC and trade bodies including Film Export U.K., Directors U.K. and Pact, to develop its international strategy which will be rolled out in the coming months.

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