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The UK film council was a Labour government founded Public Body which was established as a means of developing and promoting the UK Film industry. Set up in 2000, it was run by 15 directors that comprised a board and was funded through several sources (the most notable of which was the natural lottery). It was disbanded in 2010 by the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.
What did it do to support short filmmakers and short film making? Through the money obtained from the National Lottery et al, the UK Film council was able to distribute around £160 million worth of funding for the production of feature and short films. From this fund, 900 independent British films were funded. In the whole scheme of Filmmaking, the UK Film Council provided the funding for several different areas of filmmaking. These include the actual practice of making a film, distribution and exhibition. They are most notable for the former: their funding of film projects, both feature and short film. This area of funding was sub divided into three individual funds for different types of film: the Development fund, the New Cinema Fund and the Premiere Fund. The Development fund concerned itself with the general widening of quality in British productions. The New Cinema fund helped support new talent with the budget of £12 million. This was the fund that most with Short Films, as the short film industry is generally one which is dominated by aspirational film directors. A series of short film schemes within this fund catered to this branch of filmmaking: 100 short films a year were made as a result, for example: Alex Winckler’s ‘Ralph’, Frazer Churchill’s ‘Hatemail’ and Jack Herbert’s ‘A Hero’s Journey’. The four short film schemes were as follows: Cinema Extreme, the Completion Fund, the Magic fund and Blank Hour. The remaining funds from the UK Film council was distributed by the regional and national screen agencies through the Digital Shorts Scheme (which still helped filmmakers to utilise digital technology to make more innovative projects) wand Digital Nation. The premier film fund concerned itself mostly with mainstream feature film productions by directors such as Mike Leigh (one of the biggest names in the British Film Industry. Another UK Film Council activity regarding short filmmaking was the digital First Light scheme, which encouraged youths to learn about filmmaking and participate in activities around film. What was the position and role of the BFI prior to the creation of the Film Council? The British Film Institute is a much older organization than the UK Film Council: having been founded as a private company in 1933. Despite being a private company, the BFI were given lottery money from its inception. This money came from the Privy Council and Treasury initially however since 1965 this money has been supplied through a number of culture departments. In 1948, the BFI was reorganized as a result of the Radcliffe Report which suggested a less heavy emphasis of the process of making films as opposed to the progression of the
appreciation of Film as a serious art. Through this the control of educational film production was alleviated from the BFI and instead they were in charge of promoting production. How has the position and role of the BFI changed since the recent government decision to dismantle the UK Film Council? Since the decision was made to dismantle the UK Film Council, the BFI has taken up many of the responsibilities of the former organisation. They now receive the UK Film Council film funding and are responsible for the Lottery money given to fund films. As a consequence of the transition, the BFI is also responsible for the short film funds ran formerly by the UK Film Council. They also spend a large portion of its time to study and production of British Television and its history. Today, the BFI is headed by chief executive Amanda Neville, however the chair and board of 14 governors are in control of the majority of decision making within the institute. The BFI receives funding from three different sources. The first of which is the largest, in which public money is invested in culture, media and sport. The second is from commercial gain, for example the sales of DVDs. The third source is attained from a range of various sources, generally amounting to around £5 million. What is the role and remit of the BFI? The BFI generally concerns itself with the British film industry as a whole. This does not exclusively branch out to feature film, but various mediums of film. For example, it is also concerned with British television. They are heavily involved in the history of British cinema, with such facilities as a national achieve and formally a History of Cinema museum. In addition, they are involved with the educational side of filmmaking within Britain. They are very much involved in the current British film industry (especially the independent productions which may struggle to be made), from the financing of a film through lottery to its exhibition. They have several cinemas under their name, such as the Southbank cinema and more famously the BFI Imax (both in London), one of the British film industry’s most popular attractions. The BFI develop partnerships with other companies to help distribution and management of film. These partnerships exist within 4 principle types: Strategic partnerships (companies not funded by the BFI), Funded partnerships (companies funded by the BFI), Strategic Audience Development fund (lottery funding schemes) and Mediatheque partnerships, which allows users to watch a large range of compilations of films- 85% of which are unable to access elsewhere. In what respects and to what extent does the UK Film Council continue to exist as an institutional and cultural film body? Whilst the UK Film Council does not exist as an actual institution, it spiritually continues to exist through the BFI, which generally took up most of the responsibilities that the UK Film Council had. Short and Feature Films are still being funded by the Lottery scheme through the BFI, which was the most famous and notable of the BFI’s responsibilities. Therefore, through the UK
Film Council’s notable contribution to the industry being echoed through the BFI, what it stood for still exists. The same contribution towards the UK film culture exists today, which is perhaps more important than the name and institution of the UK Film Council. What were the Regional Screen Agencies (RSAs) that Film Council funding was delivered through? The Regional Screen Agencies were a series of development agencies which were stationed around the UK that encouraged different, durable media sectors around Great Britain. They worked with several media organisations in order to achieve this. These agencies were as follows: Creative England EM Media Film London Northern Film and Media Screen South Screen Yorkshire
How is funding for shorts handled now by the BFI? From September 2013, the BFI will fund Short Films through a new talent network being introduced in the same month. If a director or filmmaker has an initial idea for a film, they may submit an application online and then decisions will be made as to whether or not the BFI wants to fund this project or not. This method is already functioning for feature films. Has funding and support for shorts altered since the government's changes to the power structures of the national film agencies? Although the BFI may not run the same short film schemes that the UK Film Council did, they still support Short Films in a similar way. Funding is still run through Lottery and thus short films are still being made at a similar frequency than before. The BFI still runs schemes within the UK that helps support Short Film makers and making through funding. As a short filmmaker, what funds could you yourself apply for? As a short filmmaker, I could apply for a number of funds which help aspirational filmmakers. The 48 film challenge, which as the name suggests challenges short filmmakers to make a short film in 48 hours is an example of one of these. Others include Maya Vision: The Short Film Completion Fund (a higher budgeted scheme) and Figure 8, which challenges short film makers to shoot a film on a cartridge of 8mm.
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