04 Film funding bodies

Audiences are one of your most important assets – if you can increase them you will immediately improve your income, so funding schemes for audience development initiatives can be hugely supportive to any fundraising efforts.

The British Film Institute (BFI) is the lead body for film in the UK with responsibility for the distribution of National Lottery funding for the development and production of new British films, as well as audience development activity through supporting film distribution and exhibition. Funding isn’t currently available for capital projects, although there is National Lottery funding available for one-off projects, programme development, education and cultural work which can be accessed through the BFI. The BFI also distribute funds to national organisations such as Creative Skillset, Into Film, MEDIA Desk UK and Creative England.

The BFI’s current funding priorities were set out in their five year plan (running 2013 – 2017), Film Forever, which was developed after detailed consultation with a range of different bodies, individuals and organisations. The BFI’s Audience Fund has invested £22 million over four years up to 2017 to boost audience choice across the UK.

A range of BFI funds support programme development and exhibition development strategies:

  • Programming Development Fund
  • Film Audience Network
  • Neighbourhood Cinema Fund
  • Film Festival Fund

The best programme development will target new specific audiences but it’s a key tool in raising and, at its most effective, maintaining additional income and revenue and there’s never been a better time to do it with a range of funding streams targeted at audience development.

The BFI’s Programming Development Fund, worth up to £1.4m per year to 2017 is aimed at programmers and exhibitors across the UK to support the curation, development and presentation of original and ambitious programmes of film activity. There are three different strands with funds available for projects and new programming initiatives ranging from £5,000 – £500,000.

The Film Audience Network, launched by the BFI in 2013, also supports, and has funds available for, audience development work and is comprised of regional film hubs with Lead Hub Organisations replacing the Regional Screen Agencies.  As set out in its Film Forever five year plan, the BFI aims to increase the size, diversity and geographic spread of audiences viewing specialised and independent British films and the Programming Development fund and the Film Audience Network are central to achieving this goal.

The team at Saffron Screen in Saffron Walden, Essex, are extremely proactive in developing their programme to cater for all their audiences, which in turn is reflected in a progressive increase in admissions. A successful recent audience development initiative, a Polish Film Festival, was made possible after securing funds from their regional film hub to make the cinema more accessible to an increasing local Polish community. One of the films, Ida, which screened with an accompanying Q&A hosted by a local author, attracted the largest audience Saffron Screen has ever had.

In  2015 Saffron Screen will be developing their audiences further by taking cinema to the heart of local communities after receiving funding from Creative England for an audience outreach post and funding from the Film Hub Central East to run six pop-up screenings in village halls.

Along similar lines, BFI Neighbourhood Cinema has a Touring Cinema Fund to support touring initiatives similar to Saffron Screen’s and an Equipment Fund for community cinemas which have been running for six months or more to purchase new and upgraded equipment.

The BFI’s  Film Festival Fund has allocated £1m per year for up to four years (2013-17) to support a broad range of film festivals, from local or community festivals to those with a specialised focus and UK festivals of national or international significance.

In April 2016 we ran a symposium in partnership with Vilnius International Film Festival, exploring in part how film festivals can best make their case for regular funding. In the video below, Roberto Cuerto of San Sebastian Film Festival discusses their approach to proving not just their festival’s cultural value, but also how it adds to their city’s international reputation, increases tourism and delivers local economic growth.

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