Ffilm Cymru Wales’ CEO Pauline Burt has shared more about their new support package worth £530,000 for the Welsh film sector during COVID-19.
In her opening question from Director of Creative Economy, Sara Pepper, Pauline talked about the drastic impact COVID-19 was having on the film industry. She said: "Essentially, nothing looks the same. The two areas we’re trying to look at and support in is how we bring people together to reimagine and also, the rapid and ongoing work at a UK and Wales-wide level to bring clarity to safety protocols which may be used in the future."
Ffilm Cymru Wales have had to adapt and pivot their activity, along with the rest of the film industry and have been doing this, by having discussions with the sector and working with their board to come up with short-term and longer-term solutions.
She explained: “One of the first things we did was set-up a pivot group, a blend of board members and senior executives – four board members, myself, our Head of Production, and our Head of Audiences and Education. We’re trying to combine that on the ground understanding we’re getting from the filmmakers, the exhibitors, the film education practitioners that we’re talking to, the experience we bring as executives and that oversight from a very experienced board.”
“So we can put proposals down really quickly, we can think about how they might work and we can be challenged by our board to think through the detail.
“We will review and adapt. Do we need to top up what we’ve got there? Do we need to do something new? And talk to third parties as well.”
In light of the crisis Ffilm Cymru Wales have adapted and ‘topped-up’ current funding streams as well as creating new emergency funds in response.
On the topic of their Emergency Relief Fund, which launches today (30 April) and closes on 15 May, Pauline said:
“It’s a brand new fund for us, we don’t know what level of demand we’ll get and we’ll be learning as we go on this one. It is a quick turnaround fund for obvious reasons.”
“It’s what it says on the tin, it’s about immediate need - people being able to meet their basic needs within the category of writers, directors, producers and film education practitioners. They can apply for up to £1500 & if successful, we’re not going to ask them how they'll use it – that is up to them. It will get paid in one-go and we hope it will provide some immediate relief.”
“We’re mindful that there is a lot of talent and people working in this sector that are falling between the cracks, so particular among the identified groups – the writers, directors, producers and the film education practitioners – they are on the whole not qualifying for the freelance support or the job retention scheme. That’s one the reasons we have that focus on those talents there.”
A matter of concern for many sectors in the creative industries at the moment is getting the money to those who need it the most.
Pauline said: “We do ask people to tell us what kind of support they have accessed and how much that is… that’s to enable us to establish that need, and if we do get into a situation that we’re oversubscribed for the fund and we have to get into the hard task of deciding who we support and who we can’t support.”
Pauline stressed that the application process for the Emergency Fund would be as straight-forward and quick as possible.
She said: “We’re not asking extraneous questions and there will be comprehensive guidelines that tell you what you need to do. We’re going to get decisions out as quickly as possible – we’re hoping by the end of the month.”
The Development Fund for writers, directors and producer teams developing feature film projects already existed and has now been adapted for access during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pauline said: “We’re adapting it and still are... the same amount of funding we’d ordinarily spend in 12 months, were looking to get it out the door in six months and we will be keeping it under review regarding whether we’d top that further.”
Pauline explained that they have to carefully consider the kind of projects they’d fund in light of future COVID-19 restrictions. She said: “We need to get a sense of projects we think will be viable when we come out of this. There will be certain kinds of content that will be more challenging than others in that respect, so if you’re travelling all over the place, have big crowd scenes or more intimate material, that kind of content won’t be viable.
“Think about the type of content that you’re working to.”
Pauline hopes these funds will create a positive ripple effect for the sector. She said: “We really encourage wider professionals to be engaged in the application process, particularly now, finding ways to visualise and communicate the kind of content you’re developing is important. That might be engaging a concept artist or a script editor for example that’s going to be important. We’re going to be encouraging that wider benefit.”
Pauline also shed light on the importance of maximising intellectual property, explaining: “While we’re a film fund, for some time now we’ve been encouraging filmmakers to think about the wider value of their material, whether that’s a game or an app, a publication, a soundtrack. It’s about what makes sense for their project – and if that might unlock broader market or even create some new revenue potential. That’s something that’s worth looking at.”
