The BFI has recently implemented an initiative which it is hoped will significantly improve the way in which the legal aspects of British independent film financing transactions are approached, managed and concluded.
The initiative involves the use of a Transaction Summary Sheet and the adoption of a Code of Conduct, copies of which are attached. These documents have been produced by the BFI working with Lee & Thompson and Wiggin. At the heart of the initiative is the desire to streamline the legal process towards financial and documentary closing. Rather than focus on standardising documentation, the working group instead concentrated on finding a longer-term solution aimed at encouraging the adoption of the principles set out in the Code of Conduct on an industry-wide basis for British independent film financing transactions.
The key to the initiative is that producers are encouraged not to start the process of “closing” a film financing transaction until all of the key finance, production and exploitation elements making up that transaction have been finalised and agreed upon all by all the parties. The Transaction Summary Sheet is intended to achieve that by helping to prioritise issues, identify potential obstacles to closing and make the process more efficient. The Transaction Summary Sheet should be completed and agreed by all parties before any long form documentation is drafted and ideally prior to commencement of pre-production of the film. The Code of Conduct also endorses the idea of each transaction having an agreed Transaction Manager whose job is to drive the transaction towards financial and documentary closing in accordance with an agreed timeframe. The Transaction Manager will usually be the producer or the producer’s lawyer and is, of course, a role which Lee & Thompson has traditionally undertaken on these transactions.
The Code of Conduct and Transaction Summary Sheet have been approved by the UK film legal community as a group, including the key lawyers in private practice and those working in-house for broadcasters, financiers, distributors and sales companies. Importantly, the initiative also has the full support of the BBC and Film Four.
The BFI has also hosted two meetings for a cross-section of producers at which the initiative was supported.
Lee & Thompson will be hosting a seminar in November to focus on how the new initiative will work in practice and producers will be invited to attend.
In the meantime, we wholeheartedly support the initiative and have already begun using the Transaction Summary Sheet on a number of transactions.