“The Ladder of Creative Risk”: Luke Moody Discusses the BFI Doc Society Fund

Luke Moody is the rare bird who can speak credibly as a documentary programmer, producer, and funder. The current head of the BFI Doc Society Fund, Moody began his journey with Doc Society as an intern in 2010, when it was known as BRITDOC. He remained with the UK-based nonprofit for six years, advancing from intern to grants officer to head of film. He then began a three-year stint as the director of film programming at Sheffield DocFest, the UK’s premier documentary film festival. He left that role in 2019 to work as an independent producer. Moody founded the production company LONO Studio, participated in the Sundance Producers Summit and the CPH:LAB, and produced the acclaimed 2022 doc While We Watched. While LONO Studio remains active, Moody returned to Doc Society last year as a different kind of funder: one with lived experiences as both a programmer and a producer.

Founded in 2005, Doc Society became the British Film Institute’s documentary partner in 2018, administering money raised through the UK’s National Lottery. Moody oversees the three key programs that comprise the BFI Doc Society Fund, all of which are for UK-based filmmakers. Chief among them is the Features Fund, which provides grants of up to £150,000 for documentaries at any stage in production. The fund accepts applications on a rolling basis and has awarded grants to 63 features to date. It supports work at the lower budget level; as of 2023, only about one-quarter of the projects supported had budgets higher than £500,000. The funding support also includes the Made of Truth program, which offers up to £25,000 to roughly 15 short-form projects per year, and the newly created RAD (Research & Development) Fund, which seeks to support the perennially under-supported R&D stage of the filmmaking process. Together, these three funds are an essential component of the documentary ecosystem in the UK. For most awardees, Doc Society is their first source of funding and a major mark of legitimacy for their project.

Moody spoke with Documentary from his base in Sheffield shortly after the new year. The conversation, edited here for length and clarity, touched on Doc Society’s key funding programs, Moody’s commitment to transparency and feedback to applicants, and his goal to “undermine my own decision-making and unconscious bias within a system of review.”

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