The Horizons Fund for emerging talent, run through the BFI NETWORK, supports emerging writers, directors and producers and has now been multiplied by four times its original amount. On the importance of supporting this category Pauline said: "Emerging talent is lifeblood when growing the sector. It’s the hardest thing to do, to develop work if you’re an emerging filmmaker without a track record.
“If you have a project, you can apply for up to £10,000."
Pauline explained that this flexible fund is quite adaptable to what your needs might be. She said: “You don’t have to have a project to come in and access that support, you can come in for professional development…particularly mentoring and what is an opportunity this time is that mentors who weren’t available before when they were out shooting films, now are - so the level of mentoring you can access is amazing.
“If you’re applying for professional development funding, you can apply for up to £6000.”
Ffilm Cymru Wales have been connecting and supporting the sector in many ways beyond these funds, including a toolkit of case studies and opportunities, 1-2-1s for filmmakers and film education practitioners, training and masterclasses. Pauline said: “It can be difficult to be creative if you’re feeling anxiety so trying to find tools and techniques and ways in to that creative space and what kind of work you’re going to be developing. We’re looking at how we might be able to facilitate that and talk about ideas.”
On Ffilm Cymru Wales’ approach to facilitating and supporting the sector, Pauline said: “It’s quite an exploratory time, and it’s productive to have these open conversations so you don’t, as an organisation, go out there with all the answers. Nobody has all the answers. We want to be asking, to be listening, to be thinking, and to be ready to continue to adapt.”
On the topic of freelancers, who make-up most of the film industry workforce Pauline explained that Ffilm Cymru Wales is doing ‘a huge amount of advocacy at all sorts of levels.'
Pauline said: "The TV and Film Charity have done amazing work with UK-wide funds. They received a million pounds from Netflix, which was topped up by the BFI, the BBC, private donors. People behind the scenes, not only from the set, but also film festivals, could apply apply for funding of up to £2,500 and also for loans if they were expecting to get money from the Government freelance support scheme, but were having difficulty in waiting until June – they had two programmes going.
“Their calls have finished but they are fundraising and hoping to do further calls so I encourage freelancers who are finding themselves in a challenging position to keep an eye on what happens with those funds.
“They continue to offer a 24/7 helpline – that can be about anything, personal finance, mental health, finding information.”
Pauline also spoke to Sara about the needs of freelance film crew and the UK-wide film sector taskforce she sits on which you can find out more about in the video above.
On the topic of main challenges that the sector face regarding exit recovery, Pauline highlighted three main areas of concern – health and safety, insurance and human behaviour.
“That's health and safety in the in the various environments. How do we create one set of protocols? Whether you're operating a venue, and you're thinking about, what's the kind of capacity you can have in that venue? How do you funnel people in and out safely? What impact does that have practically from a business point of view on your kind of ticket revenue.”
On the topic of insurance Pauline said: “As with any kind of disaster you might come across, any insurer that’s a commercial business out there is unlikely to insure against COVID-related risk or abandonment so we’re looking at how do we make sure that all that financial risk doesn’t land on the producers. There are many lawyers coming up with ideas, there are mechanisms we’re discussing with central government.”
The third area of consideration going forward for Pauline is the social nature of the film industry: “We’re a sector that’s all about being social, we’re social creatures, we like to gather. We like to see content collectively in cinemas. What is the impact of this pandemic on cinemas and festivals? What does that do to the overall value chain? Big questions that are being addressed, it’s energising to see how people are problem-solving together.”
Closing the Q&A, Pauline shed some light on the positivity and coming together of the film industry to solve things at speed, and asked those working in it to be kind to themselves during these unprecedented times.
She said: "We're in incredibly demanding times and whatever your capacity is - there is a huge sense of challenge and need to solve those challenges. But we can't solve everything and we can't solve it in isolation.”
“Many minds might not make light work, but it does make it achievable. I do feel positive, in difficult times, I do feel like we’re doing everything we can to put the industry back on track.”
As the situation evolves, Ffilm Cymru will continue the conversation with UK and Welsh Governments, the BFI and others, about the challenges presented by COVID-19 and the interventions needed to overcome them. Feedback and insights from the Welsh film community are welcome. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our list of resources about the latest funding opportunities during COVID-19 can be found here, we continue to update this list as often as possible.
You can watch our other In Conversation events by clicking the links below: