Making an application for BFI National Lottery development funding

This guide gives you advice and recommendations on how to write a good application for BFI National Lottery development funding from the Filmmaking Fund.

1. Overview

The BFI National Lottery Filmmaking Fund invests National Lottery funding in a diverse range of work with creative merit and ambition, which the commercial sector is not able to back entirely, or at all, and would therefore benefit from National Lottery support. Its focus is on developing new, emerging and established talent in front of and behind the camera and encouraging risk in form and narrative approach.

These guidelines provide details of our support for film development projects that are unlikely to be commercially or privately financed at an early stage. We aim to award funding to distinctive fiction film projects from adventurous storytellers across a range of genres, approaches and perspectives, which reflect and represent a wide range of voices and backgrounds.

2. Delivering against our National Lottery Strategy

All activity supported with BFI development funding should contribute to some of the outcomes identified in the BFI National Lottery strategy. The outcomes that development applicants should seek to meet can be found in our funding priorities and outcomes. You will be asked to identify which outcomes your project will achieve in your application.

Core priorities

We use the following six priorities when assessing applications. These take in the three National Lottery strategic principles as well as outcomes mentioned above. 

  1. Equity, diversity and inclusion: addressing under-representation in perspective and representation, talent and recruitment, agency and opportunities, widening the range of voices and audiences served.
  2. Impact and audience: supporting projects with a strong cultural or progressive impact for audiences.
  3. Talent development and progression: supporting early career filmmakers (producers, writers and directors) and projects with a reasonable proportion of early career cast and crew.
  4. Risk: supporting projects that take creative risks.
  5. UK-wide: increasing the number of projects and filmmakers outside London and the South East, looking at location and representation.
  6. Environmental sustainability: addressing sustainability both creatively and practically.

BFI Diversity Standards

We ask applicants to address priority one – equity, diversity and inclusion – through engaging with the BFI Diversity Standards for film (you can download the document below). You will need to demonstrate how your proposal meaningfully tackles under-representation in relation to disability, gender, race, age, sexual orientation and socio-economic status, while also considering the interactions of these identities and any other barriers to opportunity. For development funding applications, you will be asked to focus on Standard A: on-screen representation, themes and narratives.

Key Performance Indicators

The BFI will measure the success of our development funding using the following Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). They incorporate the BFI’s inclusion targets and the characteristics of the filmmakers benefiting from development funding awards will contribute towards our performance against these targets:

  • Number of awards made per year: 60
  • Writers, directors and producers new to BFI National Lottery funding: 20%
  • Development projects converted to production within five years: 15%
  • Geographic spread of writers, directors and producers: 60% based outside London and the South East; 15% based in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales
  • Geographic spread of production company (lead applicant): 55% based outside of London & SE; 13% based in NI, Scotland or Wales
  • Inclusion targets for writers, directors and producers supported:
    • Disability (including those identifying as D/deaf or neurodiverse and those with a longstanding physical or mental diagnosis) 18%
    • Ethnically diverse (London) 40%
    • Ethnically diverse (outside London) 30%
    • Gender (50-50 balance of male and female identifying within the gender binary) 50%
    • LGBTQIA+ (including those identifying outside the gender binary) 10%
    • Working class background 39%


3. Check if you’re eligible

This section explains the eligibility criteria for this fund.


Applications can only be made by a person whose main role is as producer on behalf of, and in the name of, a limited company registered at Companies House. That is a company that: 

  • is registered and centrally managed in the UK
  • is owned or co-owned by the producer who must be a company director
  • operates as a production company in audiovisual production activities, and 
  • will own and control the copyright and other rights in the project during development  

The company can be co-owned by the writer or director provided that such person holds no more than a 50% shareholding of the company.

Occasionally, projects are submitted to us that are co-owned by two production companies. In those instances one UK-registered company meeting the criteria above should be identified as the lead applicant (for the purposes of completing the application and for receiving any awarded funds) and, if successful, we may enter into the development funding agreement with both companies (but paying the award to the lead applicant).


