Reaction to A Future for British Film proposals

From today:

19 January 2012
Call Made For Action On UK Film Policy
A report on ‘The Future of British Film’ has inspired warnings that a “huge job” is at hand to deliver the proposals and call for proof that it can be put into action.

According to an article by Screen Dailythe British Film Institute has been warned to be careful about the amount of proposals that it takes on.

Peter Watson, CEO of production outfit Recorded Picture Company and deputy chairman of sister sales company HanWay told Screen Dailythat: “the BFI should resist taking on all the responsibilities the report would seek to pile on its shoulders. The BFI will need to carefully define its new role and not forget its pre-eminent role as a cultural organisation and trustee of our national heritage. Rightly, the industry has high hopes for the new BFI but our expectations should be qualified.”

Indeed although received positively by most writers, producers, distributors, financiers and academics the report does outline a massive 56 proposals and now all eyes are on BFI to implement them.

Hopes are that the film institution will adopt most of them, if not all of them, and move quickly. A call is on for the BFI to move the plans from words to action.


Call Made For Action On UK Film Policy

Latest update on future of BFI library

Update circulated by the BFI last week:

BFI National Library January 2012  

Welcome to this first update of the year about our plans for the BFI National Library. We have been tremendously busy since the last bulletin and have two key developments to report on.The first is that the results are in from the research survey many of you took part in last November along with the findings from our focus groups.As you know, we are exploring ways to modernise and expand the offering of the BFI National Library, to increase our digital services and to deliver greater integration with our public and cultural programmes. Our ambition is to move the Library from its current home in BFI Stephen Street to our venue on London’s South Bank. This means we could develop a single, coherent creative vision across the venue to bring the whole BFI offer together in one place (incorporating Mediatheque, programming, Education and Collections), attract and grow new users and expand digital access.

Heather Stewart

Creative Director, BFI

Research findings and design update

As part of the scoping for this project, we wanted to find out how and by whom the Library was currently used, what were the inducements and barriers to engagement, and how could we improve on or expand its services?

In many areas, the results are as we anticipated, but in others some helpful insights have emerged. One of the clearest findings is that the BFI National Library is highly valued by users, especially for the expertise of its staff and its collections.

It is also very clear that there are two distinct groups of users with contrasting relationships and expectations of the Library. They are the frequent user group (academics, researchers, post-grad students, journalists) and the occasional users (teachers, young people, casuals/BFI Southbank visitors).

The survey results show that frequent users value the comprehensiveness of the Library collections, the knowledge of its staff, and the working environment. Film research for this group is a deep and intensive process.

Occasional users value the support of the staff in accessing the collections, they are supportive of a move to BFI Southbank, and they are interested in using the Library to learn more about the films they see. Film research for this group is a broad and light process.

A range of interests

In considering how to design a new space to meet the requirements of the various user groups, we face some interesting and unique challenges. The end solution also has to embody our aspiration for the Library and reflect the original impetus for its relocation which is to modernise, engage with new users and integrate with the BFI’s public programmes.

Issues to consider will include noise levels, collections access and the likelihood of a different ‘feel’ to the study environment. While some user groups like the current library ambience, others, by contrast, say they find it intimidating.

There is a range of other aspirations: many non-London based users would be willing to pay for remote digital access to collections, there is a demand for a book lending service, and all groups say they would welcome longer opening hours and more social spaces.

To read the findings of the full report, please click here. We value the feedback and ideas expressed throughout the research and the survey results will inform our final decision-making process.

Design update

The second development to report on is that we have received preliminary design ideas from the architects engaged to investigate the feasibility of housing the Library in the former Gallery space at BFI Southbank.

These designs show the proposition is a sound one and that we can achieve a first phase of Library modernisation and relocation in the spaces available.

The go ahead

There are a number of other issues to consider before we make a final decision on whether to proceed with the move. But based on the findings of both the survey and the architect designs, we are satisfied we have sufficient evidence to proceed with our ambition.

