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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
Diversity is the heart of creativity
1. What emphasis should the BFI place on a commitment to diversity?
2. 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 privilged 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.
3. What is the biggest thing the BFI could do to enable a lasting and positive change on diversity in the UK screen industries?
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?
2. 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?
3. In your experience, is it easy to find British independent and world cinema online?
Strongly agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly disagree
4. Relating to question 3, is there more that the BFI could do?
5. Do you think the BFI should do more to make our film, television and moving image heritage available to the public?
6. Relating to question 5, what should we do?
7. What, if anything, should the BFI do to encourage people to watch more British films?
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.
2. What, if anything, should the BFI do to spread its funding more evenly across the UK?
3. What, if anything, should the BFI do to support the growth of screen industries outside London and the South East?
We note that not one of the BFI Vision Awards 3 recipients is an animation producer.
4. 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.
British Council/BFI travel grants are available to short film makers, but the UK has no official presence at the main European and North American showcases for animation at Annecy and Ottawa.
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; we have members in common, and shared concerns. 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.’
There are direct funding schemes for animation in 11 EU countries. A glance at what Ireland and Canada do for animation should shame the 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 your promise to do some further sector consultation, as part of the BFI 2022 consultation, and to consider your ongoing support for animation as part of this.
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 you do not have, and which can only come from a fuller, more meaningful engagement than has happened to date.