The British Film Institute has unveiled its much-anticipated five-year Future Plan, which they’ve dubbed Film Forever and which spells out a comprehensive blueprint for public film policy in the UK over the next five years. With a substantial chunk of change to invest – nearly £500m drawn from National Lottery funding (roughly £50m a year), grant money and the BFI’s own earnings – the primary targets are developing creative talent and audiences outside of London, more investment in film production and development and the continuing heritage conversion of worthy British films into digital format.
A big winner is development and production funding, which will rise from £15m when the BFI absorbed the UK Film Council last year to £24m by 2017. The BFI Film Fund will make approximately 20 major production awards per year although going forward, there will also be a greater emphasis on development (both talent and project-based) and new opportunities for filmmakers working in documentary and animation. The declared aim is to “put exemplary filmmaking talent at the heart of our strategy, supporting bold new visions from emerging and established filmmakers” – a signal that the BFI wants to be more transparent in its decision-making and move away from the “club factor” that some critics claim existed during the UK Film Council’s reign. (If you were in, you were in – if not, woe betide you.)
Equally crucial is the intention to distribute more resources outside London, with Greg Dyke, chairman of the BFI, firm in his resolve that the organization will no longer be called “the London Film Institute.” He sees regional growth and development outside London as vital to the future success in the British film industry. As such, the Future Plan outlines a strategy to “build, educate and inspire” audiences at the grassroots level through the providing of equipment, seed money to create the next generation of film-savvy cinemagoers and partnerships with local organizations including cinemas, art galleries and local media.