BFI Takes Over UK Film Council funding Role


The BFI (British Film Institute) is set to take over the funding role previously managed by the UK Film Council. It was controversially removed in July with the abolition of the body. The new responsibilities will start in April 2011 and the BFI will also distribute lottery money to filmmakers based in the UK. Regional agency Film London will take on the Film Council’s role in promoting the UK as a filmmaking destination.

Culture Minster Ed Vaizey set out a package of measures today to ‘support’ UK filmmakers, creating financial stability and a more direct and open relationship with the Government. The key parts of the proposal include:

The BFI will take on a key role as the lead strategic film body and distributor of Lottery funds to UK filmmakers.

Lottery funds for film will rise from around £27m today to around £43m annually by 2014; and
Film London will be given a UK-wide responsibility to promote this country as the best place to invest in film.
DCMS and BFI will lead a review on how to build a more sustainable film industry and develop audiences for British films.

The BFI will work with Film London, BAFTA and to consider the role BAFTA and BBC Worldwide could play to support the distribution of British films abroad; and English Regional Screen Agencies are transforming their network into Creative England, a more efficient structure with an expanded remit to support the creative industries.

Greg Dyke, chair of the BFI, described the announcement as “a bold move”. “The decision is a great vote of confidence for the BFI,” he said, welcoming “a bold move to create a single champion for film in the UK.”What we will do now is make sure that our investment in film is properly targeted and transparent,” he added. “The BFI will be the flagship body for the delivery of the UK film policy,” said Ed Vaizey, minister for Culture and the Creative Industries. The BFI will also take charge of public funding to support film in the nations and the regions, as well as audience development and education. The institute currently looks after the national film archive, runs education programmes and organises the London Film Festival. Though the organisation has been involved in film production in the past, it will be a big change for what has largely been an academic institution. The BFI has not directly funded large-scale film production since 1999, when that function was delegated to the Film Council. However, the Institute will not take on all of the Film Council’s previous roles. Regional agency Film London will be responsible for encouraging foreign film-makers and studios to make and post-produce their films in the UK. Film London’s chief executive, Adrian Wootton, welcomed its national remit, saying it was “well placed to take on this responsibility”. Formed in 2000, the UK Film Council backed several successful movies, among them Vera Drake, Fish Tank and In the Loop. But it also supported a number of flops and was criticised for being unwieldy and costly to run. Though the government recently cut the grant for film by 30%, Mr Vaizey confirmed on Monday that the £28m lottery grant the industry receives would be increased to around £43m by 2014. According to a statement released on Monday, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the BFI will soon begin a review on building a more sustainable British film industry.

Culture Minster Ed Vaizey’s  Full Speech Transcript 29/11/10

Today I want to set out our plans to build on the success of the British film industry.

The industry has enjoyed significant successes in recent years.  UK box office takings reached a record-breaking £944 million last year, and will almost certainly break the £1 billion barrier this year.  UK films grossed $2 billion at the box office worldwide.

The BFI’s 54th London Film Festival earlier in the year showcased some of the very best the UK has to offer, from Danny Boyle’s 127 hours to Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech.

This year also saw Stephen Frears’ Tamara Drewe and Nigel Cole’s Made in Dagenham, both great critical successes.  Harry Potter 7 has just put in a record opening weekend performance of 18.3m at the box office. This is a record for any British film, and indeed any film ever, in the UK market;
Pirates of the Caribbean 4 is being filmed here in the UK – when the first three were not – another sign that the industry is doing extraordinary well.

And I was delighted when Warner Bros announced earlier this month their decision to make a £100 million investment in Leavesden.  That is a fantastic vote of confidence, and the first Hollywood studio to be built outside Hollywood in a century.

But despite this success, we cannot be complacent.  The goal of a sustainable, independent British film industry remains as elusive as ever.  We need to try and find
ways of leveraging the wealth of creative talent in this country, the technical expertise, the great writers and actors who emerge generation after generation, the proliferation of fertile, gifted entrepreneurs.

I recognise change is always difficult and I know the last few months have created uncertainty as we have engaged widely with stakeholders on how best to move forward.  But I believe the proposals I am setting out today will help us to begin to address some of the endemic problems within the industry.

The New BFI

We need a new strategic body to oversee the future development of film in this country.
On this basis, I’m pleased to announce today that the BFI will be in charge of delivering the Government’s policy for film. They will be appointed as the distributor of Lottery monies for film; they will be in charge of the certification of the cultural test for the film tax credit; Media desk; and support for film in the nations and the regions.

The BFI has a long history as a cultural institution protecting our film heritage. It has an internationally recognised brand. It runs the fantastic London Film Festival which gathers the best of the British film industry as well as a vast range of commercial organisations. It has successfully led the UK-wide film heritage programme, involving all the stakeholders in all the Nations and Regions.  It has the breadth and depth to support excellence and high quality film, while also developing audiences for British films, through its distribution and exhibition arm, which already services more than 600 venues, from remote screenings in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland to the Imax in London.

