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British Film Institute unveils five-year plan

It will invest $807 mil in the local industry


The British Film Institute will invest nearly £500 million ($807 million) in U.K. film over the next five years it revealed today as it launched “Film Forever: Supporting U.K. Film 2012-2017.”

The plan will focus on three core strategies: British film and filmmaking with an annual investment of $52.2 million; education and audiences with an investment of $71.4 million per year; and film heritage with an investment of $16 million per year.

“The plan looks resolutely to the future: future audiences, future filmmakers, future technologies,” said BFI chief executive Amanda Nevill. “We want to invest where we think it can make a difference; where we can be a supporting catalyst for change.” Nevill also emphasized the focus on a countrywide approach, saying, “We are not the London Film Institute, we are the British Film Institute.”

Funding will come from a combination of grant aid (typically $29.7 million a year), BFI-earned income (approximately $36.7 million a year) and National Lottery funding ($92 million a year). The plan establishes goals that include increasing the size of audiences viewing features across all platforms; raising market share of British independent films; increasing inward investment and exports; improving on the U.K. film industry’s contribution to GDP ($7.4 billion in 2011); and greater diversity in the workforce.

The BFI announced key partnerships with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Pinewood Shepperton, global management consulting and technological services company Accenture, Samsung Smart TV and Aardman Animation.

As previously announced, the BFI Film Fund will see its coffers rise by a minimum of $1.6 million annually over the next five years to reach $38.8 million by 2017 from a current budget of $29 million. The new fund, under the stewardship of Ben Roberts, will have a greater focus on development than previously.

The Film Fund will make approximately 20 production awards per year and approximately 150 awards for development.

The BFI will reintroduce Vision Awards for 2013-2015 to help growth in the production sector, helping companies with at least two feature credits and a viable plan to build development slates and their businesses. The BFI will make up to 10 annual awards of $162,000 and up to five additional annual awards, each for two years, of $81,000. A further round of awards is planned for 2015-2017.

The BFI will team with Aardman Animation on an animation lab to support filmmakers in developing and packaging their concepts. The BFI has committed extra support to the U.K.’s toon sector in 2013 by funding five animated shorts with budgets of up to $161,500. The animation lab is the first of several planned development programs.

There will be a remodelled P&A fund, now called the Distribution Fund. This will provide large-scale awards supporting releases of new British films in order to reach a wider audience, as well as breakout awards to support independent British and specialised cinema. New models awards will go to emerging digital platforms and cross-media activity to build audiences while a flexible sleepers’ fund will support films that surprise the market.

A new Intl. Fund for inward investment and development will up funding for the British Film Commission. The BFI has major ambitions for a new international program led by Isabel Davis. This includes support for inward investment and film exports, maintaining and growing relationships in Europe and the U.S., plus advancing relations with growing film sectors in Brazil and China. The U.K. and Brazil signed a co-production treaty on Sept. 28 negotiated by the BFI and Brazil’s national cinema agency Ancine. An unset allocation of the Intl. Fund’s budget will be used for co-productions, which Roberts estimated to be around $1.6 million in the first year.

BFI Film Skills Fund, working with Creative Skillset and the Dept. for Business, Innovation and Skills, will ensure the U.K.’s film schools are supported with a one-off $8.1 million in capital funding by 2017.

The BFI believes the key to a strong future for U.K. film lies in education. “If you want to have a vibrant film industry that goes hand-in-hand with a vibrant film culture,” said Nevill.

The BFI intends to set up a new film education club available to every U.K. school offering all 5-19 year olds the opportunity to see a diverse range of films as well as provide filmmaking opportunities. These clubs will also ensure a year-round cinema-based education program, working with local partners and communities. By 2017 the BFI hopes to have “25% of all young people in the U.K. actively engaged in making, watching and understanding a wide range of film.”

It will also establish a youth film academy network for 16-19 year olds. The Dept. for Education has committed $1.6 million annually for the next three years to set it up. Further support will come from Pinewood Studios and BAFTA. The pilot phase for the youth academies will launch before the end of 2012.

The BFI will also work with the BIG Lottery Fund on a joint proposal to build, educate and inspire audiences at community level across the U.K.

The BFI plans to digitize 10,000 U.K. films over the next five years with the first wave chosen by public vote.

Through a new partnership with Accenture the BFI will explore new ways for audiences to engage digitally with film archives through a range of platforms and devices.

The BFI will launch a pilot app for Samsung Smart TVs later this month and plans five apps that Nevill says “will lead to a BFI Player, which we hope to get out by the back end of 2013.”

It has also committed $1.9 million annually to support research in film and the film industry to ensure the best information is available to do its work.

Film Forever” is the culmination of over 18 months of national discussion, which included the Film Policy Review, commissioned by the Dept. of Culture, Media and Sport, which published a report in January after a year of consultation, and the BFI’s initial outline of its five-year plan, which was put out to consultation in May. That consultation received nearly 1,000 responses, focussing the BFI’s thinking on skills, infrastructure, international strategy and diversity.

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