By Josh Berger – Chair, BFI
and Amanda Nevill – CEO, BFI
The BFI’s role is to look to the future. That’s exactly what we have been doing over the last year by listening carefully to really valuable feedback and learning from thousands of people across the UK, at roadshows, roundtables and through our online survey. Thank you for being involved. As some great futurists have put it: smart people don’t predict the future, they shape it.
We are excited to present here our five-year plan which builds on Film Forever, our previous strategy. It is designed to help shape the BFI’s next chapter for film, television, animation and the moving image generally, so we can seize all the opportunities, expected and unexpected, artistic and economic, that this dynamic arena offers.
We are keenly aware that our contribution is a relatively modest part of the overall landscape. Our role is one of enabler, investing where we can most make a difference and where we can be a supportive catalyst for change. We will always choose to do this in partnership, and we would like to thank our key partners who have worked so hard with us to shape this next chapter.
Today filmmakers are drawn to experimenting across a whole new array of screens and technologies and across the non-linear, interactive world. The opportunity for the BFI to support risk taking to influence this artistic evolution has never been so exciting. This broadening of cultural focus will be visible in all we do, as we set out in the next five years to inspire excellence, to ignite creativity, and to expand and deepen enjoyment of the moving image for all of us. What we mean by ‘film’
The BFI’s cultural programme is the foundation of all our work, enriched through partnering with the other great film centres across the UK and abroad. In this strategy we will be advocating harder than ever for film to be central to all our cultural lives, and contributing culturally to the places where we live; empowering the next generation of creative people; and being at the forefront of international cultural diplomacy.
Film, television, animation, and the moving image are thriving, and after nearly a decade of growth and critical success, this isn’t a flash in the pan. The UK is the destination of choice because we can boast a proven outstanding skilled workforce with a solid international reputation for getting the job done. Confidence can be measured by the private sector capital investments in new infrastructure across the UK from London to Yorkshire to Northern Ireland. The sustained Government commitment to the sector, not least through the screen sector tax reliefs, ensures the UK’s competitiveness as a business destination. Together film, animation, television and games make a significant contribution to the economy. But we cannot afford to be complacent. There is growing international competition, and in the post-referendum world we know we have to up our game to sustain and grow further the UK’s position.
There is overwhelming evidence of our creativity capturing global attention. From Ken Loach and Andrea Arnold being feted at Cannes, through films such as Bridget Jones’s Baby capturing the hearts and minds of audiences worldwide. While recognising the successes, we are aware that British film’s future is a complex one of great potential but also many challenges. For many UK filmmakers it can feel like tough going. There are genuine questions for us to consider about how independent British film can be supported to take advantage of its creative success to scale up and better compete in what should be an age of opportunity. Future economic value will come from more and better UK content being created, owned and then exported by UK businesses.
We see it as a central purpose to work with the Government, PACT, FDA, UKCA and others to take every opportunity to ensure a stronger future for UK filmmakers.
And there are risks. A recent BFI taskforce found significant obstacles for those who choose to pursue a career in the film industry, and diversity in the workforce is poor. So we are missing out on the talent and creative potential of a great number of young people that we really need for the future.
Creating opportunity will be the key focus across every single layer of the BFI’s activity in this next period as we want it to be easy for everyone to participate, no matter what their background, gender, race, age, disability, sexual orientation or geographic location. What we mean by diversity We will be launching, with Creative Skillset, a new ten-year skills framework with recommendations that tackle the double imperative of diversity and future skills needs. In the case of skills, social mobility will be of paramount importance. It is our intention to work with all producers active in the UK to create the right conditions so that every production in the UK can voluntarily adopt the BFI Diversity Standards.
For the sector to really flourish, we need to recognise and promote the wealth of talent and creativity from across the whole of the UK, in addition to London. We plan to support further the other emerging centres that have the commitment, leadership and ambition to develop into creative screen clusters of international influence. Our aim is that by the end of this strategy some 25 per cent of our production funding will be devolved to these clusters. We are also creating a new pilot Enterprise Fund providing repayable working capital for small and medium-sized enterprises working in the riskier areas of innovation across the screen industries. What we mean by UK-wide opportunity
During our UK-wide roadshows, there was a constant call, particularly in England, for greater BFI visibility and for the BFI to advocate more effectively on devolved and regional issues. During Film Forever our work with partners in the Film Audience Network, such as Home in Manchester, Watershed in Bristol, Chapter in Cardiff and Queens Film Theatre in Belfast, has been particularly important. In this strategy we will be devolving more decision-making and funding to key partners in this network and working with them to strengthen the BFI presence outside London.
Globally, the screen industries are evolving at speed, with exciting new markets emerging. The international sales and distribution sector is in the midst of huge disruption and change. We know that ensuring the best possible outcome for film following the upheaval of the European referendum will be a major priority for the BFI, one which will entail new resource and expertise, as well as renewed energy to flourish in markets outside the EU.
We are ambitious for the future and want to show the world that the UK means business. British film and television are celebrated the world over and deserve a national home, now more than ever. Every other major art form has its own place, and the BFI now has a stunning opportunity, having acquired a site, to create a national film centre. This new film centre will embody our optimism, confidence and excitement about the UK’s leading role in the future of film, at home and abroad. It will create a place that inspires the next generation of filmmakers and audiences, where everyone can discover and explore the magic and wonder of film – past, present and future. The UK is currently enjoying an explosion of creativity and, with its film centre ambitions, the BFI is poised to take advantage of all this potential.