UK gov’t praises film and TV scheme as new report calls for “overhaul” of doc industry

The UK government touted its film and TV restart scheme today (Feb. 2), declaring some 19,460 jobs in the sector have been protected by the £500 million (US$603 million) program ...
February 2, 2021

The UK government touted its film and TV restart scheme today (Feb. 2), declaring some 19,460 jobs in the sector have been protected by the £500 million (US$603 million) program first announced in July.

More than 160 productions used the temporary scheme to protect against losses related to COVID-19. The program also supported over £680 million of economic activity, according to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

The Film and TV Production Restart Scheme, part of the federal government’s Plan for Jobs, officially launched in October.

Productions can still register for the scheme until April 2021. Funding is available to productions made by companies where at least half of the production budget is spent in the UK, among other criteria.

The news comes as the University of the West of England Bristol (UWE Bristol) published a new report calling for a radical overhaul of the UK documentary film industry.

Making it Real: A Policy Programme for UK Documentary Film follows Keeping it Real: Towards a Documentary Film Policy for the UK, published last summer. Both reports are part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded UK Feature Docs project.

Related: Sheffield ’20 panelists talk “Keeping it Real” report, making “radical” changes to the UK doc sector

Based on a survey of 200 UK non-fiction producers and directors, Keeping it Real found a “chronic” lack of funding, support and coordination in the sector.

The new report sets out detailed plans to reverse what UWE Bristol called a funding crisis, as well as address structural inequality and “re-balance the relationship between production, distribution and exhibition.”

It represents the sector’s response to findings from Keeping it Real in light of global events including the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The policy program outlined in the report includes the creation of a Documentary Film Council comprised of representatives from across the industry, in addition to measures designed to boost funding.

Those measures range from major interventions such as a Documentary Tax Relief and a 2% levy on SVOD turnover, to increasing the proportion of the British Film Institute’s funds ring-fenced for documentary, ring-fencing funds for documentary in the new Global Screen Fund, standardizing application processes and improving transparency around funding decisions.

Making it Real consists of seven overlapping areas: diversity, equity and inclusion; sector development; training, education and research; funding and production; broadcast; exhibition and distribution; and screen heritage.

To assist with the process of implementing the recommendations, UWE Bristol is applying for further funding from the AHRC to seed fund the new organization structure of the sector and ensure those involved in implementing the proposals are remunerated for their work.

Photo courtesy the University of West England Bristol

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