New BFI-backed proposals to boost independent UK films

The BFI’s Commission on UK Independent Film has announced a series of proposals to boost grassroots film-making.

Gods Own Country won 4 BIFAs, including the top Best British Independent Film award.
The Films Minister Margot James cites God’s Own Country as an example of the kind of film that a flourishing independent film industry can produce in the UK.

This time last year, the BFI set up the Commission, led by the head of Lionsgate UK Zygi Kamasa, to establish the best way that industry leaders can help to ensure a healthy future for the independent sector.

The Commission, including senior officials from the BFI, as well as leading figures from the streaming services Amazon and MUBI and the cinema chains Curzon and Vue, has come up with four proposals for the industry itself to consider implementing:

  • It’s calling for industry-wide cooperation and collaboration to maximise the value of the rights at every stage, for the benefit of everyone with a stake in boosting a film’s revenues, including producers, distributors, sales agents, exhibitors and broadcasters.
  • Another recommendation is to set up projects to engage and grow younger audiences, one of which will be run in partnership with the British Independent Film Awards. The Commission notes that British independent films are the type of film with which younger audiences have the lowest engagement.
  • The Commission is recommending a new fund, through the Enterprise Investment Scheme, to be affiliated with by independent of the BFI, which could raise private investment to grow a diversified group of dynamic and ambitious production companies.
  • It’s also calling for a new development fund to provide in excess of £5m over five years, to develop commercial projects outside the main organisations with development funding, the BFI Film Fund, BBC Films and Film4. The Commission suggests that Pay TV companies such as Sky, Virgin or BT could contribute to such a fund.

There are also a series of recommendations for the BFI and the government to consider:

  • The panel wants the government to explore whether the current film tax relief could be maximised to encourage the production of more internationally successful films.
  • The Commission is calling for the BFI and the government to work together to consider other financial incentives which could boost production outside London and enhance the export value of UK Films.
  • It’s suggesting that the UK co-producer in international co-productions can claim 100% of their qualifying UK spend, rather than the current 80%, up to a maximum of 80% of the total budget, under the UK’s Film Tax Relief, to make the UK a more attractive partner for international collaborators.
  • Another hope is that the government will ensure that the UK will continue to be able to participate in the successor programme to Creative Europe after Brexit, while the BFI should look into the benefits and costs of rejoining the Eurimages programme.
  • The panel is also suggesting that the BFI seeks funding for permanent representatives to be based in important international territories, particularly those such as China, where co-production treaties are in place, to enhance the opportunities for the UK to build long-lasting and fruitful new partnerships after Brexit.

Launching the conclusions of the Commission on UK Independent Film, Zygi Kamasa thanked those who shared their time and thoughts and added, “We are very aware that this is a time of revolutionary change across our industry and although we are realistic about what this report can achieve, I believe we have identified several targeted opportunities to address some of the challenges posed to UK independent film by global forces. The entire UK film industry has been very receptive to collaborating and working together with the aims of this commission, and it’s crucial we all to continue to do so, in order to help our sector flourish and grow as it so richly deserves.”

The head of the BFI, Amanda Nevill explained the importance of the Commission. “Independent films are woven into the fabric of our cultural life – they give filmmakers a space to innovate with craft and form, and they tell the urgent stories that go to the heart of who we are as a nation.” She added, “While acknowledging global challenges, the Commission has identified some practical approaches and models available to industry itself, the BFI and the Government, which could equip our filmmakers to harness opportunities that our increasingly digital world offers for future growth and success.”

The Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, Margot James, said “The UK independent film sector is a creative powerhouse, producing films that are enjoyed by millions globally and that reflect the rich diversity of modern Britain. With our world class facilities, talented workforce and highly competitive tax reliefs, we are committed to supporting the UK film sector to grow and flourish for years to come.”