Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage

In a keynote at the Film Production Finance Market in London this morning, BFI Film Fund director Ben Roberts talked about plans for better cooperation with international partners, providing extra coin for minority co-productions and establishing development/production funds for UK producers. Roberts also insisted there will be “no favoritism” at the BFI, which took over responsibility for running the UK movie business last year. He was referencing criticism that was often lobbed at the now-defunct UK Film Council by producers whose applications for funding were unsuccessful. “I’ll be here until I’m despised,” he joked.

Earlier this month, the BFI launched a five-year “Film Forever” plan, which laid out a funding increase of £24M annually by 2017. Today, the message in Roberts’ keynote couldn’t have been clearer: This is not the UK Film Council. While he didn’t openly criticize the work of the organization that handed out public cash under the last government, he said the BFI’s new plan favored “originality, excellence and quality of vision.” In a nod to international partners, Roberts promised the org was hard at work on a new strategy. “We’re slightly hamstrung by the confines of the UK Tax credit. It’s very territorial. Qualifying is tough for co-productions. We’ve realized we have to come up with other ways to be useful to the international community,” he said. Calling the BFI a “global business,” Roberts added the body will allocate around £1M of its budget to minority co-productions.

In good news for UK producers, Roberts said the BFI would ease the tough 50% recoupment targets of the UKFC to 20-25%. In a mechanism reminiscent of the French industry’s lucrative Compte de Soutien system, Roberts said successful producers could expect some of that cash to pool back into “locked boxes” which would offer development and production finance to spend on future projects. “It should free up funds for younger, emerging producers and filmmakers,” he said, as the BFI’s funding grows annually and successful producers become less reliant on applications to the main fund.

Roberts, who came to the BFI in March from running British sales company Protagonist Pictures, said the org takes the view that “audiences want originality… Hopefully we will support films that are intuitively finding an audience.”

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