After a year of extensive consultations with the UK film industry, government and public, the British Film Institute has unveiled its new five-year strategy which will not only see the film body continue to invest almost £500M ($622.9M) into the business across the 2017-2022 period, but will also see the country’s largest film body respond to the evolving needs of the UK film business.
BFI2022 was launched at an event in Birmingham on Tuesday with new BFI chair Josh Berger (who is also Warner Bros’ UK chief) and CEO Amanda Nevill, who said the new initiative would build upon the company’s Film Forever strategy, which was launched in 2012. Crucially, it is also adopting three new core strategies: adopt a new approach to funding filmmaking for non-theatrical releases; devolve more decision making and funding outside of London; and work towards a goal that all UK film productions are encouraged to voluntarily adopt the BFI Diversity Standards.
Under these three strategies, the BFI, which invested in films such as Cannes hit I, Daniel Blake and Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, will invest for the first time in works not destined for the cinema screen including a bigger pool of animation, digital work and narrative filmmaking on other platforms. It will launch a new model for fast funding to fully-finance the production of low-budget and debut works and also plans to digitize at least 100,000 of the country’s most “at risk” TV programs including Rediffusion classics such as Do Not Adjust Your Set, with Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Eric Idle, and ITV 1986 program At Last The 1948 Show.
In a bid to make the industry less London-centric, the BFI plans to devolve 25% of all production funding to decision-makers outside London by 2022 as well as creating a gateway to support emerging country-wide filmmakers, a remit which previously fell under EU body Creative England’s umbrella. BFI looks set to move this talent development portion in-house and will implement new regional BFI Network Talent execs in key cultural venues. It’s also going to pilot a £10M ($12.5M) Enterprise Fund, providing repayable working capital for innovative projects in smaller companies working across the screen industries outside London.
BFI2022 will also build upon BFI’s diversity push and its pioneering BFI Diversity Standards policy, which meant applicants had to meet certain criteria that reflected the country’s diversity in order to be eligible for funding.
“The BFI wants to continue to lead from the front on the issue of diversity,” said Berger. “I am personally very devoted to this issue and to see that we make progress in making our industry more reflective of society generally.” He added that it was encouraging public funding org Film4 had already adopted the Diversity Standards and that he hoped BBC Films would soon follow suit.
Additionally, BFI said it was going to amp up its push to encourage more 16-30 year-olds to watch British indie films and its online platforms, such as BFI iPlayer, will play a central part in driving these efforts to engage with young people.
Speaking to Deadline, Berger was cautious but optimistic about the UK film industry’s future in a post-Brexit world but said the new government had shown a “real interest” to the strategy. “With Brexit, it remains to be seen what the impacts will be for our industry and the rest of the country. There are real challenges such as if the Creative Europe money were to dry up then we will have to do what we can to replace it or find it and we, on behalf of industry, will fight hard to make sure that we don’t lose on that basis.”
He added: “But the UK has a great film industry and we’re going to have a great film industry after Brexit as well.”
Nevill ensured Deadline that the BFI was “absolutely right at the heart” of the issue of the digital single market, which is currently mulling around Europe and threatens to have a grave impact on the indie sector in terms of territoriality laws. “The BFI has one person who works pretty much full-time on this and I think common sense will out in the end here. The entire film industry across Europe, we are as one. This would be devastating and goes agains the principle of the Treaty of Rome, where cultural competency is absolutely crucial and different cultures are something to be preserved and treasured.”
“UK film is the envy of the world – great talent telling incredible stories in imaginative ways, wowing audiences and contributing £4.3B ($5.4B) to UK GDP in the process,” said Berger. “The BFI’s job is to champion the future success of film in the UK and this plan is designed to do just that – we want to back the brave, the new and the experimental.”
Nevill added: “There is one word at the heart of this strategy: future. We will be supporting filmmakers so they are free to experiment and innovate for the future of the medium, opening doors to a future that includes greater opportunities for a diverse generation of individuals to find their voice in the industry.”