BFI Production Fund Awards 2018/19

This piece was written before Ben Roberts became BFI CEO. Ben Roberts, the BFI’s Deputy Chief Executive, looks back at the films and filmmakers we supported in the last financial year with National Lottery Production funding, and how this measures up against our inclusion targets.

21 May 2019

It’s a privilege to invest in creative people and their work, and we welcome the risk takers, the rule breakers and the culture definers to come and do their best work with us at the BFI.

In 2017, we set inclusion targets for our National Lottery awards, aimed at addressing underrepresentation in filmmaking across gender, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ and disability — truly getting the best people, not just the most familiar.

Through our national BFI NETWORK programme for emerging filmmakers, our Development Fund and our Production Fund, we are aiming to significantly open up the opportunities for underrepresented writers, directors and producers by supporting:

  • at least gender parity;
  • at least 20% underrepresented ethnicities;
  • at least 10% identifying as LGBTQ+;
  • at least 7% identifying as having a disability.

Socioeconomic background remains a barrier to entry in the industry. A target for filmmakers from working-class backgrounds will be set once we have collected sufficient data from current applicants, through measurements that we set last year.

As we published our targets, we clarified our funding priorities to help guide applicants — focusing on early career filmmakers, risk, impact, perspective and out of London. We have also revised our guidelines so that we can support a broader range of work of varying lengths, form and platform.

We are still collecting the total diversity data for the financial year April 2018 to March 2019, but the [[embed type­link nid=56255 title=”data for the BFI Production Fund”]] has been completed and we are publishing it for the first time, alongside some financial detail about the average size and proportion (to budget) of our awards.

We will share this information annually from now on.

A note on our production awards…

We can only release and publish an award once a film is financed. Our average production award is between 25% and 35% of the total production budget, meaning a significant amount of additional finance needs to be raised before our award is triggered. We do sometimes commit to projects that are never fully financed, and we also on occasion make awards that account for a much higher percentage of the budget to get them over the line. We can now 100% finance first features under £750,000, if other finance is impossible to raise.

We can also only publish information based on the data voluntarily supplied to us through our monitoring forms. The level of personal data volunteered to us is generally high, but I would urge everyone to seriously consider completing these forms — with us and elsewhere — because it is so valuable in providing insight into who we work with and who we don’t, and where we need to focus our energies.

Some of these results are really encouraging. We have reached or exceeded our targets in a number of areas.

There are also some areas of underrepresentation that need the industry’s attention. Although we can only support a relatively small number of films each year (19 features received Production Awards in 2018-19) they do reflect a wider need to increase the number of successful BAME producers, the number of BAME women in top creative roles and the number of filmmakers with disabilities.

Ensuring that talent rises regardless of financial circumstances is an underlying challenge to all of us.

This will be a focus for the year ahead. We are reviewing our support for producers, including the Vision Awards; we continue to invest in BFI NETWORK, which has a deep and wide reach across the UK; and we have formed an Advisory Board made up of disabled talent in front of and behind the camera who are helping us to better support disabled filmmakers.

Adopting the Diversity Standards

We will also continue to push for industry-wide adoption of the Diversity Standards, which are recognised internationally as a leading model of best inclusive practice for filmmaking. These are ambitious but achievable targets, with a clear and lawful framework for what an inclusive production looks like — across on-screen representation, creative leadership, training and progression, and engaging audiences.

They are also flexible, to account for the range of production in the UK, and can be dialled up over time as we get a better and bigger picture of where the challenges lie. We have also recently adapted them for TV, which we are now piloting through our recently-launched Young Audiences Content Fund.

All productions are assessed through the BFI Certification Unit, who also administer the Cultural Test on behalf of HMRC for the UK Tax Reliefs. Everyone funded through National Lottery is required to engage with the Diversity Standards, and we are delighted that BAFTA, BIFA, Paramount, Film4, BBC Films and the NFTS have already adopted them. We also welcome the continued support of Pact and Directors UK — as producers and directors are key to ensuring open and inclusive decisions are made when putting together creative teams.

We are also building up the pool of resources available to producers looking to achieve best practice, through links to a growing number of support businesses, agencies and organisations.

We believe that a joined up industry working to a common system is the best way to achieve lasting systemic change, and we encourage all producers to engage with us on the Diversity Standards to understand how they can be part of creating that change.

  • Ben Roberts, BFI Deputy Chief Executive
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