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The British Film Institute Maps Out Five Year Funding Plan

BFI - Greg Dyke and Amanda Neville
Ian Gavan/Getty Images
BFI Chairman Greg Dyke and BFI Chief Amanda Nevill

The gatekeeper lays out plans for $460 million lottery funding over the next five years and put British producers front and center of innovation plans.

LONDON – The British Film Institute, the gatekeeper of £285 million ($460 million) in lottery funding over the next five years, has mapped out its strategy from now through 2017.

The organization, tasked by the government as the lead U.K. film investment strategy body, policy-maker and public funding distributor, is aiming to up investment in British film production as part of a three-pronged strategy.

BFI chief Amanda Nevill told THR she hopes to turn the BFI into a "forward looking, energized organization" with a mission to bolster the ambitions of industry newbie's alongside boosting the established players.

Nevill said a key part of the ambitious three-pronged approach would be geared towards movie producers.

It is finalizing plans to introduce a structure whereby producers can reinvest profits in further UK productions and the BFI is also "warm to the idea" of setting up a joint venture approach with creative producers and distributors so the two work closer together.

Nevill said the recoupment corridor for producers – currently 37% of funding from the BFI – will remain in place.

The BFI said it plans to up investment from its Film Fund from £18 million ($29 million) this year to hit £24 million ($38.7 million) by 2017, an increase of 30% over the five years.

Nevill said the upping in funding had no direct correlation to the London Olympics funding drain on the lottery cash ending in August this year when the games take place.

"It's what we've projected for our cash flow based on an average year spend," Nevill said.

Describing British movie producers as among the best entrepreneurial brains working in the industry, Nevill said the re-investment made by them would be a key plank in building a "forward-looking industry."

Overall, the BFI is committed to increasing lottery investment to £28.2 million incorporating £16.5 million ($26.6 million) for production, £4 million ($6.4 million) for development, £2 million ($3.2 million) for talent, £4.5 million ($7.3 million) on skills and business development and £1.2 million ($1.9 million) for international activity including the British Film Commission.

While it may not seem to be big money to the casual observer, the lottery-raised movie cash pool plays a central role in the British movie sector.

The two other key pillars for the BFI's direction over the next five years includes pumping £17 million ($27.4 million) into developing audiences for British films and movie education and putting £3 million ($4.8 million) towards film heritage and restoration work.

The strategy, which the BFI opens up to public and industry consultation for just over four weeks, comes after months of exhaustive talks and submissions from the industry.

"I don't think anyone can accuse of us of not giving them a chance to be heard in deciding what we should do," Nevill said.

It also comes in the wake of the long-anticipated Film Policy Review Group report published in January this year.

The U.K. Film Policy Review group -- chaired by former culture secretary Smith with names including producer Iain Smith, Oscar winner Julian Fellowes and Big Talk managing director Matthew Justice – came up with more than 56 recommendations for the British government to consider.

It was in that report that the suggestion that lottery funding recoupment for producers be revamped and that the BFI dish out such funding, acts as a gatekeeper for any returns on its lottery funding and be allowed to roll it over and reinvest it with the same producers on subsequent projects.

With the BFI strategy, that came a step closer to reality.

BFI chairman Greg Dyke said on launch of the BFI's strategy: "We [the BFI] have set out a bold, long term vision for film that will genuinely make a difference to education, audiences and filmmakers and support the UK’s growth agenda by boosting jobs and the economy and stimulating inward investment and export. I would like to thank Lord Smith for his thorough Film Policy Review which has spring-boarded the BFI’s own Future Plan for Film."