How the BFI awarded its £129 million over four years

13 April '15 2 Comments on How the BFI awarded its £129 million over four years

BFI logoOver the past few weeks I have been looking at UK-based public funding for films.  It appears to be a hot topic for UK filmmakers as I’ve had all manner of emails and social media messages asking for more details.  So I decided to dig deeper into the largest public body dedicated to supporting UK film – the British Film Institute (BFI).

Over the past four years, the BFI has awarded almost £129 million of National Lottery money to films, filmmakers and film related organisations and events.  Fortunately for us, the BFI publishes details of its awards and so I crunched the data.

In summary…

  • Between April 2011 and March 2015, the BFI awarded £128,831,288
  • The money was dispersed via 1,178 awards across 927 unique projects
  • Around 75% of those projects were individual films
  • The rest were events, organisations and activities promoting British films in the UK and abroad
  • The films with the largest total awards were Under the Skin (£2,170,410), Great Expectations (£2,030,000), Invisible Woman (£1,610,559) and ’71 (£1,556,736)
  • The UK Presence at Cannes Film Festival 2014-16 costs £1,170,000
  • The 2014 UK delegation to Shanghai and Beijing cost £95,000

Films funded by the BFI

Under the Skin movie posterThe awards are made for all manner of projects and organisations so it’s hard to say exactly how many were directly for feature film projects.

However, judging by the names of the awards, I have calculated that 884 of the 1,178 awards made between April 2011 and March 2015 were directly linked to films (feature length and short films).  This represents 75% of the awards made by the BFI during that period.  The rest were awarded to organisations running schemes, festivals and educational events.

Below is a list of the 30 feature films with the highest combined total of awards made between April 2011 and March 2015.  It’s possible that funding was given to films on this list before April 2011 but that money would not appear here.  This combines all types of funding a film could receive including development, production, distribution, exhibition and export worldwide.

Under the Skin5£2,170,410Drama Sci-Fi ThrillerJonathan Glazer
Great Expectations3£2,030,000Drama RomanceMike Newell
Invisible Woman4£1,610,559Biopic Drama HistoryRalph Fiennes
’715£1,556,736Action Drama ThrillerYann Demange
Frank3£1,427,000Comedy Drama MusicLenny Abrahamson
Sunset Song4£1,397,350DramaTerence Davies
Belle3£1,369,000DramaAmma Asante
High Rise2£1,335,000Action Drama Sci-FiBen Wheatley
Ethel & Ernest2£1,235,000Animation Drama
Get Santa3£1,235,000Comedy FamilyChristopher Smith
Spike Island4£1,223,555Drama MusicMat Whitecross
How I Live Now4£1,151,982Drama Romance ThrillerKevin Macdonald
Half Of A Yellow Sun6£1,150,432Drama RomanceBiyi Bandele
Seven Psychopaths3£1,105,313Comedy CrimeMartin McDonagh
Cuban Fury2£1,100,000ComedyJames Griffiths
Bomb aka Ginger & Rosa2£1,055,000DramaSally Potter
Bill2£1,050,000FamilyRichard Bracewell
Pride2£1,050,000Comedy DramaMatthew Warchus
X+Y8£1,036,817Comedy DramaMorgan Matthews
Last Days on Mars (aka The Animators)2£1,035,000Horror Sci-Fi ThrillerRuairi Robinson
Mr. Turner2£1,035,000Biopic Drama HistoryMike Leigh
The Fury aka Suffragette 3£1,035,000DramaSarah Gavron
Slow West2£1,035,000Action Thriller WesternJohn Maclean
American Honey2£1,035,000DramaAndrea Arnold
Jimmy’s Hall2£1,015,000DramaKen Loach
The Falling6£983,250Drama MysteryCarol Morley
Fast Girls4£976,400Drama SportRegan Hall
Our Robot Overlords5£915,653Action Adventure Sci-FiJon Wright
City of Tiny Lights3£885,735Crime Drama ThrillerPete Travis
Le Weekend3£835,000Comedy Drama RomanceRoger Michell
The Selfish Giant5£804,411DramaClio Barnard
Calvary2£798,790DramaJohn Michael McDonagh

If you would like to research a film for yourself then visit and search under ‘Project title’.  Bear in mind that it’s not unusual for a film to change name between development and release, as happened with “Ginger & Rosa” which was called “Bomb” when it received BFI funding awards.

