Following the Film Policy Review published by the Film Policy Review Panel in January 2012 (on which see further here) the BFI has published its own report on the future of UK film.  The report "Film Forever, Supporting UK Film, BFI Plan 2012-2017" sets out the BFI's three-pronged strategy to invest approximately £500 million in UK film over the next five years and to help drive growth in the industry, build audiences and promote more film education initiatives.

Film Forever focuses on three strategic priorities:

  • Education and audiences - with an investment of £44.2m per year
  • British film and filmmaking - with an investment of £32.3m per year
  • Film heritage - with an investment of £9.9m per year  

One idea from the Film Policy Review that the BFI is not taking forward is the proposal of a 'British Film Brand'. Following its own consultation exercise, the BFI feels that this proposal does not have the necessary support.

Expanding film education and boosting audience choice

In the report the BFI pledges to implement a new strategy for film education across the UK, to include:

  • an online platform for 5 - 19 year olds with the potential to reach 8.5 million young people; and
  • a new youth film academy network across England for 16 - 19 years olds with initial support from Pinewood Studios and BAFTA with committed annual funding of £1m for the next three years from the Department of Education.  

The BFI also announced a number of initiatives to act on the Film Policy Review's emphasis on respecting and understanding the audience for film, including:

  • establishing a UK Audience Network of 8 - 10 regional audience hubs outside London to build audiences for a greater diversity of film; and
  • identifying 1000 community venues across the UK seeking equipment to present a greater choice of film to local residents.

Supporting British filmmaking

The BFI's second strategic priority has three main strands: investment in film development and production, investment in skills and business development and investment in developing international reach including initiatives such as:

  • more money for development and production of UK films - an increase of a minimum of £1m a year for the next five years, rising to £24 million by 2017;
  • support for the Film Policy Review recommendation that key talent should participate in a share of BFI revenues from investments it has made to allow such talent to invest in their own future filmmaking activities. The BFI intends to hold a percentage of its recouped investments on behalf of producers, directors and writers in a so-called 'Locked Box'; at present this percentage is 37.5% and the allocation of these funds going forward is subject, amongst other things, to the agreement of the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT), Directors UK (DUK) and the Writers Guild Great Britain (WGGB) on how these monies should be shared;
  • continuing support for the principle that an amount equal to any advance against the UK Film Tax Relief should be treated as the producer's own equity in the film;
  • piloting joint ventures to align UK producer and distributor interests. The BFI intends to trial a portion of its investment in a film being used towards a 50% contribution towards the UK distributor's minimum guarantee in return for the distributor allowing a 50% share of its net revenues from the film to be held in the BFI's "Locked Box" for allocation amongst key talent; and
  • a new talent development strategy in partnership with regional film agencies.

Unlocking film heritage

The report also announces plans to digitise 10,000 works from the BFI National Archive over the next five years and to make these works available across a range of platforms, including the BFI YouTube Channel.

Conclusion

The Film Forever report has been largely welcomed by the film industry. Whilst the success of broader initiatives such as the UK Audience Network or new talent development strategy may be hard to measure and nothing in the report constitutes a true step change in UK film strategy, the tangible financial commitments set out by the BFI should provide a steady platform for public investment in UK film for the next five years.

One issue on the horizon is the revised Cinema Communication on the criteria for assessing state aid for films and other audiovisual works which the European Commission is due to publish shortly. Consultation on this Communication saw interested parties in the UK and the European film industry (including the BFI) express concerns about proposed restrictions on territorial obligations on production expenditure and controls on Member States using state aid to attract inward investment in film. The revised Communication could have an impact on the operation of the UK Film Tax Credit so the UK film industry awaits its publication with interest.

A copy of the Film Forever report is available here.