BFI seeking new governor

The bfi recently advertised an appointment for a new member of the Board of Governors. The original closing date was extended to 25 June 2012.

Details of the post here

Amanda Nevill promises a ‘fresh approach to film education’

From Screen Daily  today:

BFI announces “pillars” of its Five Year Plan For Film

18 April, 2012 |

By Andreas Wiseman

Amanda Nevill today promised a “fresh approach” from the BFI in its Five Year Forward Plan For Film; government and BFI to officially respond to Chris Smith’s Film Policy Review on May 14.

BFI CEO Amanda Nevill today disclosed the “three pillars” of the BFI’s Five Year Forward Plan For Film.

Nevill said the Plan would be “broadly structured around three pillars” consisting of “a major commitment to education and a better deal for audiences across the UK; an emphasis on creating a supportive home for filmmakers across the value chain; and new initiatives to unlock our film heritage.”

Nevill told a gathering of UK industry at a Westminster Forum Projects seminar that the BFI will launch its industry consultation on the Plan on May 14th, and that the BFI and the government will officially respond to Chris Smith’s Film Policy Review on the same day.

She told the audience that the BFI will be consulting the industry on how it should spend the estimated £57m it is likely to receive from the Lottery in each of the next five years.

Nevill said the main thrust of the Five Year Forward Plan would be “bold” and that the BFI would “try things it hadn’t done before.”

“The Future Plan is going to be heavily influenced by the Film Policy Review,” said Nevill. “Our emphasis is going to be on the innovative and the entrepeneurial. It is up to us to take risks that private money can not and to grow future generations of audiences. We’ll be investing in new voices as well as established voices”.

Nevill added: “There will be a fresh approach to film education; a fresh approach to building audiences; a fresh approach within the BFI itself to bring new thinking to its creative, industrial and cultural role; and a fresh approach to how we invest in development, production and distribution. We are determined to be bold and brave and we will try things we haven’t done before.”

During the seminar, Nevill broke down the level of public money invested in film last year and estimated that the BFI would have around £57m in Lottery funding to invest in the UK industry in each of the next five years, above and beyond its government grant in aid:

“Last year close on £350m worth of public money was invested in UK film. This was made up primarily of the £200m from our highly effective tax relief, government grant in aid, Lottery money and broadcaster investment.

“Of that £350m, the money available for the BFI to invest is circa £79m. £22m is the grant in aid from government. £14m of this goes to the BFI for our directly funded activities such as the national archive. We are able to generate another £26m from that £14m.

“Then there is the approximately £57m per annum of Lottery funding. That is the estimate of what we think we’ll be able to spend over the next five years. It’s this Lottery money that we will be consulting on later this spring.

“We will also be entrepeneurial in raising money from other sources to complement our public funding. The question is how we can make the most difference with this investment,” she said.

BFI announces “pillars” of its Five Year Plan For Film | News | Screen


BFI National Library newsletter

Newsletter circulated by the BFI today:

BFI National Library update November 2011

The BFI is facing huge and exciting changes across all areas of its business since it became the lead body for film in April this year. It is a uniquely important time as we look to create a vision and framework for a new era for film.

As part of this new chapter for the BFI, we are exploring ways to modernise and expand the offering of the BFI National Library, to create the leading centre for film knowledge in the UK both as a physical place to visit and online for everyone. Key to this aim is increased digitisation and greater integration with our public and cultural programmes.

 You are receiving this newsletter as a friend, user, supporter or member of the Library to update you with developments to date and the options we are exploring.

As some of you already know, we have been investigating the options around relocating the Library from its current home in Stephen Street to our nearby venue on London’s South Bank. For the first time, this means we could develop a single, coherent creative vision across the venue that would bring together the whole BFI offer in one place – from the Mediatheque and programming, to Education and Collections.

World class

We want the new Library to continue to deliver a world-class specialist service for the scholarly film researcher, while also being a welcoming space for both the casual and first-time user. Our ambition is to integrate library services into the public offer at BFI Southbank by creating a space that sits well in the building, allows us to contribute and participate in existing educational, cultural and programming activities, and which encourages visitors to the BFI Southbank to use the facility and enhance their film-going experience.

