BFI announces Vision Awards. No animation production companies on the list.

A disappointing result for animation with the BFI’s announcement of the recipients of its 2016-18 Vision Awards to ‘up-and-coming’ UK producers. 22 companies are getting up to £50,000 a year, for two years, supporting them to build and develop their companies, slates and creative relationships. Read the announcement in Screen Daily here.

Eight of the 22 are based outside London. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland get one Award each. Manchester gets one. No one else in England outside Yorkshire and the Humber.

Chris Hees, producer of the Oscar-nominated, BAFTA-winning animated short The Bigger Picture was successful, though he looks to be moving to live action projects. Cardiff based ie ie Productions has an animated feature on its slate.

There are no animation production companies on the list.

BFI 2022 Consultation

As promised, here’s a draft of our submission to the BFI 2022 consultation.

The questions are quite general, and we’re not saying anything we haven’t said before. And BFI has already committed to define its remit and responsibilities with regards to animation, and to do some further informal sector consultation, as part of this consultation, and to consider its ongoing support for animation as part of this.

If you’ve got any comments or suggestions, please get back to us by 3 September at animationalliance@me.com

Meanwhile: we very strongly encourage you to make your own submission. It doesn’t have to be lengthy. You don’t have to answer every question. Here’s the link: http://www.bfi.org.uk/2022/

 

BFI 2022 consultation
Animation Alliance UK draft submission

PART ONE

Supporting the moving image in all its forms

  1. Which forms of moving image, if any, should be given more attention and support by the BFI?

You should give animation more attention and support.

We strongly endorse an approach that better reflects and responds to how people are creating moving image, and how people are engaging with it, today. We think suggest it is important to consider how these diverse forms are rarely discrete and wholly distinct from one another other, or for that matter, from feature film production.

As we have mentioned in previous correspondence, animation is the predominant digital visual form, inherently cross-platform, and a core component of digital form and culture, and Animation Alliance UK members are active across and between all of ‘TV, video games, interactive media, virtual reality and online content.‘

BFI recognises the cultural value of independent animation through your support for festivals. As we have mentioned previously, the sums of money required to underpin a vibrant independent animation sector are relatively very small indeed, especially in relation to the potential cultural and reputational returns on any investment.

  1. Are there any areas or forms of the moving image in which the BFI should not be involved? Why?

Generally, BFI takes a considered approach to this – supporting the development and production of cultural film (our concerns at lack of support for independent animation notwithstanding), whilst considering the cultural and creative value of more commercial forms, such as advertising and music video, through your archive, exhibition and education work.

  1. What can the BFI do to support innovation in creation, distribution, and exhibition now that the distinctions between film, television and other forms of the moving image as art are increasingly fluid?

As we have mentioned to you previously, the Warwick Commission’s report, Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth, noted that ‘the points of connection between the Cultural and Creative Industries are where the potential for greatest value creation resides – culturally, socially and economically’ and that ‘insufficient attention has been paid to the synergies between the interlocking sectors of the Cultural and Creative Industries Ecosystem. There is already a flow of talent, ideas, and public and private investment across and between the Cultural and Creative Industries’.

Animation practice sits at the nexus of this interchange. The Warwick Commission’s recommendation that ‘this flow needs to now be better identified and encouraged’ and the warning that ‘not enough is being done to stimulate or realise the creative potential of individuals, or to maximise their cultural and economic value to society’ could not apply more strongly, and critically, than they do to animation.

It is in independent animation that much innovation and diversification around digital content, forms and distribution is taking place, and where the commercial and cultural interconnect and cross-pollinate. The Accelerate Animation Report (2013, Animate Projects/Jerwood Charitable Foundation/Arts Council England) mapped the the changing landscape of current animation image practice.

We hope that you will seek to identify and encourage this flow through greater engagement with creative practitioners.

  1. We support many aspects of moving image culture, such as its heritage, creators, audiences and study. Have you any views on where you think our priorities should lie?

It is an ecology. Prioritising any one of those above the others means than soon, everything is diminished.

PART TWO

Diversity is the heart of creativity

  1. What emphasis should the BFI place on a commitment to diversity?
  1. There are many elements to diversity, such as social background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or geographical location. Should the BFI focus on some elements more than others? If so, which and why?

We think this is an odd question, and cannot think why one ‘element’ might be privileged over another, other than to redress particular imbalance.