Apply. Fund. Repeat.

The Falling movie posterA number of films received multiple funding at different stages of production.  For example, the film “The Falling” received six funding awards between March 2012 and April 2015, totalling £983,250.  These were…

  • 28 Mar 2012 – £45,750 paid to Cannon and Morley Productions for Development via the Film Fund
  • 19 Jun 2013 – £21,500 paid to Cannon and Morley Productions for Development via the Film Fund
  • 11 Sep 2013 – £35,000 paid to Cannon and Morley Productions for Development via the Film Fund
  • 19 Sep 2013 – £750,000 paid to Cannon and Morley Productions for Production via the Film Fund
  • 08 Oct 2014 – £40,000 paid to Malady Films for Production via the Film Fund
  • 25 Feb 2015 – £91,000 paid to Metrodome Distribution for “Breakout” via the Distribution Fund

Much of the money the BFI put into the development of films is repaid upon principal photography and recycled into further awards.

Cannes dos

BFI in CannesEvery year the UK pavilion at the Cannes film festival is packed full of British filmmakers and free shortbread.  The tent forms the hub of British events in Cannes, which includes talks, networking events, adverts for shooting in Britain, private meetings between filmmakers and sunbathers.

The three awards made since April 2011 related to the UK presence at the Cannes Film Festival are…

  • 18 Jan 2012 – £350,000 for Cannes 2012 paid to Premier Public Relations via the Transition Fund
  • 06 Feb 2013 – £189,115 for Cannes 2013 paid to Premier Public Relations via the International Fund
  • 12 March 2014 – £1,170,000 for Cannes 2014-16 paid to “Various” via the International Fund

This means that this year’s British Pavilion is costing the BFI around £390,000.

Spending on other industry related market events included…

By Fund

Below is a list of the BFI awards made between April 2011 and March 2015, split by the fund they were attached to.

Film Fund738£72,365,007£98,056
Film Education Scheme 2013-201718£26,467,442£1,470,413
Audience Fund116£11,831,509£101,996
Distribution Fund56£5,639,737£100,710
Prints and Advertising Fund44£4,992,089£113,457
International Fund18£2,514,535£139,696
Transition Fund45£1,234,048£27,423
Department for Education19£935,695£49,247
Film Export Fund73£823,888£11,286
Programming Development Fund15£686,375£45,758
Targeted Development2£350,000£175,000
BFI Audience Fund 2013-20179£247,500£27,500
Film Festival Fund14£148,000£10,571
Tax Credit Advance1£140,000£140,000
Vision Awards2£100,000£50,000
Strategic Audience Development Scheme2£56,942£28,471
Short Film Fund4£42,405£10,601

By Type

Below is a list of the BFI awards made between April 2011 and March 2015, split by the type of award.

Film Education1£26,000,000£26,000,000
Audience Development15£7,580,000£505,333
Specialised P&A44£4,992,089£113,457
Vision Awards26£1,850,000£71,154
UK Audience Network7£1,706,000£243,714
Film Festivals62£1,649,000£26,597
Programming development34£1,627,688£47,873
Transition Fund45£1,234,048£27,423
Short film38£1,192,340£31,377
Big Audience4£1,169,005£292,251
New Models20£1,081,740£54,087
Film Export72£803,888£11,165
Film Academy – Regional31£713,917£23,030
Film Academy – Residential5£689,220£137,844
Targeted Development4£594,852£148,713
BFI Neighourhood Cinema39£454,638£11,657
Lottery Scheme for London2£256,116£128,058
US Distribution Support - Pilot6£141,194£23,532
Tax Credit Advance1£140,000£140,000


Going through all this data has brought home to me the breadth and depth of the work the BFI funds. Many times, I spotted a film I’d seen or an event I had attended without ever realising that the BFI had a hand in it.

In the spirit of full disclosure I should mention that I have once had direct support from the BFI: once in a meeting with BFI staff I had a cup of tea purchased through their staff discount.  I have done my best to not let this colour my judgment too much.




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