Article: New BFI/National Lottery £15m Audience Projects Fund will support UK independent exhibition and distribution sector

BFI has announced details of the new BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund, with £15m available over three years to support the UK exhibition and distribution sector to grow audiences for UK independent film and XR/broader screen work.

The open access Fund will support a wide range of ambitious, audience-facing activity of national scale, including multi-year and research and development projects. It will welcome applications from organisations that are focussed on increasing access and growing the engagement of audiences that are representative of the UK population.

The Fund is part of the BFI’s recently published 10-year strategy, Screen Culture 2033 which included a new 10-year BFI National Lottery Strategy and an initial three year Funding Plan (2023-2016), that sets out its vision to benefit the public and industry over the next decade. It will address one of the BFI National Lottery Strategy’s central objectives, in seeking to ensure everyone across the UK can experience a great range of screen culture.

The BFI’s An Economic Review of UK Independent Film, which helped inform the 10-year strategy, highlighted the need to consider measures to support UK independent films reaching audiences which would benefit exhibition and distribution.

Ben Luxford, BFI’s Head of UK Audiences, said: “At its simplest we want to connect great film and broader screen work with audiences, and to make sure audiences from all backgrounds across the UK can access and engage with a rich and diverse screen culture offer. We designed the fund so it is flexible and broad in scope and we encourage ambitious applications that are set to make an impact and address the priorities we identified with industry in our new strategy. We recognise the fragility of our sector and the numerous challenges it faces, and with this Fund – part of our wider support for audiences over the next three years – we want to ensure National Lottery good cause funding gives organisations the opportunity to take risks to grow new audiences, and to celebrate and champion fantastic screen culture.”

Wider choice of film

Supporting audience-facing activity, the Audience Projects Fund expects to make funding awards of between £20,000 and £200,000 depending on the scope and reach of the project, with an upper limit of £500,000 for projects of exceptional scale and ambition. Eligible applicants will need experience of film distribution, film exhibition or audience development activities in the UK. For research and development projects, applicants can apply for between £10,000 and £20,000. The Fund is focused on supporting activity that ensures people across the UK can access a wider choice of film and the moving image including stories that reflect their lives; helps to tackle social, economic, and geographic barriers for screen audiences in new and effective ways; empowers children and young people to develop their own relationships with a wider range of screen culture; and supports organisations to reduce their carbon footprint.

The BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund will open for applications on 4 November 2022, and is set to award funding for activity taking place from April 2023. The Fund builds on the success of the BFI Audience Fund delivered through BFI2022 which up until September 2022 had awarded over £30m across 378 projects supporting over 12.5m admissions. Like all activity from the BFI National Lottery Strategy, the BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund is set to deliver against the BFI’s three principles for National Lottery funding: equity, diversity and inclusion; UK-wide; and environmental sustainability.

The new BFI National Lottery Strategy guides how the BFI will invest approximately £45 million a year of National Lottery ‘good cause’ funding over the 10-year strategy. In the first three years, it will prioritise: £54 million for filmmakers; £34.2 million across education and skills; £27.6 million for audience development; £10 million for screen heritage work; £7.3 million across innovation and industry services; £3.2 million for international activity.

For audiences development, this includes £9.9m for the BFI Film Audience Network to support organisations and activity across the nations and regions to boost public and community access to screen culture; and a new BFI National Lottery Open Cinemas initiative investing £2.7m to support free screenings in independent cinemas to be launched later in 2023 following consultation with the sector; as well as the £15m for the BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund.

Screen Culture 2033, the BFI National Lottery Strategy 2023-2033 and the BFI National Lottery Funding Plan 2023-2026 can be found at

+ Screen Culture

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