This is proving to be a pivotal week for the £ 7million ($ 9.77million) UK Global Screen Fund (UKGSF).
Launched earlier this year by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) and the British Film Institute (BFI), the fund is widely seen as the UK government’s replacement for money disbursed by Creative Europe’s MEDIA program, which ended once Brexit entered into force.
A one-year pilot, the UKGSF is designed to be a new source of international distribution, business development and co-production for UK companies in the film, television, documentary, animation and entertainment industries. interactive.
The ambition is for the UKGSF to help the British Indies spread their wings on the world stage, not only with EU partners, but also with other international territories.
Earlier this week, the former executive vice president of corporate development of All3Media, Denitsa Yordanova, was appointed head of the UKGSF.
Grant applications are also open this week for one of UKGSF’s three main funding streams, focused on international co-production.
The investment in co-production strand aims to help UK companies become partners in international co-productions, by sharing intellectual property and income from film and television animation and documentary projects with audience potential (see below). below for more details).
Meanwhile, applications close next week (June 30) for the UKGSF strand focused on international distribution, which provides financial support to UK sales agents for the international promotion and sale of action film projects, British fiction and animated documentaries. Up to £ 60,000 for a single eligible ‘wrapped film’ or up to £ 10,000 for a single eligible ‘pre-sale film’ is available.
Shortly thereafter, on July 16, applications closed for the UK Global Screen Fund’s third component – the international business development component. This provides financial support for business strategies to create, acquire and / or exploit intellectual property to increase international revenue and profile. Non-repayable grants of between £ 50,000 and £ 200,000 are available for film, television, animation and interactive narrative video game businesses.
Along with financial support for UK indies, the UK Global Screen Fund will also launch a new international promotional campaign for UK screen content. Additional investments are planned for a new data center that aims to deliver international data so that financiers, content creators, sales agents and distributors can make more informed funding decisions.
The fact that the UK government released money for the UKGSF amid the COVID-19 crisis is in itself remarkable, says Neil Peplow, director of industry and international affairs at BFI, and reflects his belief in the growth potential of screen industries. The money comes from DCMS and the fund is administered by the BFI. Therefore, the focus is on business results, building partnerships and networks, and reaching audiences. “DCMS really put a lot of effort into getting that across the line,” says Peplow.
Bennett McGhee, co-founder of film and television production company Home Team, and producer of “Mogul Mowgli,” starring Riz Ahmed, says: “As a producer you are looking for as many fundraising opportunities as possible. We try to tell stories on an ambitious scale. The fund is another weapon in the arsenal of producers trying to finance projects.
Peplow says it is difficult to “replicate the scale of reciprocity” that is built into the Creative Europe MEDIA program. “What we could do is mirror the value chain and then look at each of the areas where the independent sector needs support – from developing international intellectual property to producing that content and then distributing it. “
Peplow points out that the UKGSF was created after extensive consultation with industry to determine their specific funding needs. He also stresses that this is a pilot year for the fund and that the hope is that a larger “multi-year settlement” for the UKGSF can be obtained during the next Treasury expenditure review.
The £ 7million will be allocated in a ‘fairly fluid’ manner between each of the key strands. Since the Fund is so new, the BFI will use the pilot year to judge where the demand will come from. Indeed, Peplow emphasizes that the first year of the fund will be mainly devoted to learning and adapting to the needs of the industry. “Especially in a COVID year, it’s hard to really judge what’s in the pipeline in terms of production and distribution. So we didn’t want to put a hard and fast amount into any of the funding rounds. “
The International Co-Production Stream, which opens this week, will provide a non-repayable grant of up to £ 300,000 per project. It is aimed at co-productions of “minority” feature films of any language and genre, including fiction, animation and documentary, which are co-produced with international partners, as well as minority or majority television co-productions in the world. animation and documentary. genres only, in all languages, which are co-produced with international partners.
The stream is open to experienced independent UK producers whose project must have raised at least 60% of overall funding and who must obtain, or have already secured, at least one other source of UK funding.
The ambition is to support international co-production projects with high export potential and international audiences, and to increase the visibility, level of financial and creative contribution, income and international track record of UK producers.
Attica Dakhil, UKGSF fund manager for production and business development, says business criteria will form a key basis for funding decisions, all with the aim of spurring international growth.
For Dakhil, it is “to support producers in developing their international partnerships, but also to participate in the co-production of collaborative projects that tell cross-border stories, and not only from a point of view but from a point of view. multilateral view ”.
Funding assessments will examine whether a sales agent is attached, or whether a distribution agreement or pre-sale is in place up to the amount of funding already secured. They will also assess the producer’s potential income, or whether this will help them gain visibility on the international stage.
Ultimately, the ambition is to support producers to internationalize, to build reciprocity and relationships with partners around the world. “There has been a compression of the independent sector, with changing business models and the way films are reaching audiences,” says Peplow. “International collaborations will become more important because they will give access to new sources of funding, as well as to different audiences. “
Building international networks takes time, recognizes Peplow. They are also to be based “at some point” on the UK screen industry or on partners providing minority partnership funding, he adds. Then in the future the partner will probably do the same for a UK project.
Dakhil says: “This will put UK producers in a better position internationally, as they will be able to offer something financially and creatively. “
Hot Property Films’ feature film and documentary producer Janine Marmot says the co-production component is of particular interest to her company and is delighted that documentaries are included in UKGSF’s scope. “Too often the documentary is treated like the poor cousin,” she said.
Marmot has been directing films for around 35 years and claims almost all of them are UK majority co-productions with UK talent and PIs. “I tend to go to European partners when I am more or less funded, with a small gap, explains Marmot. “I have worked with most of the European countries and it was a total pleasure and a real creative collaboration too. It’s frustrating, I’ve never been able to reciprocate – there have been so few minority co-productions outside the UK.
Marmot points out that many European funding agencies believe that it is good for the development of their producers to partner up as minority co-producers on other films. “As a production company, you get the creative and business experience of working with talent from abroad. This is a great opportunity to grow your business.
In addition to opening up other avenues for financing projects, co-production also means the diversity of narratives. Cross-collaboration leads to better creative results, Peplow believes. “It’s always good to have another point of view to inform the process, as it will allow you to understand how the international audience perceives a particular story. “