BFI CEO Ben Roberts on Edinburgh Film Festival closure and “naive” tweets: “We don’t have funds for crisis support organizations” — London Film Festival


The 16th Film London Production Finance Market opened on Tuesday morning with a keynote speech featuring BFI CEO Ben Roberts, who detailed his 10-year funding plan for British cinema and the financial challenges facing the industry, including the recent closure of the Edinburgh Film Festival. .

“Edinburgh is seen as a canary in the coal mine in terms of rising costs and the impact this is having on the exhibition sector,” Roberts said when told of the situation.

Roberts was speaking on the day it became known that in September Creative Scotland had warned the Scottish government about Edinburgh’s financial difficulties, but assistance from public money was ruled out.

Later during the keynote speech, Roberts went on to say that the BFI is in touch with its exhibition partners. But he was firm in his conclusion that the BFI does not have enough financial resources to save Edinburgh or other cultural organizations in similar need.

“We do not have the means to provide crisis support to organizations that are in a difficult situation. We just don’t have enough resources. Edinburgh is further complicated by the fact that the cultural exhibition has been moved to Scotland,” he said.

As part of the devolution process, which transfers certain powers from the UK central government to countries and regions in the United Kingdom, the Scottish Government is engaged in financing and preserving local culture.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her government would engage with Edinburgh City Councils and Creative Scotland to consider “whether there is any support” that could be provided after the trustees in charge of the Centre for the Moving Image (CMI), the charity that runs Edinburgh an international film festival, appointed by the administrators last week.

CMI also operates the popular Filmhouse Cinema in Edinburgh and the Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen. Both theaters and the Edinburgh Film Festival have stopped trading at the request of the administration. CMI said in a statement that the “perfect storm” of rising costs and declining hospital admissions due to the pandemic has been exacerbated by the current cost-of-living crisis.

Later in the conversation, Roberts referred to a controversial tweet he posted after news broke about the Edinburgh administration, which said he had been “absolutely hammered” by critics.

In a tweet, Roberts said he was “thinking” about EIFF, Filmhouse and Belmont, “sorry for those who lost their jobs,” and added that he hoped “that the form of cultural cinema can continue for their viewers.”.

Roberts was immediately criticized. Dave Calhoun, Time Out’s content director, for example, called the tweet “passive.” Kalim Aftab, director of international programming at Red Sea Film Fest, said the tweet did not promote “trust in Scotland’s cinematic landscape.”

“I expressed my sympathy, and it was met with the words, ‘oh, why don’t you do something about it,'” Roberts said during the keynote address. “And fair enough, but in fact it is very difficult. We are in talks with our colleagues from screen Scotland. We are in touch with all affected parties under the auspices of CMI.”

Roberts added that the situation is causing a lot of “emotions and anxiety,” and he does not believe that such conversations “play out well on social media.”

“I know that there are numerous conversations about the capabilities of each of these affected entities. Solidarity is manifested in actions, if not in slightly naive tweets,” he concluded.

Elsewhere during the keynote address, Roberts delved into the BFI’s recent 10-year “Screen Culture” funding plan. In the plan, BFI committed to invest 136 million pounds (150 million US dollars) in the business or 45 million pounds (49 million US dollars) annually. This is a drop of about 10% compared to the latest funding plan, BFI2022.

Discussing the drop in funding, Roberts said that to move forward, the BFI would have to find additional funding to support British independent filmmaking.

“We have less money for this lottery strategy than for our previous one. And therefore we also cannot take it away from the sector, as it is an independent film sector that really needs it now,” he said. “We didn’t want to dilute our bank too much, and we have to justify the need for additional financing.”


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