The New British Film Policy

About this project
Philip Schlesinger
Lead investigator(s):
- Prof Philip Schlesinger

Start Date: 1st January 2015
End Date: 31st December 2016


Project description

Aside from its intrinsic interest and major policy-relevance, this project is intended to fill a gap in CREATe’s programme of work, which has not to date covered film policy. While, for instance, fields such as music, games, book publishing and fashion are being covered by CREATe WPs, the relationship between film policy and film production is not currently being researched in the consortium (although some pertinent work on behavioural economics related to film consumption has been undertaken and other work on archives is under way).

Following the abolition of the UK Film Council in 2010, the UK Coalition government initiated a new phase of policy in 2011. The UKFC’s closure marked a turning-point in the aspirations for film policy, and involved a reconfiguration of the bodies intended to realize the objectives set in the period.

Current UK film policy is particularly interesting because it has been significantly reformulated in light of the restructuring of the agency landscape, putting the BFI into lead position and loading it with numerous expectations. The policy landscape changed in other respects, with Film London charged with encouraging inward investment – which, in the case of financial commitments made by the US studios constitutes arguably the key driver of the entire British film industry. Creative England was set up to replace the regional screen agencies and to endeavour to ensure that there is some decentralization of production in England, along with the work of the national agencies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. To date, no in-depth research has been conducted on this institutional shift to assess its functioning, priorities and consequences for film production and copyright.

The government commissioned The Film Policy Review Panel’s (FPRP) report. A future for British film (2012) set out an ambitious new framework for film policy, largely endorsed by the UK government in The Government’s Response (2012). A number of key issues signalled in the FPRP report are highly pertinent to CREATe’s programme of work. The proposal in this WP is to consider the role of intervention in support of the indigenous film business model and to address any questions concerning copyright that are currently arising among film producers.

The FPRP set the broad frame for the strategy subsequently adopted by the BFI, after being endorsed by the DCMS. The BFI’s approach was set out in Film Forever (2012) and its performance will be crucial to the success or failure of the new film policy. The BFI has enumerated its own measures of success, which offer an obvious point of access for a public policy-focused study such as this. In the Triennial Review of the British Film Institute (2014), the DCMS has endorsed its new role and found that on the whole it was functioning efficiently. This has focused on organisational transition since 2011. While controversy about film has largely subsided since the change of government, there has been no sustained academic interrogation of the new turn, what it has achieved to date and might do in the future. 

Given the two-year duration of this WP, which starts in January 2015, it will be feasible to assess policy developments from 2011-16. It will also be possible to consider any implications for film policy in the event of a change of government following the general election of May 2015, as well as of decisions pertinent for film policy in the nations, following the Smith Commission’s report in on Scottish devolution early in 2015.

One key structural change following the abolition of the UKFC was the setting up of the Film Fund as the production-funding arm of the BFI. How this is working will be central to this inquiry, as will the role of Creative England.

Most pertinent for our concerns will be the funding of British films and British talent and the outcomes for this sector of the creative economy as well as the goal of increasing the total level of inward investment and exports (largely focused on the US, but also, increasingly, China and Brazil). It will be of added interest to see whether – in light of commitments given – there will be a renewed ‘European turn’ in film policy, which has been neglected for the past decade. Of particular pertinence here is how State Aid provisions are handled in respect of co-productions.

Film production is occurring in the context of changing models in the wider audiovisual ecology and as VOD assumes an ever-larger role for audiences, it will also be of interest to see to what extent new distribution models – such as Netflix – are shaping producers’ concerns.

The project is intended to engender direct engagement and knowledge exchange with stakeholders in this key industrial and policy sector.

Aims and objectives

  • The research will analyse the rationale and implementation of the new film policy set out in 2012 with a particular focus on business models and copyright.
  • The project will identify key players involved in policy formation and the interests that are being brought to bear in shaping the policy agenda.
  • The project will conduct interviews with key players in film production and case studies will be identified during the scoping phase, January-June 2015.