After 13 months of extensive consultations with the UK film industry, government, and public, the British Film Institute has unveiled a new three-year funding plan alongside a ten-year strategy that will shape the organization’s future investments and priorities.
Screen Culture 2033 was launched at a virtual event on Friday with BFI CEO Ben Roberts who said the initiative would transform how people engage with the BFI creating skills and jobs across the UK. Crucially, the BFI is adopting a new three-year National Lottery Funding Plan that will start in April 2023 and see the organization invest £136 million into the business or £45 million annually. This is a dip of around 10% from the last funding plan, BFI2022.
Of these funds, £54 million will be available to filmmakers through the BFI National Lottery Filmmaking Fund, BFI Network, and The National Lottery Creative Challenge Fund, a new funding strand established to support what the BFI has described as “risk-taking creative storytelling.”
Historically, BFI National Lottery funding has focused primarily on film. But Screen Culture 2033 signals a shift with the body pledging to “monitor and assess” the role it can play in funding new media forms including television, video games, and interactive and immersive technologies.
“Most of us experience or contribute to Screen Culture – through film, TV, online video, extended reality, and video games – in our daily lives. It informs and defines us, and continues to grow as an art form and a creative industry,” Roberts said. “Screen culture isn’t standing still and neither are we.”
In a bid to widen the body’s reach, £27.6 million will be spent on audience development schemes including a BFI National Lottery Audience Project Fund to support the work of distributors and exhibitors working across independent film and XR as well as funding for a new BFI National Lottery Open Cinemas initiative aiming to offer free screenings in independent cinemas.
Audiences will be key to what Screen Culture 2033 describes as the BFI’s long-term “digital first” approach, which will culminate in the creation of a tiered BFI membership that will include Sight and Sound, BFI Southbank, BFI IMAX, and BFI+, a new re-vamped streaming service to be launched out of BFI Player. The BFI will seek to fund the streaming service through a significant one-off investment.
Additionally, the BFI said it will amp up its push to encourage the use of film and the moving image in classrooms, with a £34.2 million investment across education and skills programs.
BFI Chair Tim Richards said: “As a cultural charity, a distributor of National Lottery ‘good cause’ funding we see the societal benefits of screen culture and the vital contribution it makes to the UK economy.
He added: “The ambitions we lay out in Screen Culture 2033 – which will take the BFI to its centenary – and the BFI National Lottery Strategy, aim to expand opportunities for creators, audiences, educators and industry to ensure the screen culture produced and consumed in the UK truly reflects our vibrant and diverse population. Our role in creating the right conditions for the economic growth and cultural development and appreciation of UK screen culture throughout our past, present and for the future has never been more important.”