The BFI has awarded £471,153 through a temporary fund established to help UK sales companies that need business resilience support as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The BFI COVID-19 UK Sales Company Organisational Fund awarded National Lottery funding from the BFI International Fund to 26 companies to support costs arising directly from new ways of working that are emerging as a result of the pandemic in relation to film sales. The maximum award made to an individual company was £25k.

The fund covers costs that cannot be covered by funds available from the UK government or other sources. The successful companies, who were required to demonstrate how they contribute to the UK film industry, will use the funds to support activity such as: creating digital marketing solutions to engage buyers; technical systems to enable international deliveries; and equipment and training to enable staff to work remotely. The awards will support companies with costs until January 2021.

The global shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the UK creative sector, closing many cinemas worldwide, stopping production which has only recently restarted, and halting international film festivals and film markets. The majority of business for sales companies is generally tied to specific international markets in the year where they launch new UK films and meet buyers in person. The revenues generated through this export activity is vital in ensuring UK independent films can be seen by audiences across the world, which in turn is a vital income stream in supporting the UK independent film community.

Film markets, including Cannes and the upcoming American Film Market (AFM), have been experimenting with a virtual offering. Operating in a digital environment requires sales companies to develop different ways of marketing, selling and acquiring product. Much of this activity uses new technologies and requires access to new digital and IT processes and incurring expenditure.

At the announcement of the BFI COVID-19 UK Sales Company Organisational Fund in July, Ben Roberts, Chief Executive of the BFI, said: “We are committed to supporting the Government’s ambitious export targets and ensuring a globally competitive UK film market. As a vital part of the value chain, sales companies connect a film with a global audience, and deliver back to the rights holders the resulting international revenues. Enabling them to evolve their business model in this period of rapid change for the industry, so they can more effectively and efficiently marketing UK films in the competitive international marketplace, is paramount to their trading and our overall film landscape.”

Commenting on the awards announced today, Charlie Bloye, Chief Executive of Film Export UK, said: “Sales companies always employ adaptability and ingenuity to export independent films but the current challenges are really severe. This pragmatic and timely support is helping them refresh their toolkit and make the most of opportunities to connect with global distributors online.”

The BFI’s Film Export Fund is still open to applications from sales agents to support UK titles selected to premiere at eligible festivals. The BFI’s International Fund supported the first virtual UK Film Centre at Cannes which offered business and collaboration opportunities, enabled selected UK producers to participate in the Producer’s Network scheme and promoted the UK film sector as part of the international industry. The International Fund also worked with Film Export UK (FEUK) to support sales activities at the hybrid TIFF 2020 (Toronto International Film Festival).

The BFI has already put in place a package of support for individuals, organisations and businesses across the sector that have been most impacted by COVID-19 and is also continuing to work with industry and government to develop and implement a robust, sector-wide strategy for recovery. 

Significant initiatives that have resulted from the work of the BFI’s Screen Sector Task Force and members include support for independent cinemas as part of a £1.57bn government Culture Recovery Fund; creating guidance for film and television production to restart and cinemas to reopen, both given the greenlight by government and Public Health England; the quarantine exemption for film and high-end television cast and crew; and the government-backed £500m Film and TV Production Restart Scheme to help productions across the country that have been halted or delayed by an inability to obtain insurance for COVID-19 related risks to get back up and running.

BFI COVID-19 UK Sales Company Organisational Fund Awards:

  • All Media Partners International Ltd, £24,000
  • Bankside Films Ltd, £7,750
  • Carnaby International Sales & Distribution PLC, £14,000
  • Celsius Entertainment Ltd, £20,000
  • Cornerstone Films Ltd, £25,000
  • Dogwoof, £16,440
  • Embankment Films Ltd, £25,000
  • Evolutionary Films, £15,464
  • Film Constellation, £25,000 
  • Film Republic Sales Ltd, £10,000
  • Film Seekers Ltd, £20,000
  • GFM Films LLP, £15,000
  • Goalpost Film, £7,500
  • Kaleidoscope Film Distribution Ltd, £20,000
  • Legacy Rights Ltd, £15,000
  • Met Film Sales Ltd, £15,999
  • Metro International Entertainment Ltd, £25,000
  • MFH London Limited, £10,000
  • Mister Smith Entertainment Ltd, £25,000
  • Parkland Pictures Ltd, £15,000
  • Protagonist Pictures Ltd, 20,000
  • REASON8 Films Ltd, £20,000
  • Rocket Science Industries Ltd, £25,000
  • SC Films International Ltd, £20,000
  • Screenbound International Pictures Ltd, £10,000
  • Westend Films Ltd, £25,000