We have been pleased with initial positive responses to our proposals while also acknowledging other concerns that the move will reduce our existing services or make access more difficult. The services will change but our committed aim is to improve, modernise and expand our Library offering.

Since we announced this proposal at the end of last year, we have set up a core project team to carry out detailed investigation and planning work, to explore funding and development options and to consider how best we could use the former Gallery space at BFI Southbank to achieve a phased roll out of our Library ambition.

To help us in this exploration and produce a great solution both for Library users and the BFI we have tendered and will shortly brief a firm of architects to draw up a creative concept for the space available at BFI Southbank. We want a modern and flexible physical environment through which a wider audience can connect to the knowledge resources held by the Library. The design response should be complete in December and it will be used to inform a decision on the next phase of the Library development – including timeframe, scope and cost.


We have also begun widespread consultation around a new Library and earlier this month we launched an online survey to around 3,400 targeted stakeholders, including many of the recipients of this newsletter. The survey will help build a picture of how and who the current Library is used by as well as visitor/member needs and aspirations. We have held a number of focus groups with further one-on-one interviews planned to inform future decisions.  Several communities of interest have already been involved in discussions and we will continue to publicise our ideas as the project progresses through this newsletter.

Heather Stewart, Creative Director, BFI

Changes to BFI member governor criteria

This year, the bfi has made an unprecedented change to the procedure for election of one of the two member governors of the Institute. When David Thompson steps down on expiry of his term of appointment, the bfi has ruled that the replacement member governor must reside outside London and the South East and further that at least 10% of bfi Members must vote in the election for an appointment to be valid.

In the recent past, we understand only about 8% of members have voted in such elections. Given that this time round the majority of bfi members (most of whom live in London and the South East) have been disenfranchised it seems more than likely that, under the new rules – which have not been the subject of consultation with members – there may be no candidate with a mandate deemed valid by the bfi – still less by all the membership.

Member governors date from the 1970s when, in response to widespread disquiet by bfi members at bfi management policies, a majority of members attending the bfi AGM voted not to approve the remuneration and reappointment of the bfi’s auditors. This was, and remains, effectively the only democratic sanction which members are able to exercise. The bfi Members’ Action Group, which had organised the AGM protest vote, subsequently agreed that it would support a motion to remunerate and reappoint the auditors if two member governors – each of whom would be elected by and answerable to the whole bfi membership – were appointed. This year’s changes are an unprecedented and unilateral break with the long standing precedent and agreement dating from the 1970s.

The bfi management’s changes to the election procedure are not ones to inspire membership participation and identification with the bfi. Rather they suggest an intensification of the top down, non-consultative and industry-not-user oriented policies of authoritarian management.


New organisation launched to represent UK screen education and research

BAFTSS (British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies) is a new organisation set up by HE professionals to represent the interests of UK screen education and research in a national context. Part of its remit is to promote the visibility and relevance of the discipline, and to respond actively to policy proposals from the government and funding agencies. It aims to work with other organisations, including the BFI, to consolidate and strengthen the vital role played by moving image education and research in British and international screen culture. More information on the website:

BAFTSS website

Amanda Nevill interview in Telegraph

From the Telegraph today:

Amanda Nevill: ‘Great films should be commercial, too’

Amanda Nevill, who today becomes the most powerful figure in British film, talks to David Gritten .

By David Gritten 10:28AM BST 01 Apr 2011

‘It’s curious,” Amanda Nevill, director of the British Film Institute, tells me. “There’s been lots of talk this week about how negatively middle-aged women are portrayed in film.” She pauses for effect: “Well, I’m a middle-aged woman.”

Indeed. It was her 54th birthday last week, as a gift of white orchids in her office attests. Ironically, from today Nevill becomes the British film industry’s most influential figure, as head of a newly expanded BFI that has absorbed some of the staff and functions of the now-deceased UK Film Council – including the distribution of lottery funds for film production.

Nevill is not the only woman on top in this rebooted BFI, now Britain’s leading film body. Four of her five senior staff were already women (including London Film Festival director Sandra Hebron) – and among the most high-profile of 44 arrivals from the UKFC are Tanya Seghatchian and Lizzie Francke from its Film Fund. “They’re all formidable,” Nevill says of her colleagues. “I haven’t deliberately gone out to recruit women. It just happened that way.”

