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British Film Institute Announces 5-Year Plan for $800 Million Funding Package

BFI logo - P 2012

The strategy to drive industry growth and encourage the next generation of filmmakers and talent comes after 18 months of consultation.

LONDON – The British Film Institute has unveiled a three-pronged assault on driving the U.K. movie industry forward over the next five years with almost £500 million ($800 million) jangling in its pockets from the lottery, the government and "substantial" earned income.

The organization, unveiling its long-looking plan for the first time since taking up the bulk of the public funding duties for movies from the now-shuttered U.K. Film Council in 2011, noted the headline figure "sounded a lot" but wasn't that much spread across its ambitions.

Entitled "Film Forever: Supporting UK Film 2012-2017," the BFI's plans include pledging £32.3 million ($52 million) per year to British film and filmmaking, £44.2 million ($71.3 million) each year for education and audience development and pumping £9.9 million  ($16 million) annually into film heritage projects such as digital restoration of the BFI's archives.

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BFI chairman and former BBC director general Greg Dyke said one of his main ambitions with the plans was to ensure the organization was no longer referred to in certain circles as the London Film Institute.

"A central part of Film Forever is to nurture business growth and cultural vibrancy across the whole of the U.K., with a particular emphasis outside London," Dyke said. "This is a real moment for film and a bold, long-term vision for the sector and I look forward to us from today turning all the discussion into action."

Plans include a wide-ranging series of measures to change the landscape for movie development and financing for both British and overseas filmmakers looking to make movies here.

The BFI has pledged "more money for the production and development of U.K. films."

The cash available will rise annually to £24 million ($38.7 million) by 2017, "with new opportunities for filmmakers working in documentary and animation and a greater focus on development."

The BFI aims to develop a "new talent network to discover, grow and nurture new voices and stories all over the U.K." and has remodeled the old prints and advertising fund – renaming it the distribution fund – to try and reflect the myriad ways digital distribution has thrown up.

There will also be a new international fund subset of the main production fund to encourage co-productions with overseas banners.

Former Universal Pictures International executive and CEO of U.K.-based Protagonist Pictures Ben Roberts is tasked with overseeing the BFI's £21 million ($33 million) movie fund.

He said the fund currently puts development money into around 150 projects and ends up pushing production financing into around 20 pictures each year.

Roberts said those figures would be unlikely change too much despite the slight rise in the annual cash pool, which will increase by around £1 million ($1.6 million) a year through 2017.

He said the main focus for selection for funding would remain one of quality.

"I don't believe that commercial appeal or critical appeal can't co-exist," Roberts said. "We will be looking for a steady growth in our development support. Our approach is to support great filmmaking and we are going to try and pull back the curtain and become very open and very transparent about the whole process."

Fresh links inked also include a development program targeting animation with Aardman, the home of multiple Oscar winner Nick Park and Peter Lord and David Sproxton.

And the BFI has also linked with Pinewood Studios and BAFTA to use their facilities to develop young audiences for movie.

The organization is also launching a new BFI film skills fund, working in partnership with Creative Skillset, ensuring the U.K.’s film schools are supported with a one-off £5 million ($8 million) in capital funding by 2017.

BFI CEO Amanda Nevill said: "We are investing where we think we can most make a difference, where we see potential for creative excellence and where we can be the supportive catalyst for change, innovation, business growth and jobs."

Also on the agenda over the next five years for the BFI are plans to digitize 10,000 titles in the institute's movie archive with a view to developing multiple platform releasing strategies including dedicated pay and free TV channels, smart-phone apps with Samsung aboard as a initial partner and other platforms.

The five-year plan is the result of 18 months of consultation with the U.K. and the international movie industry, cultural organizations, the public and Government, which started with Chris Smith’s independent Film Policy Review.