British Film Institute Unveils Five-Year, $620 Million Post-Brexit Plan

Amanda Nevill, Josh Berger - Getty - H 2016
Credit: Getty, Dave Benett

Film financing following the U.K. exit from Europe, increasing diversity and supporting non-theatrical projects were all key elements of the BFI2022 announcement.

Unsurprisingly, Brexit, the U.K.'s shock decision earlier this year to leave the European Union, got a prominent mention in the British Film Institute's five-year strategic plan, unveiled on Tuesday.

BFI CEO Amanda Nevill and its chair, Warner Bros. UK head Josh Berger were on hand to launch BFI2022, outlining the organization's  strategies between 2017 and 2022, in which it is set to invest almost £500 million ($620 million) across the various facets of British filmmaking.

"We're going to increasing our in-house international expertise so we can effectively advise the government and support the industry in the development of future trade deals over the next five years," said Nevill regarding the Brexit decision, adding that the BFI was also going to be increasing its international fund to support the anticipated requirement in a post-referendum U.K.

"We've also asked the British Film Commission to undertake a review of production services in the U.K., because we must make certain that we remain one of the easiest countries in the world to make to films in," she said.

Berger added that he was "optimistic" for British film despite the economic uncertainty around Brexit. "We will make sure that we're representing our industry in the lead-up to negotiations and through them," he said.

Built around three key strategic objectives covering future audiences, future skills and future talent, the five-year plan also features a continued drive in the area of diversity, an area the BFI had been championing as part of its strategy for funding long before the debate took center stage in Hollywood earlier this year.

As one of the three main funding bodies backing British independent film, the BFI – which supported Ken Loach's Cannes hit I, Daniel Blake and Ben Wheatley's latest Free Fire – last year launched its Diversity Standards guidelines, aimed at improving representation behind the camera, which have since been adopted by Film4. Berger indicated that there were hopes BBC Film would soon follow suit.

"Right now, two of the main organizations funding independent British film [the BFI and Film4] have adopted these standards, and right now we're just waiting for the third to do that," he told The Hollywood Reporter during a press briefing on Monday.

"Producers do not want different standards. They don't want a different diversity gateway," added Nevill, who said they were working towards a goal that all film productions in the U.K. would voluntarily adopt Diversity Standards.

Also included in BFI2022 were efforts to devolve decision-making outside of London aimed at giving 25 percent of all BFI production funding to decision-makers in other areas of the U.K.; to offer more agenda-setting cultural programs such as the ongoing Black Star season, which showcases black talent on-screen; and to create an education manifesto in order to demonstrate to the government the importance of cinema in the classroom.

For the first time, the BFI will also look to offer production funding to projects not destined for the theaters, offering a more flexible approach aimed at encouraging filmmaking that expands the possibilities of storytelling into digital realms and episodic, hour-long or other non-feature work.

"U.K. film is the envy of the world – great talent telling incredible stories in imaginative ways, wowing audiences and contributing £4.3 billion [$5.36 billion] to U.K. GDP in the process," added Berger.

"The BFI's job is to champion the future success of film in the U.K., and this plan is designed to do that – we want to back the brave, the new and the experimental. Our aim is to find, educate and support the very best talent, give them the skills, tools and creative freedom needed to tell their stories, and make sure as many people as possible can enjoy and be inspired by those stories on the big screen, the small screen and even the screen in their pocket."