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British Film Institute Sets Out Proposals to Boost U.K. Indie Film Sector

The British Film Institute outlined a range of proposals Wednesday to boost the U.K. independent film business, including a new development fund that has already attracted the interest of Amazon, a new investment scheme, and an effort to engage younger moviegoers. Also included in a detailed report are recommendations to the British government for boosting the film industry, which continues to grapple with seismic industry and consumer changes.

Lionsgate U.K. CEO Zygi Kamasa chaired the BFI Commission into independent film. “One of the things I wanted to steer the commission into focusing on was [producing] something that was collaborative, industry-led and actually coming up with schemes and ideas that we could work together on…rather than just saying, ‘We need more money,’” Kamasa said.

The report details four key proposals for industry: maximizing the value of rights; growing younger audiences through special screenings and a better understanding of how they engage with U.K. independent films; a new independent film fund; and a commercial development fund.

The BFI also outlined measures to boost independent British film overseas, with a greater presence in China and key international markets. “We need expertise on the ground and that’s one of the areas where we are asking for government support,” BFI CEO Amanda Nevill said, adding that China, South America, and the U.S. are all hot spots where it would like to do more.

In drafting its findings, its authors sought the views of all sectors of the indie business, Kamasa said. “What was really encouraging was reaching out to the whole industry and having everybody saying, ‘We all want more British films, we all want commercial British films that work,'” he said. “And that’s enormously valuable for each respective business [sector].”

The report looked at what type of films should receive support, noting that younger audiences have a preference for genre fare, for example. “Studios and independent producers in the U.S. have developed a model of smart, low-budget, genre filmmaking that has found considerable creative success and – when strongly connecting with audiences – can generate material returns on investment,” it noted.

The FAANG companies are rewriting the rules of film funding and distribution, but are part of the solution as well as a challenge to existing models. The BFI said that Amazon is interested in being part of a new commercial development fund. Outside of the BFI, BBC Films and Film4, development funding is thin, and the BFI Commission’s proposed new fund will be backed by partners that want to support British talent and films.

The new development initiative would be administered independently. With upwards of £5 million ($6.5 million) to be spent over five years, it could support a significant number of British projects. “Development funding goes a lot further than production funding in terms of impact,” said Ben Roberts, one of the report’s authors and the BFI Film Fund director. “I think this fund will be looking at a very high conversion rate of projects into production.”

Another funding boost could come in the form of a new investment scheme to raise private funds. Unlike current schemes for specific films, it would be used to grow a suite of emerging British production companies. Talks are already underway with fund managers.

With Brexit set for next March, the BFI wants the British government to ensure that the country remains part of Creative Europe, the European Union’s content and culture program. There will also be research to evaluate whether the U.K. should rejoin Eurimages, which Nevill said would be carried out later this year.

The BFI also recommends that the government allow a British co-production partner to claim relief on 100% of their qualifying spend, rather than the current 80%.

Nevill, culture minister Margot James, and Kamasa (pictured left to right) gathered in London, Wednesday, to launch the BFI report.

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