Applications for BFI development funding must:

  • have, at a minimum, a writer and producer attached
  • be made by the lead producer. The producer must be a different person to the director/writer so that there is a dedicated person with the necessary skillset to drive the project forward; ensuring that its overall creative vision is realised and a valuable additional perspective is provided. We expect this person to have demonstrable ability to lead the project, with examples of previous producing work provided. This work at minimum should include narrative short form work (e.g. short films, music videos), theatre or immersive media
  • come from a team where the writer, producer and (if applicable) director are all over 18 and not in full-time education
  • relate to a standalone work of fiction in live action or animation intended to be produced as a feature film which, when made, will be at least 70 minutes in length
  • have secured, or can secure, the rights (including any underlying rights) in the project. This includes use of any published written works, archival or biographical material. The rights do not have to be in place at application stage provided you are demonstrably confident that you will be able to irrevocably option the rights during development and as a pre-condition to receipt of our funding
  • be capable (once made) of obtaining a BBFC certificate no more restrictive than BBFC ‘18’
  • be able to address our core priorities, including for equality, diversity and inclusion through meeting Standard A of the BFI Diversity Standards
  • be for a film (once made) that is capable of being certified as British through any of the following:
    • the Cultural Test
    • one of the UK’s official bi-lateral co-production treaties
    • the European Convention on co-production

A summary of how points for the Cultural Tests are allocated and full guidance on British certification can be found on the BFI website. Please note that your own assessment of your project as being capable of qualifying for certification does not mean that it will necessarily pass. If you’re applying as an international co-development (instead of qualifying as a British Film via the Cultural Test) the applicant must be based in the UK and should be the majority co-producer.

BFI National Lottery Funding is project-based, time-limited funding, and as such, there should be no expectation of ongoing support beyond the stage of funding awarded.

BFI Locked Box

We will ask you in your application if you have previously received development or production funds from the BFI and whether you (the company, producer, writer or director) have a Locked Box Entitlement Agreement with the BFI. For more information, see details on the BFI Locked Box factsheet.

  • Applicants with less than £20,000 in their BFI Locked Box can apply for development funding as normal
  • Applicants with more than £20,000 in their BFI Locked Box, can apply for development funding providing they propose to use, at a minimum. The excess amount above £20,000 as co-finance towards the development budget, alongside the amount sought from the BFI. The Locked Box monies so advanced would be cashflowed first and prior to any award under these guidelines.

When you’re ineligible

You’re not eligible to apply for development funding if:

  • your film is intended primarily for broadcast television
  • your film is not a standalone work of fiction in live action or animation
  • your film is less than 70 minutes in length
  • your film focuses on another art form such as literature, dance on film, poetry on film, opera or artists’ moving image
  • you are seeking funding for a filmed production such as a theatre show, filmed sporting or music event; an artist installation work; an immersive (VR/XR) work; or a video game
  • you have not met the conditions set out above relating to applicant or project eligibility

Applications from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland

The BFI provides support for first feature development through BFI NETWORK, in partnership with regional Film Audience Network hubs in England and national screen agencies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (Northern Ireland Screen, Screen Scotland and Ffilm Cymru Wales respectively).

  • If you are a team with a writer based in England, you can choose to apply for treatment funding through BFI NETWORK if you meet the eligibility criteria for that programme. You can apply for other stages of development funding through the development funding guidelines you are reading now, providing you have a producer attached to your project
  • If you are developing a feature film and your team includes a writer or director residing in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland then:
    • If that writer or writer/director has not yet had a feature produced, you must first approach your national agency for development support through BFI NETWORK. You can subsequently apply to this Fund, if either your application has been declined by your national agency, or if their stage of funding has been completed and they elect not to continue to fund, or if they require you to raise co-finance for the development
    • If your writer or writer/director has had a feature produced previously, you may be eligible to apply for support from either or both the relevant national agency and BFI development funding.

How many projects can I have in development?

Producers can make concurrent multiple applications and have multiple projects in development with us provided they have different writers and (if applicable) directors attached.


  • We are less likely to support a production company or a producer that has several projects already in development, as we want to ensure Lottery funding benefits as wide a range of producers as possible. We are therefore unlikely to support more than three projects from the same producer simultaneously; and
  • If we have another project already in active development or production with the same writer or director attached (whether a short film via BFI NETWORK or a feature), this will have a bearing on our decision to support the new application. If we do decide to award funding, it may be held back until the other project is at the end of its award or development or production.

Speculative submissions

As a National Lottery distributor we can only consider funding projects that have been submitted to us through the formal National Lottery application process. This means that we cannot accept, or read, informal submissions such as scripts or application materials submitted by any means other than the online application portal.

Get in touch with the team if you’re unsure whether you are eligible to apply for this funding:

4. What you can use the funding for

Development costs can vary significantly from project-to-project and are dependent on the type of project and stage of production. If you have overestimated costs we will ask you to reduce them as a condition to offering our funding, so where possible you should not enter into any deal negotiations or contracts prior to discussion with the BFI.

Partnership funding

Applicants for National Lottery funding need to demonstrate an element of partnership support, which can include cash or in-kind resources, demonstrating that there is genuine support for the project (whether from the wider film industry or coming from within your own organisation).

