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Five upcoming UK feature debuts earning industry buzz

Screen profiles the next wave of exciting British indie projects.

There’s been a creative boom in low-budget British films in recent times, with the critical success of projects like Lady Macbeth, God’s Own Country and I Am Not A Witch creating a new sense of optimism for the UK independent film sector.

Screen checked out the next wave of low-budget projects that are earning buzz in the industry, all of them by first time directors.


Dir. Dan Kokotajlo
Siobhan Finneran (TV’s Happy Valley, pictured, top right) stars in this drama about a faithful Jehovah’s Witness forced to shun her own sister because of a religious transgression. Dan Kokotajlo, a Screen International Star of Tomorrow in 2015, directs and co-writes with Charlotte Wise, with Marcie MacLellan and Andrea Cornwell serving as producers. The film was developed and produced through Creative England’s ifeatures, and was greenlit in 2015 at the same time as Lady Macbeth and Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling.


Dir. Michael Pearce
National Film & Television School graduate and 2011 Screen International Star of Tomorrow Pearce presents Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn and Geraldine James in what is being described as “a dark, intense love story”. Beast, which is produced by Kristian Brodie of Agile Films, and Ivana MacKinnon and Lauren Dark of Stray Bear Productions, is backed by BFI Film Fund back and Film4.

Old Boys

Dir. Toby Macdonald
Alex Lawther (pictured, top middle), who played the schoolboy Alan Turing in The Imitation Game and is upcoming in Goodbye Christopher Robin, stars in this reworking of the Cyrano de Bergerac premise set at a British boys’ boarding school. Macdonald, who picked up BAFTA nominations for his shorts Je T’aime John Wayne and Heavy Metal Drummer, directs from a screenplay by Luke Ponte and Freddy Syborn, with Luke Morris producing for Momac Films. The film is co-developed and co-financed by the BFI and Film4, while Creative England and Film i Väst, in partnership with Erik Hemmendorff, also contributed finance. West End is handling sales.

Pin Cushion

Dir. Deborah Haywood
A 2007 Screen International Star of Tomorrow, shorts director Haywood makes her feature debut with a Derbyshire-based teen drama about schoolgirl friendships and rivalries that spiral out of control. Initially developed through ifeatures, the film is produced by Gavin Humphries for Quark Films with Maggie Montieth for Dignity Film Finance, the latter financing alongside the BFI.


Dir. Matthew Holness
Holness (pictured, top left), co-creator and co-star of UK comedy-spoof TV series Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place, directs Sean Harris and Alun Armstrong in a supernatural horror fused with a psycho-drama about a disgraced children’s puppeteer confronting his stepfather. Producers are James Harris, Mark Lane, Robert Jones and Wayne Marc Godfrey of The Fyzz Facility with production finance from Ingenious and The Fyzz Facility. Creative England and Bankside Films developed the screenplay, with Bankside handling sales.

Readers' comments (5)

  • And a lot of the credit for such optimism should go to the "ancien regime" in the film dept at Creative England who not only produced Apostasy, Lady Macbeth and Levelling through iFeatures but also developed Gods Own Country and Pin Cushion through the scheme as well as investing in Possum, Oldboys and many others. Obviously they were too good at their jobs so BFI shut 'em down!

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  • Because of course only one institution could conceivably be any good at independent film in the UK !
    Also every single one of these is BFI funded - hmm it's *almost* as if Screen only asked BFI about what is upcoming and didn't think to bother to ask anyone else? i think the definition of a 'buzz' is when more than just the one person of place is excited about things.

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  • What about?

    In Another Life, Funny Cow, Walk Like A Panther, Eaten By Lions, Game Over

    these filmmakers might beg to differ

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  • Well we will be struggling to make any more great features by truly regional producers like Adult Life Skills, & Burn Burn Burn, both of which were't given money by the BFI - no surprise there. With the BFI stranglehold of only £50K for a regional production for a feature how are Producers outside of the sacred M25 going to make this work? Guess we are the victims of our own success and just don't do to the right parties! Whatever happened to diversity?

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  • Re. The above comment.

    Last time I checked you don't need a passport to come inside the M25 or London. Nobody banters their way to a deal by the way. Also Creative England is there for regional producers. If you want to put anyone under pressure then chase UK cinema owners and nag distributors. I can think of 3 pictures shot in this last year in Bradford, Leeds, Blackpool with £1mill-ish budgets, two of which had distribution before they were wrapped. No BFI in either, private equity mostly, but then the producers didn't 'wait for permission' to make their film.

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