The business of film
The business of film

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The business of film

1.3 Why there is public funding for film: culture

As you have learned, governments all over the world fund films on a discretionary basis. Now Ben Roberts of the BFI will explain why some films get funded and others don’t.

Again, note the difference between the way a public funder approaches these decisions and the way a producer or distributor thinks of them.

Ben is being very frank here, and that’s to his credit, but imagine what you would think as a producer if you came to understand that your film was ‘in the wrong year’.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 4 Ben talks about why public funding for film is important
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Transcript: Video 4 Ben talks about why public funding for film is important

BEN ROBERTS
 I think that BFI is quite unique internationally as an organisation that looks after everything, from archive, having a film theatre, right through to an investment in film production, that's often work that is split up across various different bodies in any given country. I think we're very lucky in the UK, because in addition to the tax relief, which is based on points and a cultural test, and automatic in terms of your ability to access tax relief on a production, we also have a lottery fund, which is more creatively curated.
 So in addition to a tax relief, which everybody can get, we have a fund and we have a team of people who are paid to actually nurture certain film-makers to creatively develop pieces of work which distinguishes itself from automatic funds, which most countries have a version of, the sorts of tax incentives to encourage people to go and make films there, and just to stimulate a film-making economy. By having a fund that's also very creatively driven means that we should, in theory and hopefully in practise, be able to push certain film-makers that we think can do exceptionally well in their craft to go to a little bit further, take some risks, Lottery money's good cause money.
 So it's risky money, it's investing in risky endeavours, and risk is a good thing. What sometimes gets lost from the BFI's story, is that we look after the largest film and television archive in the world, and that goes back 80 or more years. Huge collection of films which are not just films and TV, which are not just British, but from around the world. We represent a lot of that work at the BFI South Bank, which is the national cinematheque on the South Bank in London. We run a film festival in London in the autumn, we run a lesbian and gay film festival in the spring, and we publish Sight and Sound magazine, which talks about contemporary and historic film.
 So the broadest possible role of the BFI is to just make sure that the value of film, both its cultural value, what it says about us as people, what film is is a record of life, and moments in history, politics, perhaps. Is actually interesting for all of us, and film's quite- it's not unique, but it's quite special in that way, because it's very authored work. So you've got someone telling you something that they think about a moment in time through storytelling.
 What's interesting for us now is that in 2011, I think, or '12, about four or five years ago, the BFI I took on the broadest possible role of looking after the promotion and the creation of new film work in the UK, and that has principally come through taking on the role of lottery distributer for film. When I came to the BFI, I was placed on the fifth floor in our building here in London, opposite the Archive Team.
 So we were sat next to each other, which was- reminded you every day that what you are doing in terms of contemporary film development, and production, and developing new talent, was at some point going to need to sit alongside and justify itself in an archive and continue to tell that story of culture and Britain through film.
End transcript: Video 4 Ben talks about why public funding for film is important
Video 4 Ben talks about why public funding for film is important
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