The British Film Institute has launched a strategy which will see £285 million of National Lottery funds put towards film over the next five years. The plan, which is called ‘New Horizons’, will concentrate on enhancing film production and providing audiences with a wider variety of movie choices, especially outside of central London. The project is also designed to fund more UK films that will have a strong impact abroad.
The plan follows on from Lord Smith’s review of the UK film industry in January. Inspired by success stories such as The King’s Speech, the review recommended that more funds be funnelled towards, in Prime Minister David Cameron’s words, ‘commercially successful pictures’. This sparked outrage from film-makers and critics who argued that it was impossible to predict which films would have mass commercial appeal and that British films with more niche market themes would suffer as a result.
The BFI intends to invest £57 million of Lottery money per year, with more than half of that sum devoted exclusively to ‘supporting British film’. This will be done through developing audiences and film education, funding film production as well as film heritage and restoration.
Strategies outlined in the plan include a new film training scheme which would provide 25,000 UK workers with skills in special effects and digital production, rewarding successful film producers who will then have the opportunity to reinvest profits in more UK films, and ensuring that all UK film bodies work together to create a more cohesive industry with a reinforced position in the global market.
Some ambitious goals have also been set regarding film education. The BFI plans to ensure that every child in the UK aged 5-19 has the opportunity to study film and film-making as part of their curriculum. A new network of 10-15 BFI supported regional film ‘hubs’ will also be set up across the UK, providing exhibitions, education and training in order to boost audience choice at a local level and new digital screening equipment will be installed in up to 1000 community centres over the next five years. The BFI will also provide general financial support to UK cinemas, particularly those outside of the capital.
The plan is undoubtedly good news for the UK film industry and for any UK based film-makers and fans. However, this announcement has once again raised questions about exactly what methods will be used to make British films more appealing to the global market and what adverse effects those methods might have on the films themselves. As BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz put it:
‘How do you make British films more popular abroad? Is it about making films more commercial, or is it about making them more avant-garde?’
Hopefully this new effort to bring more and better British movies to the rest of the world will only do good things for the UK film industry, and not force film-makers into making choices that will compromise the quality of their work.