Gender issues aside, her rise is remarkable. She totally lacks film-biz brashness; in manner, she is thoughtful, articulate and a good listener, with a consensual management style.

The BFI, now in its 78th year, has spent the past decade in the shadow of the UKFC, a body that sprang from the Blair government’s fascination with Cool Britannia and the capacity for our creative industries to make serious money for the nation.

The UKFC was a very New Labour quango – confident, metropolitan, well-connected in government, intrigued by cinema’s economic potential and faintly dismissive of old-school notions about the cultural value of film. Still, it helped professionalise and energise Britain’s film industry, and funded several worthwhile films, as well as some dreadful ones.

The BFI, in contrast, was venerated but somewhat sleepy. Its National Film Theatre, a refuge for older film buffs, seemed incapable of embracing wider audiences. It had a valuable archive and comprehensive if ageing library and research facilities. Its London Film Festival was worthy but under-achieving. Generally, it seemed in a rut.

Nevill became BFI director in 2003, having previously headed what is now the National Media Museum in Bradford. This Yorkshire woman was regarded as an outsider, and hardly any match for John Woodward, the UKFC’s shrewd, politically savvy chief executive.

“My first two or three years here were really tough,” she recalls. “I can remember for the first time in my life thinking I’d bitten off more than I could chew, and it would defeat me.”

Instead, she has discreetly revolutionised the institute. The National Film Theatre was rebranded BFI Southbank, and has become a vibrant, lively audience magnet without compromising the quality of the films it offers. Its Imax cinema at Waterloo is one of the world’s highest-grossing screens. Its archive enjoys a higher public profile. The BFI offers a ravishing DVD collection, especially strong on older British documentaries.

These are reasons why the BFI enjoys widespread public affection. But the UK Film Council, though respected within the film industry, drew criticism for the high salaries of its top executives and for some of the films it chose to fund (infamously, Sex Lives of the Potato Men, back in 2004).

Last summer, the new Coalition government decided this was a quango it could not stomach, and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt abruptly, perhaps over-hastily, announced its abolition.

Ironically, the UKFC had latterly improved its criteria for funding films, and its greatest triumph arrived after its death sentence was announced. The King’s Speech, which neither Film Four nor (astonishingly) BBC Films saw fit to support, would never have been made without the UKFC’s financial backing.

It became a multiple Oscar winner and a huge worldwide success, grossing $135 million in America alone. And a hefty portion of its net profits will now return to… the BFI.

When I observe to Nevill that the new BFI would find the equivalent of a King’s Speech every year hugely helpful, she says: “It wouldn’t be bad. But I would never want recoupment to be a motivation for what we invest in. Recoupment is the result of making good investments. It mustn’t be the motivation.”

This is less high-minded than it sounds. It’s easy to categorise the BFI as a body that supports films of cultural importance, while the UKFC sought out potential hits, but Nevill insists: “There’s a false dichotomy between commercial and cultural. They’re completely symbiotic. I don’t believe there’s a filmmaker out there who doesn’t want to make a film that’s so compelling that it sets the world alight and makes people want to see it. In other words, it becomes commercial.”

This suggests the films to be funded by the new BFI may not look that different from before: there should be support for work by auteurs such as Terence Davies (shunned for years by the UKFC, but belatedly acknowledged and subsidised) and, on the other hand, backing for mainstream British crowd-pleasers such as Made in Dagenham. Still, the occasional King’s Speech would help a new BFI faced with cuts. Half the Film Council’s staff have been discarded; the BFI’s budget is being slashed by 20 per cent and 70 posts are being lost.

Nevill ticks off the cuts the public will notice, including further downsizing of the Edinburgh Film Festival, maybe fewer DVD releases, and the BFI’s research library’s switch to the Southbank, where, run by a smaller staff, it enters a digitised era.

She refuses to be demoralised by cuts: “We have to start inventing the new, let go of the past, move away fast from this reshuffle and get a sense of liberation. We determined that we’d be smaller, but we’d be world-class and uphold the quality of what we do.”

Is anything especially on her mind at the moment? “How to connect bigger audiences, particularly outside London, with a wider diversity of films?” She shrugs. “We have to try.” With her track record, you wouldn’t bet against her.

Amanda Nevill: ‘Great films should be commercial, too’ – Telegraph