The British Film Institute has unveiled new plans to support the U.K. independent sector with four focused film funds.
Operating beneath the newly-launched BFI National Lottery Filmmaking Fund (the finances have come directly from the U.K.’s National Lottery), the new structure will see £36.6 million ($44.8 million) go towards the production and development of feature films via four individual funds over three years. Meanwhile, £17.4 million ($21.3 million) has also been dedicated to supporting documentaries, shorts, talent development and immersive filmmaking.
The bulk of the production and development support for features — $36 million — will be available via the BFI Discovery Fund for directorial debuts, aiming to support six features with budgets below £3.5 million ($4.3 million) per year, and the BFI Impact Fund, which will aim to provide production funding for five projects each year, either from second-time time filmmakers or beyond, or debuts budgeted at over £3.5 million ($4.3 million). The Impact Fund, which has criteria focused on the scale and/or intensity of audience impact they’re seeking to make, will also target underrepresentation in creative leadership roles with the BFI working with selected projects so they provide meaningful opportunities for upskilling, mentoring and production shadowing.
Meanwhile, the $5.5 million BFI Development Fund will remain flexible and broad in terms of the costs it will cover at all stages of development, and aims to support around 60-70 projects per year. However, acknowledging the difficulty faced by producers at the early stages of their careers, they can now request enhanced overhead support alongside their fee within the development budget. Additional project development support will be available through the $3.3 million BFI National Lottery Creative Challenge Fund, a fourth new fund opening later in 2023, which will fund labs and development programmes in order to decentralize project development and ensure support is accessible U.K.-wide.
“The UK has world-class indie filmmakers and the Filmmaking Fund launched today firmly seeks to support them and nurture those who will be part of shaping its future,” said Mia Bays, who joined the BFI as head of the film fund in 2021. “In response to evidence, listening to the industry, and building on past achievements, we are setting out a strategy that is re-focused and clear about our ambition to support projects to have the greatest possible impact with audiences and on the careers of filmmakers, which speak to communities underrepresented in UK film previously. We are all navigating a reality, post-pandemic, of challenging conditions which require a pragmatic approach. Informed by my own 30-year experience across the sector and working closely with the filmmaking fund team, we are committed to doing as much as we can with the funding available in fair, focused, transparent and mindful ways.”
The newly announced funding strategy comes amid structural change on the funding arm of the BFI am, as Lizzie Francke, editor-at-large, Fiona Morham, head of production and Natascha Wharton, head of editorial will be leaving the BFI later this year to pursue their own ventures. The new Filmmaking Fund team includes new senior production executives who have joined in the past year.
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