The new director of the BFI Film Fund addressed producers’ concerns about recoupment compared to the system under the former U.K. Film Council in an interview that opened the two-day Film London Production Finance Market on Wednesday.
Ben Roberts said, “At the Film Council the recoupment expectation was too high. There was a 50% target for the Premiere Fund.”
This meant the UKFC aimed to take back half of the original sum awarded to invest in other projects.
Roberts added, “The current target is somewhere between 20% and 25%, and recouped monies will flow into locked boxes for the benefit of the producer” who can tap that coin rather than come back to the BFI for handouts.
“In theory, it should free up funds for younger, emerging filmmakers and producers who hadn’t received funding in previous years,” Roberts told an audience of U.K. and international producers.
Roberts discussed his career in a Q&A with PFM project manager Angus Finney, talking about his experiences at U.K. distributor Metrodome, in international acquisitions at Universal and as CEO of sales company Protagonist Pictures. He also outlined his vision for the BFI Film Fund. “I’d always wanted a go at that job. I’m drawn to the public sector,” said Roberts. “It’s an enabling role.”
He admitted the government body had probably failed to do enough for emerging filmmakers in recent years. “We would acknowledge that we probably haven’t been as focussed on development and talent development as we would like to have been. It’s important that we’re supporting new talent.”
He also highlighted the need to redress the balance in terms of those from more privileged backgrounds afforded more opportunities in the industry in the past.
“It’s important we look at those who are disadvantaged, who come from different backgrounds, uncovering talent that doesn’t have the same opportunities,” Rogers said. “That could mean even just bringing a filmmaker from Glasgow down to London for a meeting, that’s a cost.”
With international producers in the room, Roberts gave little away about plans for the International Fund but admitted co-productions were “hamstrung by the specifics of the U.K. tax credit” that requires 25% of a film’s activity to take place in the U.K.
“We have to come up with other ways to be helpful and welcoming to the international industry,” Roberts said.
“One of the first things we could do is allocate part of the Film Fund budget for minority co-productions.”
“If a strong filmmaker coming from somewhere else wanted to work in the U.K. or if one of our filmmakers wanted to go and work somewhere else we thought it was important we could be flexible in supporting those,” he added.
Now in its sixth year, PFM connects international producers, financiers and sales companies. The event facilitates 800 face-to-face meetings and 300 financier-to-financier meetings over two days. This year’s edition has attracted more than 52 producers presenting projects with €305 million ($394 million) of production value, up from $317 million in 2011. The 54 attending financiers include private equity firms, tax-structured financiers, sale companies, distributors and broadcaster representatives. The high demand for a place at the event saw 70 production companies turned down for a place this year, according to Finney.