The British Film Institute‘s Film Fund is the largest public film fund in the UK. Per annum, it invests over £27M ($46.2M) into development, production, international sales and distribution and supports about 30 new films each year. Now, it’s getting serious about diversity and will require movies meet a list of standards before doling out any cash. In order to ensure that titles receiving funding “reflect and represent the diversity of the UK”, a “three ticks” approach is being set up. Beginning September 1, all BFI Film Fund-supported projects must demonstrate “commitment to encouraging diverse representation across their workforces and in the portrayal of under-represented stories and groups on screen.” The org says it’s concerned with diversity in relation to ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. Applicants will have to be able to put a check mark next to at least one criterion in a minimum of two areas out of on-screen diversity, off-screen diversity and creating opportunities and promoting social mobility. A diversity expert is bring brought in to help implement the guidelines.
After agreeing in principle to support the conclusion of a co-production treaty last December, the UK and China have finally put pen to paper. British Culture Minister Ed Vaizey and Vice Minister Tong Gang of state authority SAPPRFT signed the pact in Beijing today. The treaty, which is subject to ratification, is being touted by Britain as welcome news. It could ease access to the world’s second-largest box office market: Films will have to qualify for true co-production status, which eliminates the quota barrier on foreign movies. The exact qualifying criteria have yet to be laid out, but would be expected to include financial and cultural elements. Importantly, if a film is granted the co-production seal, it will be able to access “national benefits including sources of finance” the parties said today. That means the lucrative UK film tax relief system as well as the BFI Film Fund. BFI CEO Amanda Nevill called the treaty “hugely significant for UK film as it will open the door for our filmmakers to collaborate and contribute to each other’s success.” The BFI has been pushing hard to enhance its relationship with China. In January, it established the Electric Shadows initiative encompassing a year of business, trade, and creative and cultural collaborations between the countries.
The British Film Institute created a pilot scheme in January to give a leg up to UK films premiering at Sundance with a view to helping them attract theatrical distribution in the U.S. The program has now been extended to five films in selection at the upcoming SXSW Festival which runs March 7-16. The BFI is making up to £25,000 ($41,750) available to U.S. distributors who acquire the films to boost marketing campaigns and help support the promotion of UK talent to American audiences. The films that fall under the initiative are documentary The Legend Of Shorty, co-directed by Angus Macquee and Guillermo Galdos; Vision selections Beyond Clueless, directed by Charlie Lyne, and The Possibilities Are Endless, co-directed by Edward Lovelace and James Hall; and 24 Beats Per Second entries Pulp, directed by Florian Habicht, and Soul Boys of the Western World, directed by George Hencken. The scheme was successful in Sundance with all three entries, Hong Khaou’s Lilting, Stuart Murdoch’s God Help The Girl and Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s 20,000 Days On Earth, each sealing a U.S. theatrical deal. BFI Film Fund director, Ben Roberts, says, “With each of the eligible films at Sundance quickly securing U.S. distribution deals, we were very keen to extend the pilot to see if it has legs at SXSW, and explore further if it can help …
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Documentary Makers To Pitch BFI For Funding
The BFI Film Fund will dish out funding to documentaries via twice-yearly public pitch sessions, in London and at Sheffield Doc/Fest. Documentarians will pitch ideas to a panel of senior execs “from within the BFI Film Fund and wider documentary funding community”, with selected candidates benefitting from a day of expert-led development to help them focus pitches and strengthen ideas. Documentary filmmaking in Britain is on a high after a string of high-profile successes like Man On Wire and Senna, as well as this year’s Oscar- and BAFTA-winning Brit-produced Searching For Sugarman and the BAFTA-winning The Imposter. “Documentary is the punk of the film industry,” said the BFI’s Lizzie Francke. “We’re absolutely committed to supporting the UK’s visionary documentary filmmakers and we’re pleased to be working with Sheffield Doc/Fest on this new way to deliver support directly to the sector.” – Joe Utichi
The British Film Institute has earmarked up to £2.5M ($4M) of Lottery funding for its Vision Awards initiative through 2015. The grants will provide up to £200K over two years to a maximum of 15 production companies for investment in slate development. The project is part of the BFI’s recently launched five-year Film Forever plan to foster growth in the UK film biz and keep momentum going after a strong series of local films. Calling the Awards “crucial” to the future, BFI Film Fund director Ben Roberts said today, “Development is the lifeblood of the UK film industry, but it’s risky and private money to support development is scarce. That’s why the BFI’s role as the UK’s biggest investor in film development is so vital.” Eligible companies must be experienced producers with at least one production credit on a fiction, documentary or animation feature that has been distributed theatrically in the UK and screened internationally in the last five years. More detail is available at www.bfi.org.uk/visionawards.
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.
Davis joined the British Film Institute in April last year as senior executive of international for the Film Fund. In an expanded role, she’ll become head of international, leading the org’s ambitions for UK film abroad. New duties will include oversight of all international activity at the BFI including inward investment, film export, policy and strategy. She will remain on the Film Fund’s editorial team, tracking talent and projects and will continue to represent the UK’s co-producing interests. The Fund currently has a budget of £18M which will jump to £24M by 2017. Since April last year, it’s invested in such films as Mike Newell’s Great Expectations, Neil Jordan’s Byzantium and Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths, all of which just debuted in Toronto. International investment from films made in the UK in 2011 was just over £1B while British films earned $5.6B at the global box office. Back in January, Prime Minister David Cameron called on the BFI to “incentivize UK producers to chase new markets both here and overseas” as the industry seeks to keep momentum going in the wake of the Harry Potter series’ end.