BFI sets out support for UK industry impacted by Covid-19 crisis

Statement from Ben Roberts, Chief Executive of the BFI.

"The impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been devastating and far reaching, and we are working with colleagues across the industry to support those who have been hardest hit, and ensuring that we thrive as we recover.

We are part of a community of innovative and talented creatives working across the entire value chain. We are committed to supporting the individuals, organisations and businesses who have been most impacted by COVID-19, and we have developed a programme of support, which sits alongside the Government’s extensive fiscal package.

We have been listening to the industry to understand where the need is most, and have repurposed over £4.6m in National Lottery funding to target specific areas of the sector, including exhibitors, freelancers and producers. We have also adjusted criteria on key existing schemes – including our annual £2.5m Development Fund and the BFI Locked Box – in response to issues such as cash flow and company overhead.

Meanwhile all our existing funds for shorts, features and talent development funds – which total £21.9m in 2020/21 – remain open and across the board we are committed to getting money to those who need it as quickly as possible.

We also want to help our industry deliver for audiences during this period. Our Audience Fund Project Awards, with £1.6m available in 20/21, has always encouraged applications for inventive online audience-facing activity, and we hope our funding can now help these bring films direct to audiences while our cinemas are closed.

In addition, we continue to support producers through the BFI International Fund, so they can capitalise on upcoming virtual markets, and at the same time, are assessing how we can adapt our Film Export Fund to ensure we can effectively support sales agents once physical international festivals and markets resume.

Alongside this, we remain in close collaboration with Government and a wide range of partners through the Screen Sector Task Force, through which we have already helped to shape measures introduced to support our industry. The Government has been really supportive throughout this process, and while this vital work continues, we are also focused on developing a strategy for our recovery."

Creative Industries Minister Caroline Dinenage comments: “Our world-leading screen sector is at the cultural heart of the nation and is one of our greatest success stories. It is fantastic to see the BFI taking a strong lead in helping those in the industry struggling in these difficult times. Together with the Government's unprecedented financial support package, these measures will help ensure that the sector continues to thrive and is well placed to recover as quickly as possible.”

£4.6m Targeted Programmes of Support

£2m BFI Film Continuation Fund
Up to £2m to be made available to independent UK productions interrupted by COVID-19 to help cover unexpected additional production costs to ensure productions are in the best position to resume production when practical. Further details will be announced later in April.

£1.3m BFI FAN Covid-19 Resilience Fund
Exhibitors and festivals have faced immediate closure and cancellations, with many small and medium sized businesses at risk of permanent closure and making staff redundant. The BFI has repurposed the BFI Film Audience Network’s National Lottery activity funding, to offer critical relief to exhibitors across the whole of the UK. Opening next week, applications will be via local Film Hubs. bfi.org.uk/fanresiliencefund

£500,000 Contribution to the Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund
We partnered with The Film and TV Charity to set up this fund, which is now open for applications, and yesterday announced a contribution of £500,000 of National Lottery funding. The Fund offers support to active workers and freelancers working across production, distribution and exhibition who have been hit by the crisis, providing one-off grants of between £500 and £2,500. The £2.5m fund is thanks to donations from industry, including Netflix, the BBC, WarnerMedia and several generous individuals, as well as the BFI.

£800,000 for BFI Funded Features
£800,000 was made available for current BFI funded features that were interrupted due to COVID-19 restrictions. As contracts were abruptly cut short, the funds ensured those employed were paid two weeks’ notice.

BFI Funded Partners
All our funded partners and projects have been given flexibility on both the scheduling of payments to support cash flow, and on delivery against activity targets impacted by the pandemic. This has been particularly essential for the 28 exhibitors, major festivals, distributors and archives who received £3.8m through our Audience Fund Organisational Awards in March.

Adjusted Criteria
Addressing the urgent need to keep our UK independent producers, their projects and their companies in business, we have adjusted criteria on some existing funds:

The £2.5m Development Fund now offers greater flexibility in the scheduling of payments and frontloading fees, and can now cash flow funds up to 80% for each step (eg a draft)

The BFI Locked Box is available to producers, writers and directors who have a share of income from previous BFI supported projects. Ordinarily accessible only for future project development, production or training, a portion of Locked Box funds will now be made available to help alleviate hardship, supporting reasonable overheads to protect business resilience during the next six months.

Key Funds

All our existing filmmaker funds are fully active and open for business and we are working hard to get money to those who need it as quickly as possible. Full details below, but this includes:

We are continuing to accept, assess and make decisions on applications for Production Funding, giving producers confidence and allowing them to work towards commencing production when possible

Recipients of the £2m Vision Awards will be announced this month, supporting 20 production companies around the UK over the next two years.

The Young Audience Content Fund, financed by the UK Government, is also continuing to award production and development funding.