The BFI does not act as a commissioner of development projects and our funding is only a contribution towards overall costs of development of your project. We recognise however that cash partnership funding, particularly from a third party, can be difficult to raise at development stage and may offer funding to cover in full the ‘hard’ cash costs of development. We acknowledge that some costs of development, particularly costs above the caps, will effectively be met by the production company by way of in-kind support.

Stages of funding

We award development funding in stages. Typically a stage will involve writing steps and see the project move through a draft and a set of revisions. Stages are normally broken down as:

  • Stage one: treatment, first draft and revisions; or (if treatment already written) first draft and revisions;
  • Stage two: second draft and revisions;
  • and so on, until there is a final pre-production stage.

We usually offer support for one stage initially. The development process can take considerable time and we need to ensure that National Lottery funds are not ‘locked up’ in several stages of commitment that might span years to complete. The BFI award amount for a stage normally meets 100% of the ‘hard’ cash costs involved, where there is no third-party cash funding. Applications requesting a commitment from us for more than one stage will need to show cash partnership funding as a contribution towards budgeted costs of those multiple stages.

Where your project is already part-developed then our first stage could be your third draft or polish and pre-production stage (but will be labelled as BFI stage one). We may decide to fund the production of a pilot (see below) which could be a single stage or undertaken within and alongside a writing stage.

Sometimes we are asked to co-develop alongside other funders. This does not mean that costs can be increased or doubled, particularly in relation to capped line items, as we are only likely to fund a proportion of the capped costs where there is co-finance (reducing the request to BFI and the co-financier rather than increasing the overall costs of development).

We may invite a project to apply for an additional stage once the previous stage is completed. Please see Additional development funding.

Eligible costs

You will need to provide a budget as part of your application. Any award made by the BFI is recoupable (alongside other development expenditure) from the production budget of the first film (or television programme) based on the screenplay. It is important therefore to ensure that such costs will be affordable within the production budget. Fees paid during development to each of the producer, writer and director should always be an advance against (rather than in addition to) the fees that they will receive from the production budget of the film (if made).

Please see Appendix A — Project-specific costs for guidance on the costs we can cover, the amounts you can request and explanatory notes.

Ineligible costs

Costs that we cannot support include:

  • core costs for the day-to-day running of your production company not associated with the film
  • activity that is already specifically supported by another external source of funding
  • costs incurred prior to an offer of funding from BFI
  • costs identified as ineligible in Appendix A — Project-specific costs
  • market and festival attendance

This list is not exhaustive and we may inform you that other types of activity within your application cannot be supported by a BFI award.

Other things to note

When preparing your application budget please bear in mind the following:

  • all line items in the budget must be reasonable and, noting that development funding is repaid from the production budget, affordable in the context of size of production budget.
  • we are not allowed to provide ‘retrospective funding’: this means that we will not pay for work or costs already commenced or incurred before we issue our offer of funding. The only exception that we may make to this is to reimburse the initial and reasonable cost of an option if you entered into the agreement within one month of making an application for funding to us (and provided such agreement is sufficiently robust and does not require amendment).

Environmental impact

The BFI Filmmaking Fund seeks to minimise the environmental impact of the physical production of the films we support. We also consider environmental impact at development stage and ask all teams applying for funding to plan their project’s development with the environment and the climate crisis in mind. This means working to reduce your carbon emissions as much as possible, and your impact on the living world, and to maximise the positive environmental benefits your project could have. We are keen to see creative responses to the climate and ecological emergency and will ask you to consider this in relation to your project in the application form. We’ll also ask you to consider the potential impacts of your film as a physical production and think ahead about how this is influenced by the creative choices you make now.


We occasionally provide funding for a pilot or proof of concept version of a project as part of the development process but this happens at the invitation of the BFI only and when the project is already in receipt of development funding from us. We cannot accept applications for pilots from projects not already in receipt of a development award.

5. How to apply

This section explains when and how you can apply to this fund.

When you can apply

Applications can be made at any time, and further details on the timeline of assessment can be found in What happens after you apply.

Submitting an application

You need to create an account to make your application online. You can save your application and return to it later.

Make sure you complete all the sections as incomplete forms will be automatically ineligible.

