Audience Award Sponsor Pulling Out of Edinburgh Film Festival

Submitted by edg on Sun, 23 Jan '11 10.38am

The Edinburgh Film Festival is truly getting a big shake-up whether it likes it or not. We knew funding would be an issue this year following the loss of a £1.9 million three-year grant from the UK Film Council.

Now Standard Life, who have sponsored the EIFF Audience Award and print programme since 1997, are pulling out of the film fest.

Standard Life is a major sponsor to lose. The two organisations are neighbours. Standard Life, a company with some 10,000 employees globally, has its head office just along Lothian Road from the EIFF office at Edinburgh Filmhouse.

A report in Scotland On Sunday quotes a Standard Life spokesman saying that the two organisations "had a really good relationship, but we felt it had a natural end."

The first Standard Life Audience Award was won by The Full Monty in 1997. Aaron Schneider (pictured) picked up the 2010 award for his black comedy Get Low.

The news of Standard Life's departure - and with it a £70,000 annual funding deal - follows a succession of resignations by EIFF heads in the last year - EIFF managing director Ginnie Atkinson, artistic director Hannah McGill, and festival chairman Iain Smith.

So big changes at EIFF HQ. Fortunately for the festival they have a very capable team in place, who also importantly, given the straitened financial situation the festival appears to be in, are also hugely passionate about cinema. Mark Cousins and Lynda Myles are former festival directors - those old enough will have fond recollections of Cousins stint at the EIFF. Tilda Swinton also brings additional, all-important profile.

It's still not clear what exactly the "radical new approach" to the film festival, that was recently announced, will actually look like this June. More details are to be unveiled in February.

But for now we seem to know more about what it wont look like - no red carpets, none of the emphasis on celebrities, and lavish expenditure on A list stars, no big award ceremonies.

And no artistic director. In a recent post on the EIFF web site James Mullighan, who comes to the EIFF from indie film network Shooting People, points out he's not the new artistic director - "that position doesn't exist", he says. I think we are meant to just call him "Festival Director."

Cousins, Myles, Swinton have developed a creative blueprint around the theme of 'All That Heaven Allows'.

"They are inviting a series of guest curators, each of whom will be given the Festival - and Edinburgh itself - as a space in which to dream; think of what happens at London's South Bank Centre's Meltdown as an analogy, but several times across the Festival," writes Mullighan. He and his production team will be delivering it.

Mullighan has called it a “big bold experiment". Others have been less impressed.

"It all sounds a bit messy and halfbaked and simply being done as a response to massive cuts," a colleague recently said to me of the plans.

Probably. But it's easy to be sceptical. I'm also intrigued. Cinema is changing radically and this kind of experimentation, finding opportunity in adversity, might turn out to be a vital boost to the film festival's life force.

Standard Life Audience Awards

  • 2010 - Get Low
  • 2009 - The Secret of Kells
  • 2008 - Man on Wire
  • 2007 - We Are Together
  • 2006 - Clerks II
  • 2005 - Tsotsi
  • 2004 - Inside I'm Dancing
  • 2003 - After Life
  • 2002 - Rabbit Proof Fence
  • 2001 - Amelie
  • 2000 - Billy Elliot
  • 1999 - Buena Vista Social Club
  • 1998 - Get Real
  • 1997 - The Full Monty