Today’s decision will be the start of a new page rather than a simple development in the Institute’s history. The BFI will change fundamentally. It will become more open to partnerships with others, more engaged with the nations and the regions, more able to realise an exciting vision of a coherent, joined up film industry.  These plans will involve a renewed BFI Board and senior management structure reflecting the BFI’s new responsibilities.  Current board vacancies will be filled quickly, following an open process run by the BFI.
I am also delighted to confirm that we will increase Lottery funding available for film from the current £27 million a year to £43m by 2014 – a significant increase in funding of more than 50 per cent – which demonstrates this Government’s commitment to film.  It’s important to be clear as well that there will be no gap in Lottery distribution as we transfer the UK Film Council’s responsibilities to the BFI.  I also want to reiterate that all existing commitments will be honoured, and that Lottery money will continue to support important industry training bodies such as Skillset and First Light until March 2012.

Tax Relief

Of course, the key element of support for the British film industry is the film tax credit.  Although it has been in place for many years, there have been bumps along the road.  It is only in the last few years that we have got it right, and it is now working exceptionally well.   I am conscious that continuity and stability in the tax credit is vital to maintain industry confidence.

I want to make it crystal clear today that we intend to maintain the film tax credit, which is worth over £100million each year to British Film.  We have already begun to work on the re-notification process to European Commission, as we are technically required to do.  We will also make sure that the views of those accessing the credit and completing the cultural test are taken into consideration as we re-notify the scheme.

Creative England

Although the BFI will have a key role in promoting and supporting the film industry in the Nations and regions, I also want to build on the success of the Regional Screen Agencies.  For ten years the Regional Screen Agencies have supported filmmakers and filmmaking across England, as well as developing new audiences for cinema.  But they recognise that eight separate Agencies, each with its own administration and back-office costs is no longer sensible or sustainable.

They will now re-configure themselves as a single national body, Creative England, chaired by John Newbigin, with three hubs in the north, Midlands and south.  These will continue to support new talent and new businesses wherever they are located, building on their intimate knowledge of the cities and regions in which they have been based. They will engage with the industry to ensure that the views of the sector are properly taken into account.

The BFI will establish strategic partnerships with Creative England, Film London which will remain outside the Creative England structure, and with the film agencies in the Nations – Creative Scotland, the Film agency for Wales, Northern Ireland Screen – to ensure that public funding – Lottery and where relevant grant-in-aid – continues to support film in the Nations and the regions.

And because over the last ten years the RSAs have grown their client base from film and TV to a wider spread of creative businesses, including interactive games and music, and because each of them has begun to develop their own particular specialisms and expertise, this new structure offers the possibility of more focused support for a wider range of businesses;- helping small companies grow, helping new talent establish itself and mobilising public and private investment to grow England’s creative industries.


Lottery support and the tax credit are not the only ways the public sector contributes to supporting film. I am delighted that Channel 4 announced earlier this year that they would increase their investment in films by 50%, to £15m, for the next five years. The BBC supports British film to the tune of some £12 million a year. I look forward to the forthcoming publication of the BBC’s film strategy, which will confirm the strong role the Corporation intends to play in the production of British films. Public service broadcasters are playing a great role in bringing high quality British content to wide audiences.

I also strongly believe Sky should seriously consider investing in the production of British Film.  As one of the country’s most innovative broadcasters, it would bring a new dynamic force to the table, which would lift everyone’s game.

Backing British film campaign

I want to continue to encourage other parts of the private sector to support British film as much as they can.  I am therefore delighted that Odeon is announcing today a series of proposals to support the industry. They will reward Odeon Premiere Card holders with additional points every time they go to see a British Film; use their website to promote British films; and become a regular source of online information for British Film fans, including ODEON’s recommended “British Film Of The Month”. They will also consider giving guaranteed on-screen support to a British Film Of The Month, with a view to showing a wider choice of British films as a result.

Digital Technology

In converting to digital technology, the cinema sector is experiencing its most significant change in perhaps 80 years. While this offers huge opportunities, we know it also represents a significant financial challenge to a large number of small independently run cinemas across the country. That is why I am delighted that – with the support of the major cinema operators and studios – the industry is seeking its own solution through the UK Digital Funding Partnership.  Recognising the social, cultural and economic value that many of these sites provide for their local communities, the Government very much supports the work of the Partnership in seeking to ensure that no cinema is left behind during this momentous change.

Moving Forward

A new BFI, increased funding from the Lottery, the establishment of Creative England, an increased commitment from Film 4 and the BBC, support from Odeon, a Digital Funding Partnership – these are all good news stories.  But this is the beginning of a process, not the end.

Review of Lottery In the New Year, I want to maintain the momentum of change and renewal.   There are a number of ideas that need to be considered properly. The British Screen Advisory Council (BSAC), the Film Distributors’ Association and the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, to name but a few, have all contributed to a debate on exhibition and distribution.

PACT has come forward with a series of proposals, in particular the “locked box”; the reduction in the length of the licence period to 5 years; and a new ‘use it or lose it’ provision under which rights would revert to the producer if the broadcaster was not using its broadcast rights.

I am aware that these proposals present some challenges, but they are an extremely interesting way forward that we need to consider very carefully.  So, in partnership with the BFI, we will take forward a review of how the Lottery distribution and recoupment policy can better contribute to a sustainable industry.

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