Please consult this PDF preview of the application form to see the questions you will be asked in full:

Summary of information you need to provide

In the application you’ll need to provide the following information:

Project and team

These sections will ask you for information including:

  • organisation and contact details of the applicant
  • your project synopsis
  • your creative vision and your aspirations for the film (ideally completed by the writer or director)
  • description of the development work carried out to date (including any cash costs incurred and details of previous finance if any)
  • CV summaries and previous work of the writer, producer and, if applicable, the director
  • the environmental impact of your development activity, an initial consideration of the impact of the film’s production, and how your project engages creatively with the climate and environment
  • where your development work will take place in the UK, including the location of your writer, director and producer, and the places your film will represent onscreen
  • links to examples of previous work from your producer, writer and director (if there is a director attached)


  • Information on your current plans for production (if your project is already at a late stage of development), including any ideas you have for casting and Heads of Department

Finance and budget

  • The amount of funding you are seeking from the BFI for your project’s development stage, alongside its total cost, with an attached budget breakdown of these costs. Your budget should state the stage of development you are requesting (e.g. writing a treatment, first draft, second draft, finance packaging, pre-production)
  • Your potential, actual or previous co-finance partners and any expenditure to date
  • An estimate of the anticipated total production budget
  • Any unusual or challenging technical or budgetary requirements that you foresee
  • An indication of your anticipated path to production
  • Whether you have applied or are applying for other development funding (e.g. co-finance from other territories UK broadcasters, or other national agencies)

At an early stage of development we do not expect you to be able to fully address all of the above points, but ask that you show us how you are thinking ahead and can envision your route to production and distribution.

BFI Diversity Standards

You’ll be asked to fill in a detailed response to Standard A, and then a summary of how your project engages with Standards B-E. We recognise that, particularly in the earlier phases of development, many elements of your project will remain to be decided, or be subject to revision.

Your Diversity Standards form should outline your current plans, indicating where you have a definite strategy to develop an area further. We may ask you to further develop your ideas before we can make a funding decision. If you are awarded funding, you will be expected to build on your initial plans as your project progresses, and you should articulate the advancements you make in any future applications to the BFI for the project.

Please note that the information provided by applicants within their Diversity Standards forms will be anonymised and used to help inform future funding decisions, research and strategy.


At the end of the form you will be asked to attach:

  • work pertaining to the project itself, including but not limited to: a synopsis, a treatment, a visual deck, and/ or a draft script of your project in standard industry format, submitted as a PDF or Word doc. If the form of your project doesn’t lend itself to regular script presentation, please contact us via to agree the format for your submission
  • your budget
  • any other materials relevant to the project, if you’ve not provided links in a previous section

Equality monitoring

You’ll be asked to complete an equality monitoring form when you submit your application. The data that you submit on this form will be confidential and anonymous, and will not be seen by the staff assessing your application. Please note that we will not be able to put forward your application for assessment until you have completed the equality monitoring form.

If you have any questions when completing the application form please contact us on

6. What happens after you apply?

Once you’ve sent us your application you’ll get confirmation we received it within five working days. We will first check your application is eligible for funding using the criteria identified in the Check if you’re eligible section.

Incomplete applications will be considered ineligible so please ensure that you complete all sections of the application form with the information requested. If your application is ineligible, we will send you an email to inform you that your application will not be progressing further. If you have made a mistake in your application, then we may enable you to correct this, if that is the only reason that the application is considered ineligible.

Once you have passed initial eligibility checks the BFI will confirm by email that your application will progress to assessment and a unique ID number will be assigned to the application.

How your application is assessed

There are several stages to the assessment process.

Process and timeline

The BFI Filmmaking Fund receives many more applications than it can support and each application undergoes rigorous assessment. There are several steps to the process:

  • Step one – Initial internal assessment against the criteria detailed below by a minimum of two members of the BFI Filmmaking Fund team. Materials may also be sent out to our pool of external script readers for assessment
  • Step two – A decision is made to either decline the application, or continue to assess it, after discussion with the wider Filmmaking Fund team. We might request further materials at this point
  • Step three – If we continue to assess your application, your project team may be invited for a meeting where the materials and scope of the development work will be discussed
  • Step four – We will carry out due diligence checks along with a detailed review of your proposed development budget. The Filmmaking Fund and Business Affairs teams will agree the final figure for a proposed award. We may request that you amend specific budget lines and allocations, and/or decide to offer you a different amount to the one you have requested
  • Step five – A recommendation of funding is made to the BFI Lottery Finance Committee who will either decline or approve the award

Projects are identified for progression at each step, and only some projects will progress from one step to the next. The application may be declined as a consequence of our assessment or our due diligence checks. We may not review some or all of the supporting materials you provide, if your application did not pass Step One.

Projects that go on to detailed assessment will be updated about progress towards a final decision by a Filmmaking Fund contact. We aim to get a decision to you on your application within eight weeks of submission but unforeseen circumstances and high volumes of applications may result in a longer assessment period. If this happens we will alert you via email. This has no bearing on your application or on our overall decision. This timeline may suspended temporarily if we request further information from you during assessment.

What else happens during assessment?

At any stage in the process we may share parts of your application with other BFI teams or external readers to help us assess it. Any external individuals involved will be required to maintain confidentiality regarding the application contents and agree not to retain application materials following their review.

