Update February 2018

In January we had a very positive meeting indeed with Ben Roberts (Director) and Natascha Wharton (Senior Executive) at the BFI Film Fund. Abigail, Gary and Joseph from the AAUK Advocacy Board went, along with Helen Brunsdon (Director) and Kate O’Connor (Executive Chair) from Animation UK (part of UK Screen Alliance). We’ve been liaising closely with Animation UK over our shared interests.

It was friendly, as we expected, but also very positive. We covered several important areas – the BFI NETWORK support for emerging talent, the upcoming contestable fund for children’s television, and need for support for ‘high end’ animated shorts. We’re looking forward to further discussions.

Meanwhile, BFI Southbank is celebrating Animation 2018 throughout the year. And the national celebration Anim18, led by Film Hub Wales, Chapter and the BFI Audience Network, is on its way.

Another great step in the right direction is that as part of Animation 2018, BFI and BBC 4 have launched a scheme that will commission low budget short animations films by student and emerging filmmakers. Deadline is 12 March. More information here.

Arts Council England 
We’ve heard back from Arts Council England. Their Chief Executive, Darren Henley, has written to reassure us:

that Arts Council England will continue to support animation, and individual animators, working within the artforms that we support, with an emphasis on creativity, innovation and experimentation.

And that they have adjusted their funding guidelines, which used to specify support for animation as being under the category “artists’ moving image”, so they now say:

We can support some types of animation projects through Project Grants. We can consider supporting artist-led animation involving our supported artforms that is not primarily intended for commercial film, commercial games or mass-market media distribution.

We’re not quite sure what “working within the artforms that we support” means. At the ACE briefing on Grants for the arts in 2016, ACE was very clear that they understood their remit to include animation practice beyond the confines of visual arts, so we’ll get back to Darren and ask for clarification.

Information about their Grants for the arts programme is here.
Our previous post following an ACE briefing on animation is here.

ACE survey: Is animation an art form?
Arts Council England is currently consulting on its next 10 year strategy. This is an important opportunity to let ACE know that we do consider animation to be part of the arts, particularly through their tick box survey, where one question asks people to say which art forms they “would you consider come under the umbrella term ‘arts, museums and libraries?” It’s great to see Animation as a separate category there.

We strongly encourage all AAUK members to take a couple of minutes to undertake the survey: https://aceconversation2018.ning.com/survey

Animation Alliance Advocacy Board
We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve put together a fine group of AAUK members to act as independent animation champions. They are:

Alys Scott Hawkins animator and co-founder of AnimatedDocumentary.com
Abigail Addison producer, Animate Projects
Kieran Argo animation programmer, Encounters
Emma Calder, animator
Iain Gardner animator, programmer Edinburgh International Film Festival
Jonathan Hodgson, animator
Birgitta Hosea animator
Ben Mitchell animator, Managing Director Skwigly
Samantha Moore animator
Edwin Rostron animator, writer and curator Edge of Frame
Kath Shackleton producer Fettle Animation
Gary Thomas producer and curator Animate Projects
Joseph Wallace animator, film and theatre director

Animation Alliance Facebook group
If you want to share things with other AAUK member, start up or join in our discussions, you can join the Animation Alliance Facebook group here.

BFI Animation Seminar 2017 with UK Screen Alliance: round up

The BFI and Animation UK invited the animation industry to a seminar at BFI Southbank on 20 April to look at key areas for the industry and its talent, including the impact the Animation Tax Relief has had on the industry, the BFI 2022 Strategy and how animation will be served by it, the BFI’s animation season in 2018, and the ambitions of the newly formed UK Screen Alliance.

Helen Brunsdon and Kate O’Connor – Directors of Animation UK (now part of UK Screen Alliance) – gave an overview of how they’re representing the Animation & Visualisation sector, and how, as well as stressing the economic value of the sector, their role is to champion its cultural importance both in the UK and internationally. It was heartening to hear them talk about how the UK is renowned for producing influential and memorable animation shorts and they flagged the pressing need for funding in the UK, so that the UK can continue to maintain its international reputation. A much welcomed acknowledgement by independent animators in the room. There was a hint that plans were afoot around this idea, and AAUK will follow this up with Animation UK.