You don’t mention age or gender: sustaining any kind of career in cultural moving image is a challenge for anyone. For animation, we think experience should be valued and that any focus on younger/emergent talent should be balanced by support for established animators, and steps to assist people to resume careers after having children.

  1. What is the biggest thing the BFI could do to enable a lasting and positive change on diversity in the UK screen industries?

PART THREE

Championing the arts of film, television and the moving image

  1. Thinking about schools, colleges and universities, what, if anything, should be done to increase the use of film in study and the study of film itself?
  1. What do you think of the level of provision and cultural range of film and moving image in venues near you (cinemas, arts centres, libraries, places of learning?) And what would you like to watch and experience in those venues?
  1. In your experience, is it easy to find British independent and world cinema online?

Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree

  1. Relating to question 3, is there more that the BFI could do?
  1. Do you think the BFI should do more to make our film, television and moving image heritage available to the public?

Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree

  1. Relating to question 5, what should we do?
  1. What, if anything, should the BFI do to encourage people to watch more British films?

PART FOUR

Delivering across the UK

  1. What can we do to improve careers in film, TV and moving image, particularly for those outside of London and the South East of England?

For independent animation, doing anything for animators wherever they are would be a start. The Accelerate Animation Report found that 60% of independent animators are based outside London.

  1. What, if anything, should the BFI do to spread its funding more evenly across the UK?
  1. What, if anything, should the BFI do to support the growth of screen industries outside London and the South East?
  1. What more can the BFI do to promote UK talent, business and culture internationally?

Despite the lack of public funding for animation, the success of British animation – student work, studio and self-funded films – at the BAFTAs, Oscars, and international festivals – is testament to both the quality and determination of British artistic talent. We welcome the support for animators to attend festivals that BFI offers, through the British Council scheme.

We think there is much more that might be done, for example, providing advice and guidance on co-production that addresses the particular needs of short form/independent productions.

PART FIVE

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Animation Alliance UK has nearly 300 members, including many award winning animators and artists, as well as producers, festival programmers and curators, working across the breadth of moving image.

We are allied to Animation UK and Animated Women UK and we have many members in common, and shared concern. Animation Alliance UK’s focus is on animation as independent practice and cultural form.

As you know, we have long standing concerns, echoed in our submissions to Lord Smith’s Film Policy Review in 2011, and your Film Forever consultation in 2012. Before that, in 2003, a previous association of independent animators, the Animation Network, made a similar submission to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

We welcome the initiatives to support animation feature filmmaking that have been introduced since 2011: the tax credits to support children’s television animation; the BFI Aardman Development Lab; the Vision Awards for animation studios; and the BFI Film Fund development support for animation features.

However, there remains a lack of support for other forms of animation: for experiment, innovation and creative risk and it is still true that, in England, ‘independent animation seems to languish in a chasm between the responsibilities and remit of Arts Council England and BFI.’

In 2013, Arts Council England and BFI acknowledged in 2013 their need ‘to undertake joint research and consultation to understand the animation ecology across film and arts’. In 2013, you tweeted that animation sector R&D was underway and that there would be shorts and targeted development schemes coming soon.

So, following our meeting with BFI and Arts Council England in December 2015, we welcome BFI’s commitment to define its remit and responsibilities with regards to animation, and to do some further informal sector consultation, as part of the BFI 2022 consultation, and to also consider your ongoing support for animation as part of this.

We hope that finally, something will be done. We believe that your work to define your remit and responsibilities with regards to animation has to be informed by an understanding of the sector that can only come from a fuller, more meaningful engagement than has happened to date.

 

Update from Arts Council England on their Action Points

A bit of a disappointing response from Arts Council England to our request for an update on what they promised to do ie consult with the animation sector.

Our response, to their response, below…

2 August 2016

Dear Gary

Thank you for your email.

I have spoken to colleagues who met with you in December and include below the action points agreed in the email they sent you following that meeting, with brief updates against each:

– ACE to do some sector consultation with animation practitioners and organisations (as part of its stakeholder consultation in 2016) in order to identify the needs of the sector.

ACE has now completed its stakeholder consultation on our investment strategy from 2018 to 2022.  We ensured that the opportunity to contribute was highlighted to you and we appreciated you including it in an Animation Alliance UK members’ newsletter so that animation practitioners and organisations were aware of the consultation and had the chance to contribute.  We do not have further plans for consultation with the sector.