As part of the due diligence checks mentioned above, we will request the personal address and date of birth of the CEO or Managing Director of the organisation applying. Please note that our request for this information is not an indication or confirmation of funding and you will be informed separately of the funding decision on your application. We will use this data to run an identity check. This is not a credit check and will not affect the ability of the CEO or Managing Director to receive credit from other organisations. We will be unable to submit your application to our decision-making committee until we have received your completed form.

If the Filmmaking Fund’s recommendation is to make an award, we will send you a copy of the proposed budget and cashflow schedule to verify that the line items and amounts are correct. Once that budget and cashflow schedule is agreed with you it is locked and we will not be able to increase the award amount.

Assessment criteria

Your application will be assessed against how well it meets our six core priorities. We will also consider:

  • the prior work of the filmmaking team
  • our view of the audience potential for the project
  • the strength of the case made for the potential career impact of making this film, for the team involved
  • our opinion of the feasibility of the film being realised
  • if the application is for late stage development costs: whether there is a viable route to production
  • how you have managed any previous BFI awards
  • your demonstration of need for National Lottery funding. Our funding is not intended to substitute or replace existing funding or income that would otherwise be available, or to fund activity at the same scale that can go ahead without an award. National Lottery funds can only be awarded to applicants who demonstrate a compelling case for National Lottery support and a clear public benefit from the activity being funded
  • the overall balance of projects receiving support from the BFI, to ensure variety in the work being funded

7. Getting a decision

This section explains what will happen if your application is successful or unsuccessful.

If you’re successful 

If your application is successful, you’ll:

  • be made a conditional offer of funding
  • need to sign the offer of funding and return it to the BFI within 14 days 
  • be required to enter into a development funding agreement with the BFI that sets out the conditions of our funding, as described in Conditions of our funding

If you’re unsuccessful 

We may have turned down your application because we determined that the proposal did not demonstrate sufficient:

  • fit with our six core priorities 
  • previous experience from the team involved, either in relation to the development stage or the ability to drive the project into production
  • need for National Lottery support and should be financed by other means

Successful and unsuccessful applicants will be informed in writing of our decisions as soon as possible. Our decision on whether we wish to support your project is final.


Unless there’s a significant change to your original proposal, you will not be able to resubmit it. This is usually a change of director or a significant rewrite of the material with a different writer. 

We will also allow a resubmission in situations where we have directly recommended further development of the project, or where you withdrew your application before we took a final decision.

If you meet one of the above criteria and submit a new application for the same project at a future round of this fund, please ensure that you clearly identify the revised elements of the project in the new application.

Feedback on an unsuccessful application 

We aim to make the application process as fair and transparent as possible, but as a result of the volume of applications we receive, we do not have the resources to provide feedback on all projects. If we have met with you to discuss your project and then declined it, we will give you feedback on the decision by either phone or email. 

We welcome constructive feedback from you on our application process, so we can continue to improve. 

8. Additional development funding

When you have completed a stage you can have a discussion with BFI regarding the next steps for the project. This could include identifying that the project:

  • is ready for production funding. You may be able to raise finance independently or may want to submit an application for production funding to us. If, following a production application, we decide not to offer production funding the BFI will not be able to make further awards of development funding unless and until there is a material change to the project allowing you to meet the conditions for resubmission as set out above.
  • needs further development, in which case, if you want further development funding from the BFI, the following process takes place:
    • One: We will discuss what further work is required and the proposed budget for this work. The BFI Development Coordinator then shares a link to an additional funding application form with the producer.
    • Two: The application and case for additional funding is considered by the BFI including a review of the new budget for the stage.
    • Three: Budget lines are subject to change at this stage and final amounts are agreed with applicants. Once that budget is agreed the amount of funding for the stage cannot be modified.
    • Four: If the Filmmaking Fund decide to support this further application it will be submitted to the Lottery Finance Committee for approval and, if approved, an additional offer of funding is issued on the same terms as the development funding agreement.

Please ensure that you do not incur expenditure in relation to a new stage of development without first having received that additional offer of funding from us. Projects may come in for multiple stages of additional funding depending on the individual needs of the project and conversations with the BFI. We expect that once projects have received an accumulated total of £60,000 funding from the BFI, you will be able to articulate a clear route to production. If you are unable to do this, we are unlikely to support any further requests for funding.

