Magazine article Variety

Funder Aims to Develop Family Pix, Laffers, Toons

Magazine article Variety

Funder Aims to Develop Family Pix, Laffers, Toons

Article excerpt

BFI Film Fund director Ben Roberts says a key area of the org's focus is developing talent and projects, with 150 funding opportunities planned each year.

"Development is the bedrock," says Roberts. "We talk about areas where the U.K. is underdeveloped. Everyone says, 'Where are our animation, comedy, family films? Why aren't you supporting them?' but we're not getting them. That's a development issue. There's a cost to comedy writing, so we have to understand those costs. There's a paucity of people writing for family; we need to understand what the development issues are."

The rise in BFI spending will encompass different areas. "This year we are spending about £14 million ($22.5 million) on production and about $6.4 million on development," says Roberts, who adds that such spending will likely grow to roughly $11 million next year.

John McVay, chief executive of U.K. trade association Pact, says development funding will be key to the U.K's independent sector. Although private funding for development in the U.K. is increasing, often via tax incentives, the majority of such coin still comes from the BFI and broadcasters BBC Films and Film4.

Film4 is one of the largest providers of development funding, spending approximately 15%-20% of its $16 million-$24 million overall annual budget on front-end coin. "Nearly half our team is involved in development," says Tracey Josephs, Film4's head of production. "There has been a marked increase in (this) activity in the past couple of years." Josephs says development spending at Film4 in the past year has reached nearly $4.8 million. Ben Wheatley's "Sightseers," which unspooled at Toronto, was developed by shingle Big Talk with money from Film4 and the BFI Film Fund.

BBC Films' Joe Oppenheimer says few distributors get involved so early in the production process, and most production companies aren't resourced for such spending. …

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