– ACE to define its remit and responsibilities with regards to animation.

In response to the consultation exercise we have published a number of proposals; these include: 

Changes to Grants for the Arts

We will:

         Clarify eligibility and application criteria for creative industries, creative media and digital activity to ensure our investment is able to support a wider range of creative practice that delivers public benefit.

We will consider animation within this. We anticipate that the new Grants for the Arts & Culture programme will open in January 2018.

– ACE to explore how we can support animation through our existing funds, namely Grants for the arts.

We recognise that we have a low number of animation related applications currently coming in to GFTA. We will therefore explore how we can improve the advice we can give to the animation sector.  The London Visual Arts team will lead on this.  Please note the team has limited capacity for Grants for the Arts advice following our 2013 restructure and therefore the main strategy will be identifying key individuals or organisations who they can inform about Grants for the Arts who will then disseminate information to the wider sector.

You should also note that as part of current work to update  the BFI and ACE roles and responsibilities, BFI and ACE will also be considering animation within our arts and film remits, to inform the new BFI strategy 17-22 and the Arts Council’s investments in this area for the period 2018-22.

Best wishes

Darren

Darren Henley OBE
Chief Executive
Arts Council England

 

Our reply…

18 August 2016

Dear Darren

Thank you for you email of 2 August 2016, in response to our request for an update on the Arts Council England actions promised following the meeting on 11 December 2015.

Whilst we welcome that the Arts Council is considering including animation in is remit and guidelines from 2018, your email does raise some concerns.

On the specific points, you said Arts Council England would:

Do some sector consultation with animation practitioners and organisations (as part of its stakeholder consultation in 2016) in order to identify the needs of the sector.

It is disappointing to now hear that what you meant by this was that animation practitioners and organisations could simply take part in the general stakeholder consultation on Arts Council England’s investment strategy from 2018 to 2022.

This was a broad consultation requesting feedback on your investment proposals, with general and open-ended questions. It could not have been sufficient to ‘identify the needs of the sector’ for animation, and is surely not an acceptable way to go about identifying the particular needs of animation, any more than it would have been for, say, contemporary dance, orchestras, opera, jazz, puppetry, etc.

As we wrote to Arts Council England back in 2012, consultation with the sector would be necessary if the then mooted partnership with the BFI was to be informed and meaningful. The eventual meeting with ACE and BFI in December 2015 was something of a filibuster, but we were encouraged by what we thought was a sincere intention to consult with the animation sector; it seems that you are reneging on that promise.

Define your remit and responsibilities with regards to animation.

It is great to hear that you will consider animation when you clarify eligibility and application criteria for the new Grants for the Arts & Culture programme.

But by ‘remit and responsibilities’ we thought you meant something broader than just in relation to Grants for the Arts. After all, as we’ve mentioned before, Arts Council England and BFI acknowledged in 2013 their need ‘to undertake joint research and consultation to understand the animation ecology across film and arts’.

Also, again, it remains unclear as to how you might define your remit and responsibilities with regards to animation without an understanding of the sector that could only come from a fuller, more meaningful engagement with the sector.

Explore how you can support animation through existing funds, namely Grants for the arts.

It is 17 months before the new programme opens, so your intention to improve the advice you can give in the meantime, for the existing Grants for the Arts scheme, is very welcome, and we expect this needs to happen with some urgency.

We trust you will ensure that the key individuals or organisations identified to undertake this work on your behalf will be credible; we caution that appropriate knowledge and expertise does not exist within the current National Portfolio.

In your final paragraph, you mention that we should note that BFI and Arts Council England will be working together as you establish your respective remits.

That is, of course, welcome, and we have flagged its importance with our members. You first announced a partnership with BFI back in 2013 and since then we have waited for a timeline of how this would roll out, so an indication as to when and how this work will take place, and how it will be informed, would be welcome.

As we said in our submission to the general stakeholder consultation, Arts Council England can seem an impenetrable organisation, and there is a general sense that it does not understand the independent animation sector and the distinctiveness and value of our creative practice. To deliver your action points we had expected there would be more detailed, sector specific, targeted conversations, with animation organisations, artists and practitioners, and still hope that these might take place as you develop the investment plan for 2018-2022.

Best wishes

Gary

Gary Thomas
for Animation Alliance UK