  • that you want to approach other organisations for funding, or no longer wish to develop the project, or the BFI no longer wishes to provide development funding towards the project, in which case the project will effectively be in turnaround from us. At this point you can request formal confirmation of turnaround from our Legal & Business Affairs department, you will be entitled to further develop any of the materials developed for the project and most of the BFI’s approval rights will lapse. The BFI will continue to own a percentage of all rights, title and interest in and to the development work and you will not be able to transfer the rights to another company, without our consent, or make the film until we have re-assigned those to you (when we are repaid the development funding).

9. Conditions of funding

If you are offered an award from us, in addition to the General Conditions of National Lottery Funding, the following conditions will apply to your award:

1. Use and cashflow of award

The award can only be used to develop the project, by those individuals identified in your application, and as set out in a development budget and cashflow for the stage which will be incorporated into the development funding agreement. Subject to satisfaction of the pre-conditions to funding, development funding will be paid in steps (cashflowed) within the stage, with payments subject to delivery of specified items (such as drafts, revisions, budget and schedule) by specified dates. Any underspend on the award will be retained by, or reimbursed to, BFI (reducing the total amount to be repaid as set out in paragraph 4 below).

2. Pre-conditions to funding (chain of title and clearance agreements)

You will need to establish intellectual property rights ownership of your project prior to first payment including obtaining an assignment of all rights in the screenplay (excluding stage, radio and novelisation rights which may be reserved to the writer); all rights from any other contributors to the film; and, if applicable, an option, licence or assignment over certain rights in any underlying work (the screenplay itself does not count as an underlying work). We will identify in discussion with you and in the development funding agreement, what chain of title or clearance agreements are necessary, at a minimum, to release or funding. You will always be required to hold and control all film and television rights in the screenplay itself and have the irrevocable right to adapt any underlying work into a feature film. However, in order to develop your company’s intellectual property, you may wish to acquire additional rights (such as other adaptation rights in the underlying work). You should obtain your own legal advice in relation to chain of title and clearance documents for your project.

You will be able to offer a right of turnaround to the writer (or the director if they originated the project) provided that is conditional upon that person assuming your ongoing contractual obligations to BFI (primarily in relation to repayment of funding, net profit participation and a credit).

If you are unable to obtain the required rights to make the film our offer of funding will lapse and we will not be able to reimburse any costs (such as legal fees) that you have already incurred.

If at any point during a stage you do not hold all required rights to make the film (for instance if you allow an option over the underlying work to lapse) then we cannot pay out the balance of the award for that stage and we may require repayment of sums already advanced.

3. Approvals

The BFI will require approvals over all chain of title or clearance documents, and sources and amounts of other funding. We may ask you to make changes to the associated documents in order to ensure that you are compliant with the conditions of our funding and/or to ensure that they are fit for purpose. You must disclose all documentation already in place in relation to the project and all expenditure incurred to date.

During development the BFI will require approval over the development work itself, any proposed changes to the budget or cashflow, third party finance, or to the main elements of the film (including writer, director, producer and script editor as applicable). ;

After completion of the stage BFI will retain approval over any assignment or transfer of rights in the project although our other approval rights may lapse.

4. Recoupment of the award

The BFI development funding takes the form of a recoupable investment. It will need to be repaid to BFI no later than the first day of principal photography of any audiovisual work (whether film or television programme) based on the project. The BFI does not waive recoupment of development funding.

If you proceed to production and repay the development funding from the production budget, and provided that you are an independent UK film producer, we may ring-fence that money in a Locked Box account provided that the Locked Box initiative is still continuing by the time your project goes into production and subject to the terms of that initiative.

You can then access this money to spend on the development or production funding of your next eligible project as if it were your own investment in that project (i.e. you will not then have to repay it) or on staff skills training.

Conditions apply to this recycling of development monies including: a. you must apply to draw-down these recycled monies within 10 years of repayment unless your entitlement to the recycled monies is terminated earlier by BFI; b. this offer is not available when our funding is for pre-production activity or where we are providing funding for a pilot or test scenes; c. there is a cap of £100,000 on the amount that can be ring-fenced per project against any repayment sum.

5. Copyright and other rights in the project

You will be required to assign a share of all rights, title and interest in and to the project including copyright to the BFI (normally the share is 50% of all rights). You will not be able to sell the rights in the project without the BFI’s prior written consent, or make the film or any other work based on the screenplay or project (e.g. television programme), without obtaining a written re-assignment of those rights from us which we will provide subject to repayment of the BFI development funding (as per paragraph 3 above) and BFI being contractually accorded its net profit participation and branding/credit.

6. Credit

You will be required to provide a credit to the BFI including the BFI National Lottery logo and other branding and publicity as outlined in the General Conditions of National Lottery Funding

7. Net profit participation

You will be required to provide BFI with a share of net profits from any film or television programme based on the project. The percentage share will be set out in the development funding agreement and is on a sliding scale linked to the amount of BFI development funding provided.

