Distribution Fund – how to apply

Before applying to the Distribution Fund, applicants should read the guidelines carefully for more information on the four strands, the eligibility criteria and the assessment process.

  • Step 1 — Read the guidelines below.
  • Step 2 — Select which strand to apply to.
  • Step 3 — Open the relevant application form, create an account, and submit your application online.

*Please pay particular attention in the guidelines to all relevant application deadlines. Late applications are unlikely to be successful.*

After applicants have read the guidelines, they should decide which strand to apply to. The guidelines also contain important information on the detail required in the online application forms.

Should you have any further queries after reading this information, please email distributionfund@bfi.org.uk.

Application Strands

The Distribution Fund consists of four strands, each specifically designed to address different types of films, release strategies and the associated challenges and opportunities in the marketplace. These strands are outlined below.

Applicants can apply online for Big Audience awards, Breakout awards and New Models awards. Links to application forms can be found below, by the relevant section. Applications for Sleeper awards are solicited by the BFI Distribution Fund.

Big Audience

This strand aims to take British independent films with a commercial focus to a wide UK audience. These films will be of a high quality and will have strong marketable elements. We anticipate that we will make between three to six Big Audience awards annually of £250,000 to £300,000 with the distributor contributing at least 50% of the total P&A costs.

A Big Audience award should ensure:

  • a release on at least 100 screens, with a strong regional emphasis.
  • that the increased release budget results in a substantial impact on the box office — achieving at least £1m in gross UK box office.


This strand aims to help exemplary specialised films reach a wider cinema audience, with a particular emphasis on ensuring regional uptake. A film that is successful in obtaining a Breakout award is likely to be one that receives good critical reviews, with signs that it will be well received by cinemagoers. We anticipate that these awards will be between £100,000 to £150,000 with the distributor contributing at least 50% of the total P&A costs, and with a widest point of release around 40 screens.

New Models

Through the New Models strand we want to support strong films with experimental and ambitious release models and marketing strategies that seek to exploit new opportunities outside traditional theatrical and marketing routes. New models should have the potential to be replicated on other films by both the applicant and other distributors. Detailed evaluation reports will be produced on completion of all awards which will be shared publicly. We usually expect the distributor to contribute at least 50% of the total release costs.


The Sleepers strand is targeted at “in-release” films that have achieved exceptional weekend box office results and significantly exceeded market expectations. A Sleepers award aims to ensure that a selected film can capitalise on its unexpectedly strong performance and is able to reach the widest possible audience, particularly at a regional level. Access to this strand will be triggered by our assessment of the film’s opening weekend performance and applications can only be made by invitation from the BFI Distribution Fund. If we believe a film should benefit from a Sleeper award we will contact the distributor on the first working day after the opening weekend and invite them to submit an application.

  • Distribution Fund

    Distribution Fund

    We support increased access to high-quality British and international independent films.

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