Ben Roberts, Director of the BFI’s Film Fund gave an overview of how animation fits into the BFI 2022 strategy. (You can read the full strategy here). As we reported previously, the BFI is planning to open up its funding to filmmakers and storytellers beyond those looking to make feature length work for a cinema release. Roberts said they are looking at embracing non-commercial work, acknowledging new formats and platforms, taking out restrictions around length, “opening up the view of film and what film is”. The new guidelines are due to be launched this autumn, and – if they meet these stated ambitions – will hopefully open doors for independent animators to produce innovative and experimental work.

Roberts revealed that the BFI is considering fully funding some low budget projects that are progressive in terms of content, platform, made by ‘untested’ talent. They are also interested in developing talent from other fields, such as gallery artists wanting to move into filmmaking. Perhaps this could also potentially support animators to produce longer form work?

He also talked about the conversations that the BFI, Arts Council England and members of Animation Alliance have been having over the past few years and how this had challenged their preset notions about film and the type of work that “falls through the cracks” and is not currently supported by the BFI or Arts Council England – work that is non-commercial, short form, and not designed for the gallery space. He also briefly touched upon a cross-over programme that the BFI and Arts Council England are developing that would support film and video artists working in the non-narrative space to move into producing more narrative work, recognising that there was a gap in provision around this area. AAUK will be following up this understated announcement to clarify how this programme will also meet the needs of the independent animation sector.

The panel discussion about Animation Tax Relief touched on a couple of interesting points:

  • The work can be for all ages, not just family friendly film
  • The work can be distributed online, not just available for features and broadcast projects
  • There is no maximum or minimum expenditure rate so you could technically apply for a film that is £10,000 or less (though there’s a lot of paperwork so make sure it’s worth your while)

More on the scheme and the Cultural Test here.

The BFI Aardman Development Lab gave a somewhat cryptic update on how the three teams they’ve been working with over the last two years have been getting on developing feature animation scripts. Cryptic, as there was little they could reveal about their ideas and no visual material presented owing to the need to protect the projects’ IP.

There was a sense of some dismay from the audience that the three teams (made up of seven people) were all white and predominantly male, and that this intensive and expensive pilot will only yield three feature scripts that may or may not be optioned by Aardman or other companies at the end of the process. The likelihood of another round will be dependent on the commercial success of these films. Could the money have been better spent?

The day closed with a cheering presentation by Jez Stewart, Curator of Film & TV Non-Fiction, BFI, and all round champion of avant-garde animation, and BFI Lead Programmer, Justin Johnson. The excellent news is that 2018 will mark a celebration of UK animation by the BFI, including: a season at the BFI Southbank; the rerelease of classic animated feature When the Wind Blows (1986); a collection of animation programmes set to tour the UK and internationally; animations that have been restored and digitised made available on the BFI Player; and a new publication on British animation history penned by Stewart. Short animations will feature strongly, with films by revered animators including Alison de Vere, George Dunning, Joanna Quinn, Alan Kitching, Emma Calder, and Len Lye.


As well as acknowledging Britain’s rich history of animation making and its many ‘golden eras’, it’s crucial that animation retains its cultural importance today. Animation Alliance is going to continue to advocate and to lobby for support to develop, support and promote UK talent making animation today.

BFI 2022: their future plans. Now with added animation!

The BFI has published its new five year plan ‘designed to help shape the BFI’s next chapter for film, television, animation and the moving image generally’. And we think that even just from that phrase – acknowledging animation as something distinct – it’s very encouraging!

It’s a high level document – and it’s strategic, so about their ambitions, not necessarily the reality of what they’ll be able to do. But still.

They say ‘the riches of British animation’ will be an ongoing focus in their cultural programme, making available ‘comprehensive history of British animation featuring 275 films from the 19th century to the present day.’

And there are exciting prospects for animation production from the BFI Film Fund. In the next five years they say they’ll focus their work ‘across live-action fiction, animation and documentaries. ’ We’re not sure that leaves out..but again, animation is emphatically there.

They say they’ll ‘support work across different platforms and lengths to encourage creative filmmaking that expands the possibilities of storytelling and form’, and they’ll update eligibility criteria ‘specifically around length of work and the expectations of a theatrical release.’ They’ll ‘de-restrict’ their funds to allow them to support ‘certain non-theatrical, episodic, hour-long or other non feature-length work, a greater variety of animation and digital work, and narrative filmmaking on other platforms, including immersive and interactive work.’ Which sounds great for what a lot of us do.

A couple of other key things to note that might matter to us are their plan to devolve 25 per cent of all BFI production funding to decision-makers based outside London, and a commitment to a ten-year skills strategy with Creative Skillset.

It’s all here.