The business of film
The business of film

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The business of film

3 What does the public funder look for?

In this video you hear from one of the key sources of development finance in the UK for established and emerging film-makers. Ben Roberts, who you met first in Week 1, is Head of Film Fund for the BFI.

He has a fund of £27 million to support film development, production and distribution. The BFI is one of three key sources of public funding for film in the UK.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 6 Ben Roberts talks about public funders
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Transcript: Video 6 Ben Roberts talks about public funders

The big difference between us and the two broadcasters, Film4 and the BBC, is that we're not a commissioner. What we do instead is we respond to ideas that come to us through an application process. So no one can get money from us without applying for the money.
We fund talent that's at different stages of their career. And we invest quite a lot of money in short film-making, or the development of the film-maker and the idea, up to the point at which they've made their first film. We look at a lot of work that exists from that film maker to get a sense of their particular approach, their particular style, where their skills lie. And if we're looking at a feature film project that is a comedy, for example, and that film-maker has only ever made three rather disturbing violent horror films, I think you look at those two things together and want to identify what it's going to mean they can turn from horror to comedy.
 Whereas, if someone's made three very funny short films and they have a script that's equally funny, you can see the read across.
The thing we're looking for most of all is the different ideas, so the things that are not entirely derivative of 10 things that have existed before, because there's a lot of film-making that is designed to please as many people as possible. So you have very, very commercial film-making, which is looking to satisfy everyone. And that becomes quite repetitive, we can all identify similarities in those types of mainstream films. What we're looking for is ideas and film-makers who are doing something unusual.
 And that just means them having a very different tone of voice, approaching ideas from a different angle, writing in a particular way, and that's what I'd say as a team excites us the most, when you read something or you see something that you feel like you've never seen before.
End transcript: Video 6 Ben Roberts talks about public funders
Video 6 Ben Roberts talks about public funders
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Ben Roberts outlines an approach to film development and films that have – in his words – ‘a different tone of voice’.

From his point of view, there are wider economic and cultural factors to consider when deciding on what film projects or film-makers to develop. Success is just as much about developing the film-making talent as the film itself. The two go hand-in-hand.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 7 Ben Roberts talks about measuring success
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Transcript: Video 7 Ben Roberts talks about measuring success

It won't surprise you that we are constantly measuring ourselves. So we measure ourselves in lots of different ways. I'd say we do measure ourselves on people enjoying the films that we're involved in making, because obviously no one is making anything to exist in a vacuum.
 So we do up so we can measure it on the positive responses to the work, and that could be a very positive critical response, positive response from film festivals, and ultimately we want to see some of the films that we're investing in define the odds if you like, in terms of the creative risks that they've taken and finding an audience anyway, because that's very satisfying when you- that's proof of concept if you like, that you can take risks, and people will respond to the fact that you've taken risks. So that's absolutely a measure of success.
 I'd say another one is just people having careers, because there's quite a steep drop off from film-makers who make their first film to those who make their second. I mean statistically it's very high. It's in the sort of 70 percent, 80 percent range of people who go from making their first to having an opportunity to making their second. So for us, a big measure of success is those film-makers who we've supported on the debut film coming back around, and making a second, and hopefully a third and then a fourth. And that's again, where we sort see our support really helping people correct mistakes from their first film, and staying with them a little bit longer. So that's a measure of success.
And then we have a very personal response to the film that we're involved in as well. Do we just- have they made good on their promise? This is the brilliant thing about film-making, that you- on paper anything is possible. You imagine your own version of what that film is going to be, and between that script stage and seeing the film a million things could, and probably will get in the way of that perfect version of the film being delivered. So a big measure success for us is sitting back, watching the film at a completed stage, and it bearing some positive resemblance to what we all hoped it would be.
End transcript: Video 7 Ben Roberts talks about measuring success
Video 7 Ben Roberts talks about measuring success
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