In the immediate future we are finalising the business case to enable us to make a decision on whether to proceed with the South Bank option, what would be entailed in supporting this move, e.g. digitisation, acoustic engineering, etc, as well as a timeframe and budget. Options we are considering will include both a fast-track and a longer-term development timeframe.

We anticipate making a final decision in late January/early February and I will keep you updated on progress.


Smith report recommendations for BFI’s role

From the Financial Times today:

Smith report maps direction for British film

By Salamander Davoudi

The British Film Institute, the UK government film agency, will have its remit broadened significantly after a policy review recommended a series of initiatives ranging from changes in funding to greater regional participation and the co-ordination of a UK-wide film festival.

The report, led by Lord Smith, the former Labour culture secretary, was aimed at identifying barriers to growth for UK film. “The changes the organisation needs to make as a consequence will have to be significant and far-reaching,” the report said.

The BFI “must take a 360 degree approach to its responsibilities”, it added.

“A Future for British Film” makes 56 recommendations, including that profits from films be returned to the production companies for reinvestment instead of the original funding bodies. The money used to be considered a loan and was expected to be paid from the film’s income. The panel singled out a special allowance for animation development.

“The aim of the panel is to empower the producer to secure more of a financial stake in its next film, this will help production businesses to control at least in part the means of exploiting their productions. This will make these firms more attractive to external investors,” it says.

Lottery funding to support film will increase from the present £27m to more than £40m by 2014.

In its discussion of “clear obstacles” to the industry, the report highlighted the varying levels of engagement in British film by UK broadcasters.

It recommended that the government initiate “immediate discussions” with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and BSkyB to agree commitments to support British film.

Should this approach prove unproductive, “the government should look at legislative solutions.”

The BBC investment of £12m in UK film each year should be increased “if possible”, the report said, adding that the number of recent British films shown on terrestrial television by the BBC and ITV as a percentage of total films broadcast was “consistently low over the last three years”.

“BSkyB’s scale and reach mean that if it were able to make even modest changes to its approach to acquiring UK films this could have a “disproportionately positive effect on the whole sector,” it said.

“We also understand that independent distributors have concerns about their access to the BSkyB pay-TV platform.

“Such issues may act as a constraint on the ability of independent distributors to invest resources in cinema releases and acquiring rights.

“As a consequence audience choice is … more limited … there is a negative effect on innovation and growth of the market for film in the UK is limited.”

The BFI should create a joint venture lottery fund to be used by partnerships between producers and distributors, the report said, and together with the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) and Arts Council England establish a development fund for digital innovation with an eligibility criteria that is “more open” than typically associated with film funds.

It called on studios and cinema operators to find a new model for digital print fees which it said were often “considerably higher than before” and were “limiting the availability of certain titles to a broader audience”.

By the end of 2012 as many as 90 per cent of UK screens will be digital with conversion of the entire UK by mid 2013, according to data from the Cinema Exhibitors Association.

Lottery funding used to be apportioned by the now-defunct UK Film Council. The BFI, which is to hold all recouped funding in trust, subsequently took on many of its responsibilities.

The report recommended that the BFI shape proposals for the recoupment of lottery funds for development and production to provide incentives for further investment in film.

Independent British films’ share at the box office remains low at an average of 5.5 per cent between 2001 and 2010.

“People want to see British movies but the percentage actually seen by the overall audience in UK cinemas remains far too low,” noted the report.

“If we’re ever going to crack this conundrum we have to ensure that filmmakers understand and think about their audience at the same time as they strive to express their creativity.”

The nine-strong panel recommended the development of a British film brand, which could take the form of an annual British film week and a register of British film.

The BFI will help local film clubs and societies in areas of rural depravation or isolation. “There is a real concern that the Department for Education may be seeking to withdraw its support for film education,” said the report, “and we received a strong message” that that support must continue.

It recommends the government introduce legislation to make it a criminal offence to record films shown in cinemas. According to industry estimates, about 90 per cent of unlawful copies of films originate from illicit recordings.