Northern Ireland funding for audio-visual works

Here is the definitive guide to funding your next audio-visual project in Northern Ireland.

We’ll dive into the grants available out there for companies looking to broadcast their unique projects. For each funding body, we’ve included eligibility criteria, funding capacity per project and how to start the application process.

Northern Ireland Screen

Northern Ireland Screen offers various funding programmes across its economic, cultural and educational activities.

There are two divisions within their economic funding:

  • Production – feature film (including feature documentaries), television drama, animation, factual/entertainment television and interactive content
  • Development – scripted and non-scripted projects, development slates and interactive content

Production

The Northern Ireland Screen Fund can invest:

  • a maximum of £800,000 for feature film and television production funding
  • a maximum of £500,000 for interactive content production
  • up to a ceiling of 25% of the overall project budget.

It’s worthwhile to point out that very few projects are awarded the maximum amount.

Project development

Project development funding is available to companies for feature film, television (all genres and including pilots) and interactive content. The fund specifically excludes development support for local television output. This fund can invest a maximum of:

  • 90% of the project budget for projects with a budget up to £10,000
  • 75% of the project budget for projects with a budget of over £10,000 and less than £20,000
  • 50% of the project budget for projects with a budget of over £20,000 up to a maximum of £100,000.

Eligibility criteria

The Northern Ireland Screen Fund is open to all legally incorporated companies who can fulfil the British Cultural Criteria and the Project Criteria.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying to the Northern Ireland Screen Fund, we ask that you start by contacting Andrew Reid, Head of Production, to discuss the project.

How to contact a broadcaster about a commission?

Broadcasters can be contacted via their commissioning portals. Links to UK and Ireland broadcasters can be found below:

ITV

BBC

SKY

Channel 5

Channel 4

RTÉ

TG4

Irish Language Broadcast Fund (ILBF)

The Irish Language Broadcast Fund (ILBF) finances a minimum of 70 hours of Irish language content per year, which is broadcast on BBC Northern Ireland, TG4 & RTÉ. Development and production funding is available for a wide variety of TV genres. The ILBF also provides funding for a range of training initiatives for Irish speakers wishing to work or are already working in the production sector here.

The ILBF will also consider funding content that does not have a broadcaster attached. However, in this case, a wide audience reach must be evidenced.

Here’s a breakdown of the funding at each stage:

Development

The ILBF funds a small number of development projects. The fund is capped at a maximum of 50% of the overall development budget with a broadcaster generally providing the remaining 50% of funding.

Production

The ILBF’s investment is usually a maximum of £400,000 in a project, up to a ceiling of 75% of the overall agreed project costs. Fund eligibility also requires that no less than 70% of those project costs are spent in Northern Ireland.

Eligibility Criteria

  • The fund is open to any Northern Ireland based independent production company.
  • Co-productions are also considered where at least one of the production companies is based in Northern Ireland. The fund also states that an emphasis should be placed on maximum use of Irish speaking Northern Ireland cast and crew.
  • A minimum of 75% of the spoken word is to be in the Irish language.
  • Evidence of match funding is needed, and if appropriate, evidence that the project is additional to current programming levels of the broadcaster must be provided.

Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund (USBF)

The Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund (USBF) is currently looking to receive applications that either focus entirely or mainly on the Ulster-Scots language and widen the types of productions.

The USBF welcomes applications that seek to develop traditional television programming or online content, such as interactive content, games or animation. For television projects, there is no requirement to attach a broadcaster at this development stage.

USBF Eligibility criteria:

  • Emphasis on the Ulster-Scots language at the core of the project.
  • Proposals that outline how the contribution will increase the awareness and understanding of the Ulster-Scots heritage, culture and/or language.
  • Ideas that are well taught out in terms of quality and practicalities.
  • Coherence of the relevant medium to reach the targeted audience.
  • A clearly identified targeted audience for the project.

Funding capacity

  • USBF states that it can invest £400,000, up to a ceiling of 75% of the overall agreed project costs. However, USBF will provide a limit of £250,000 in all but the most exceptional circumstances.
  • If the fund offers 75% of the capital or more, then a minimum of 70% of costs are to be spent in Northern Ireland.
  • If the funding is less than 75%, the percentage spend must match or exceed the funding intensity. For example, if the aid intensity is 50%, at least 50% of costs must be spent in Northern Ireland.

BBC

BBC Northern Ireland Television runs a rolling commissioning process, meaning that they respond to ideas for programmes at any time.

BBC does not have the resources to support individuals through the commissioning process.

You can keep up to date with commissioning briefs for BBC NI here.

How Pitch works

  • Before submitting a project proposal, your company needs to register for the BBC Pitch. You only need to do this once.
  • Once your business is successfully registered with an account on BBC Pitch, you can submit content proposals to BBC commissioners through the Pitch dashboard.
  • You’ll be requested to specify a genre and a relevant commissioner when submitting the proposal. If you wish to change genre or commissioner, you’ll need to withdraw and resubmit the proposal.
  • Each proposal submitted through BBC Pitch is automatically and securely logged with a unique proposal number for reference purposes.

Eligibility criteria

To successfully attain a BBC Pitch account, your production company must be UK-based and independent. You must also have:

(a) A BBC TV commission in the last three years; and/or

(b) A TV commission for another major UK broadcaster in the last three years.

Here at Videoworks Belfast, we can work with you and your audio-visual projects, bring your story to life and capture your target audience. Our storytelling skills and over fifteen years of industry experience is what makes us the best choice for your business. You can get in touch with us here.