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BFI reaffirms its support of UK documentary filmmaking, investing up to £6M of National Lottery funding

Feb 16, 2023

Doc Society named as delegate partner to fund features, shorts and to invest in talent development through the BFI Doc Society Fund

BFI announces it will continue to prioritise dedicated support of the UK documentary filmmaking sector, thanks to National Lottery ‘good cause’ funding. As part of the roll out of the new BFI National Lottery Strategy, Doc Society will receive up to £6 million over three years as BFI’s UK-wide delegate partner to distribute documentary funding across features and shorts, as well as support talent development.

The BFI Doc Society Fund will be opening for applications during April-June 2023, the first three months of the new BFI National Lottery Strategy. Recruitment will also start imminently for a new head of fund who will lead the fund, working closely with Sandra Whipham and Shanida Scotland, directors of Doc Society.

Doc Society was selected following an open application process which sought a partner with expertise in the documentary sector to deliver to the aims and objectives identified in the new strategy. Funding for three years from April 2023 will see Doc Society build on the success they achieved as the BFI’s delegate partner for documentary since 2017, highlights from which include BIFA-winning Nothing Compares (dir. Kathryn Ferguson), BAFTA nominated Rebellion (dirs. Elena Sánchez Bellot, Maia Kenworthy), winner of the Sheffield International Documentary Festival’s Audience Award A Bunch Of Amateurs and BAFTA winning short The Black Cop.

A Bunch Of Amateurs

Mia Bays, director of the BFI Film Fund, said: “Independent UK documentary filmmaking is vital to our cultural landscape. To maximise the impact of our funding we are working with a partner to bring genre-specific knowledge, expertise and an international network to help support, grow and nurture this sector. Our new strategy sets out refocused priorities for this area of work, and in Doc Society we have a fantastic partner who will not only work to deliver to them, but whose passion, genuine care and tireless belief in the power of documentary and our talented filmmakers will benefit this remarkable and tenacious sector across the whole of the UK.”

Sandra Whipham, co-director of Doc Society, said: “We are over the moon to have been given the opportunity to build on our work of the past five years with another three years of funding. At a time of rapid change and challenge, we are ready to lean in and collaborate with the documentary film sector to ensure that the best independent creative non-fiction gets made and seen by audiences in the UK and internationally.”

Shanida Scotland, co-director of Doc Society/Head of Film for Doc Society, said: “Over the past five years we are proud to have collaborated with a range of film teams, all of us focused on the same ambition: to craft documentaries that elevate creative documentary and to support the documentary film sector. We are thrilled to be able to continue in this collaborative effort, which allows us to bring some of the most important issues affecting the documentary film sector to the table. Thank you to the BFI for their continued and dedicated support as we work together to champion the field.”

Doc Society will develop and evolve the funding and support it will offer from April 2023 to meet the new BFI’s new National Lottery strategic priorities, and to take on learnings from the previous five years. There will be a strong focus on deepening regional and national opportunities through the BFI Doc Society Fund to support features and Made of Truth, the short film strand, which will again form the documentary arm of BFI Network.

The BFI National Lottery Strategy 2023-2033, informed by an extensive consultation with public and industry, is underpinned by three core principles of equity, diversity and inclusion; UK-wide; and environmental sustainability that are embedded throughout the strategy. The £6m funding for documentary announced today seeks to address the following key priorities:

  • More people understand how to express their creativity through stories on screen, including children and young people
  • Creative talent is supported and nurtured, as they emerge and throughout their careers
  • People are better enabled to innovate and experiment creatively
  • A wider range of stories are told that otherwise wouldn’t be
  • People across the UK can access a wider choice of film and the moving image including stories that reflect their lives
  • Equitable and more visible routes into the sector for people of all ages
  • People from under-represented groups across the UK can access the support they need to develop their careers and skills

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