BFI Aardman Animation Development Lab launched

The BFI Aardman Animation Development Lab, launched on 3 October, will offer support and professional, hands-on experience to emerging talent with a passion for creating animated family films. With £1,000,000 of Lottery funding, it will provide funding for up to two years, to three filmmakers or filmmaker teams (writers, directors, producers) to develop their projects with dedicated development support through the Lab.

The programme was flagged in the BFI’s Film Forever five year plan, announced in 2012, although Aardman’s involvement didn’t seem explicit at the time. As we said back then, three teams over two years doesn’t seem a lot, but more of a concern for AAUK members might be that the model seems to simply replicate the live action development model and also suggests that Aardman is the only show in town (or the UK..) for animated features. As AAUK knows…our members include innovative and capable studios who are already nurturing UK animation writing and directing talent, but are effectively excluded from this programme.

[A small group of AAUK members met with the BFI Film Fund back in 2012, and AAUK was contacted as part of a consultation on animated feature development – but that was after the Film Forever announcement, and we’re not aware of any other consultation with our part of the animation sector by either BFI or Arts Council England. If they’ve been in touch with any members, we’d love to hear about the discussions..]


Update: Arts Council England’s commitment to animation

To recap…back in 2011, in one of her webchats, Liz Forgan, then Chair of Arts Council England, answered an AAUK query about their support for animation. She told us they were having discussions about an ACE/BFI partnership “as work crosses over… particularly in animation…”. And last November we were very pleased when ACE Chief Executive, Alan Davey, said (in his webchat) that the Arts Council is “committed to supporting animation” and that they would work together with the BFI “to further support animators in both development, production, networking and knowledge sharing in 2014/15″.

He promised that more details would follow in early 2014, but things went a bit quiet…so in August we asked Alan for an update. He told us that ACE continues to be engaged in detailed conversations with the BFI but that a discussion about animation has yet to take place and that it is now not going to happen until 2015/16. That’s disappointing, but could be simply because it’s part of much bigger discussions, rather than animation falling off their agenda.

At least a partnership finally exists and ACE has shared with us their new ACE/BFI Public Value Agreement, to run from 2013–2017, which recognises that the two organisations share “a strong commitment to increasing public engagement in culture, supporting excellence, developing creative talent and contributing to the vibrancy of the UK’s creative economy”.

ACE tells us that initially an Action Plan was being developed alongside the Agreement, but they found that, given “the range and scale of work on which [they] could focus, more work was needed to produce a jointly agreed and targeted action plan”. So, the first year of the partnership will be a foundation year “to allow our teams to become more familiar with each other’s activities and plans and use 2014/15 to scope a programme of work with the BFI to cover 2015-17”.

Again, whilst this delay might be frustrating, it could be sensible: the draft plans were seriously ambitious, and it will be important to get right things right. For film and moving image generally, they intend to “map the territory… increase public engagement” and to set out “to support innovation in creative talent, content, audience engagement and business models across our sectors”, with a new fund and a professional skills development and mentoring programme to support new creative media, art and film innovation”. For animation specifically, the draft plan stated their intention “to develop a policy position for animation in England and the UK, providing policy clarity and funding information to artists, filmmakers and producers working in animation” and committed “to undertake joint research and consultation to understand the animation ecology across film and arts and publish our policy position”.

So it seems, overall, a positive and steady step in the right direction. We will continue to monitor how this progresses and keep the Alliance informed!

[We’re not aware that Arts Council England has consulted anyone in the sector. If they’ve been in touch with any members, we’d love to hear about the discussions.]

BFI Animation Day

Following the introduction of the animation tax reliefs, the BFI is presenting a day of panels and presentations for the animation sector. Covering key themes such as: the animation cultural test, co-production, tax reliefs, financing and support for the animation sector.

It’s particularly addressing the tax breaks for animation for broadcast that have been introduced recently, and it should be a good opportunity to find out what all that offers, not just for children’s tv.

See the invitation here:

Sign up via the Eventbrite link: