Over 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.
- 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
The 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 Skin||5||£2,170,410||Drama Sci-Fi Thriller||Jonathan Glazer|
|Great Expectations||3||£2,030,000||Drama Romance||Mike Newell|
|Invisible Woman||4||£1,610,559||Biopic Drama History||Ralph Fiennes|
|’71||5||£1,556,736||Action Drama Thriller||Yann Demange|
|Frank||3||£1,427,000||Comedy Drama Music||Lenny Abrahamson|
|Sunset Song||4||£1,397,350||Drama||Terence Davies|
|High Rise||2||£1,335,000||Action Drama Sci-Fi||Ben Wheatley|
|Ethel & Ernest||2||£1,235,000||Animation Drama|
|Get Santa||3||£1,235,000||Comedy Family||Christopher Smith|
|Spike Island||4||£1,223,555||Drama Music||Mat Whitecross|
|How I Live Now||4||£1,151,982||Drama Romance Thriller||Kevin Macdonald|
|Half Of A Yellow Sun||6||£1,150,432||Drama Romance||Biyi Bandele|
|Seven Psychopaths||3||£1,105,313||Comedy Crime||Martin McDonagh|
|Cuban Fury||2||£1,100,000||Comedy||James Griffiths|
|Bomb aka Ginger & Rosa||2||£1,055,000||Drama||Sally Potter|
|Pride||2||£1,050,000||Comedy Drama||Matthew Warchus|
|X+Y||8||£1,036,817||Comedy Drama||Morgan Matthews|
|Last Days on Mars (aka The Animators)||2||£1,035,000||Horror Sci-Fi Thriller||Ruairi Robinson|
|Mr. Turner||2||£1,035,000||Biopic Drama History||Mike Leigh|
|The Fury aka Suffragette||3||£1,035,000||Drama||Sarah Gavron|
|Slow West||2||£1,035,000||Action Thriller Western||John Maclean|
|American Honey||2||£1,035,000||Drama||Andrea Arnold|
|Jimmy’s Hall||2||£1,015,000||Drama||Ken Loach|
|The Falling||6||£983,250||Drama Mystery||Carol Morley|
|Fast Girls||4||£976,400||Drama Sport||Regan Hall|
|Our Robot Overlords||5||£915,653||Action Adventure Sci-Fi||Jon Wright|
|City of Tiny Lights||3||£885,735||Crime Drama Thriller||Pete Travis|
|Le Weekend||3||£835,000||Comedy Drama Romance||Roger Michell|
|The Selfish Giant||5||£804,411||Drama||Clio Barnard|
|Calvary||2||£798,790||Drama||John Michael McDonagh|
If you would like to research a film for yourself then visit bfi.org.uk/film-industry/funding-awards 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.
A 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.
Every 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…
- £10,000 at the Hong Kong Filmart in 2013
- £36,726 at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013
- £20,000 at Dinard British Film Festival in 2014
- £95,000 for the UK delegation to Shanghai and Beijing in 2014
- £487,500 for “UK Industry Presence At International Festivals & Markets 2015 – 17”
Below is a list of the BFI awards made between April 2011 and March 2015, split by the fund they were attached to.
|Film Education Scheme 2013-2017||18||£26,467,442||£1,470,413|
|Prints and Advertising Fund||44||£4,992,089||£113,457|
|Department for Education||19||£935,695||£49,247|
|Film Export Fund||73||£823,888||£11,286|
|Programming Development Fund||15||£686,375||£45,758|
|BFI Audience Fund 2013-2017||9||£247,500||£27,500|
|Film Festival Fund||14||£148,000||£10,571|
|Tax Credit Advance||1||£140,000||£140,000|
|Strategic Audience Development Scheme||2||£56,942||£28,471|
|Short Film Fund||4||£42,405||£10,601|
Below is a list of the BFI awards made between April 2011 and March 2015, split by the type of award.
|UK Audience Network||7||£1,706,000||£243,714|
|Film Academy – Regional||31||£713,917||£23,030|
|Film Academy – Residential||5||£689,220||£137,844|
|BFI Neighourhood Cinema||39||£454,638||£11,657|
|Lottery Scheme for London||2||£256,116||£128,058|
|US Distribution Support - Pilot||6||£141,194||£23,532|
|Tax Credit Advance||1||£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.