8. Delivery dates and completion of stage

You will need to complete the development work by specified dates or the funding will have to be repaid. Keeping to the agreed delivery schedule is particularly important in cases where you have been granted an option over underlying work as you need to ensure that the development work is completed within the option period. You should not assume that the BFI will provide additional funding to cover the costs of option renewals, particularly where you have submitted work to us after your original agreed delivery date to BFI. Ensuring that the project remains ‘within option’ is your responsibility (failure to do so will place you in breach of contract with the BFI), and your commitment to fund any option renewals is evidence of your continuing faith in the project.

9. Creative support

Our involvement with your project is more active than simply providing financial support, so while we are funding the project you will need to provide us with deliverables such as the drafts and/or revisions and we will often provide editorial notes or advice to help the project progress. You should allow approximately six weeks from delivery for us to provide any notes and approval before commencing the next part of the work. The offer of funding will include delivery dates for the stage including steps within the stage. It is your responsibility to ensure these dates are met and we may terminate funding and require repayment of sums advanced if you do not deliver on time. If you have failed to meet your delivery deadline but have extenuating circumstances please make the Development Coordinator and your Film Fund executive aware.

10. Additional funding

As outlined in the Additional development funding section of these guidelines, we may fund several stages of a development project, making a new award each time. All such further awards will be provided on the same terms and conditions as the initial funding and will also be repayable as per paragraph four above.

11. Diversity standards

You will be required to deliver against the undertakings made by you in relation to the BFI Diversity Standards. Failure to deliver against those undertakings without good cause may affect your ability to receive future project funding from BFI.

12. Clarity

During the development process you should always use the project’s working title and all communications related to the project should use this name even if you choose to change the project’s name at a later stage of the process.

13. SIF Levy

If you receive a National Lottery development award from the BFI, we expect you to include payment of the Skills Investment Fund (SIF) Levy in your production budget when the film converts.

14. Subsidy control

All awards made under through the BFI Filmmaking Fund will be compliant with the UK’s Subsidy Control Act 2022 and any other relevant subsidy control rules and regulations, as required by the UK government, which are subject to change. In order to meet subsidy transparency requirements, the BFI is required to publish details of any successful application which receives more than £100,000 of funding (including cumulatively over the course of development or production of the film) on the subsidy transparency database (the Subsidy Database) within three months of the date of the award (or the date at which the cumulated awards exceed £100,000). The details published will include at a minimum:

  • Amount of subsidy received (the award amount)
  • Company name
  • Company registration number
  • Company size
  • That the company is a provider of goods
  • Region
  • Sector

This is separate and in addition to the BFI’s publication of all National Lottery awards made on our own website.

10. Appendix A: Project-specific costs

The information below provides guidance on cost types, certain cost caps and further notes to use when putting together your application budget. This list is routinely revised to ensure that any caps continue to be reasonable.

Cost and budget line item

This section details what you need to include for each individual line item.

Writer fees

The amount that you offer to the writer for each stage of development should be proportionate to the total budget of the film (noting that these fees are an advance against the writer fee payable from the production budget) and fee levels will vary depending on the experience of the writer.

We expect fees for subsequent/later drafts to be less than for first draft and to reduce proportionately each time there is a new stage. The budget should detail the amount of writer fees required for the first BFI stage.

You don’t need to finalise these terms with the writer prior to application as we may suggest adjustments.

Director’s development services

Your budget may include an advance for the director if they are working with the writer on the draft, preparing a ‘director’s pass’, undertaking pre-production work or directing a pilot. We do not support fees for purely retaining a director on a project.

The amount that you offer to the director for each stage of development should be proportionate to the total budget of the film (noting that these fees are an advance against the director fee payable from the production budget) and fee levels will vary depending on the experience of the director.

Option fees to acquire underlying rights

These payments are only offered to option the rights to adapt pre-existing (published) works for the screen.

The option period should be a minimum of 18 months, with the ability to renew for a further period of 12 to 18 months.

If the project is already in development and within option at the point of application you should consider the time required to complete the stage and, if applicable, include the option renewal cost within the budget (noting the due date for renewal).

We will not offer funding to a project that has less than 10 months left to run on an option (at the point of the BFI making an offer of funding) unless you have made provision for renewal.

Option fees are viewed on a case-by-case basis and are likely to vary dependent on the popularity of the underlying work. We are unlikely to pay for adaptations of very popular works as such a film is more likely to be attractive to and funded by the commercial sector.

Script editor fees

These may be offered dependent on project need. If appointed, we expect script editors to attend all creative meetings you have with the BFI on the project.

We can, on request, supply a template script editor agreement for use on the project.

