Coronavirus: BFI allocates funding to help exhibitors, freelancers and producers

By Laura Harding, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

The British Film Institute has repurposed almost £5 million of National Lottery funding to help exhibitors, freelancers and producers adversely affected by the coronavirus crisis.

The BFI said it is working to support those who have been hardest hit amid the “devastating and far-reaching” impact of the pandemic.

The funding includes up to £2 million 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.

The BFI has already teamed up with the Film & TV charity to set up a new Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund, to help TV and film workers affected by the lockdown.

Ben Roberts, chief executive of the BFI, said: “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 £4.6 million 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 £2.5 million 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 £21.9 million in 2020/21 – remain open and across the board we are committed to getting money to those who need it as quickly as possible.”

The institute added that it hopes its Audience Fund Project Awards, which has £1.6 million available in 2020/2021, which encourages online audience-facing activity, will now help to bring films direct to audiences while our cinemas are closed.

Caroline Dinenage, creative industries minister, said: “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.”

£1.3 million 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 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 £2.5 million 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 £3.8 million 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 £2.5 million 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.