Access support

If any members of your core team (or cast or crew on a pilot) have personal access needs that will incur a cost during the development of your project, you can include these costs in your request to us.

We define such needs as specific support required by people who are disabled or have a physical or mental health diagnosis, which will result in an actual cash cost to your development budget, e.g. additional transport or accommodation costs or a personal assistant for a team member with a learning disability or mental health diagnosis to assist during development.

Research expenses

These are subject to discussion with the BFI. This may include travel and expenses associated with undertaking research and/or purchasing research materials directly associated with developing the project. Payment will be subject to you supplying us with copies of the relevant receipts.

Workshop expenses

We may support casting workshops and/or writer’s rooms if necessary for the development process. Payment of our award will be subject to receipt of copy invoices etc.

Other items (executive producers or mentors, storyboarding, pilot or camera tests)

Other less common development activity includes support for executive producer/mentors; story-boarding and production of a pilot or camera tests.

We are less likely to provide funding for these items but will review any request to do so on a case by case basis (see section four for further information about pilots)

Capped fees

This section details capped fees for funding.

Producer fees

Up to £2,000 per stage — except where writer fees (for draft or set) are under £5,000. We then reduce our producer fee cap to:

  • fees: up to £1,000
  • overheads: up to £1,500

Production company overheads

The cap varies dependant on whether the production company is classed as ‘emerging’ or ‘established’.

The company can elect how to use its overheads and is not required to account to us for the expenditure. This contribution is normally used for accountancy costs, additional legal costs (see below), office rent, equipment purchase and similar.

Producer overheads – emerging

Up to £4,000 per stage (for the first stage, reduced to £3,000 for any subsequent stages).
‘Emerging’ is defined as having no more than three feature film projects produced and/or comparable television, theatre or immersive work.

Producer overheads – established

Up to £2,000 per stage.

‘Established’ is defined as having 4 or more feature film projects produced and/or comparable television, theatre or immersive work.

Legal fees

Up to £3,500 for writer agreement.

Up to £2,000 for option & assignment agreement over pre-existing underlying standalone work or for director development services agreement or other required document if agreed by the BFI.

The BFI will supply a Script Editor Agreement template or simple amendment agreement templates (for writer or director) to successful applicants. If the amendment required is not simple we may contribute up to £500 for each such required document.

We will identify, during the application process, what legal documents (chain of title and clearance documents) need to be in place for you to be able to successfully start the proposed stage of funding and have the right and power to make the film.

In order to ensure the production company holds the required rights you can request a contribution towards your external legal costs associated directly with preparing and negotiating those required documents (e.g. writer agreement, option/assignment over any underlying published work, director development services agreement, as applicable).

At a minimum, the production company is expected to obtain an immediate assignment of all rights in all drafts of the screenplay from the writer as a precondition to our funding (except for radio, stage and novelisation rights which may be reserved to the writer). We do not accept options over screenplays.

If there is pre-existing standalone published work then you will need to obtain an assignment over certain rights (at a minimum to be able to make the film) or an irrevocable option to acquire such rights.

Legal fee costs will only be covered by a BFI award where you engage an external legal practitioner with direct and demonstrable film experience and knowledge.

We do not support any costs you may incur relating to reviewing or negotiating our BFI development agreement (the terms of which are set out in these guidelines) or to prepare documents that we do not consider essential during the relevant stage of development.

Necessary travel and accommodation expenses demonstrably relating to the project’s development needs

Our contributions would be capped as follows:

  • accommodation per night (for major city or overseas): £150
  • accommodation per night - regional UK: £135
  • travel including flights: economy only, no flights within mainland UK and no taxis unless related to an access requirement
  • subsistence (food): £40 broken down into the following:
    • Breakfast: £10
    • Lunch: £10
    • Dinner: £20

This aligns with general conditions attaching to use of public funding and we will not cover costs of first class travel or accommodation, hospitality or general subsistence.

Travel and accommodation costs are only funded by BFI where they are reasonably required for research; recces, or where teams are based in different parts of the UK and need to meet for the purposes of furthering the project (e.g. for a workshop).

We would expect teams to use online meeting tools where possible to minimise travel and to act in accordance with environmental sustainability principles.

We would only contribute to meals/subsistence directly associated with approved travel and accommodation.

Late stage development costs

Costs subject to approval from the Editorial team and only agreed when the project is in the run up to production.

Budget and schedule fees

Capped up to £3,000 for project with a production budget at or under £3.5m.

Up to £5,000 for projects with a production budget over £3.5m.


Case by case, if you need to employ a casting director to undertake initial key casting/ availability lists.

Location recces

Case by case.

See limits on expenses as set out above.