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iFeatures is back: same game, new rules

The executive director of iFeatures explains the philosophy of making films that are ambitious in concept but practical in scale.

Today sees the launch of the third iteration of iFeatures, funded by Creative England, the BFI, the BBC and Creative Skillset. And if you don’t know what that is, then it’s really time to find out.

Aimed at emerging talent, loosely defined as filmmakers circling their first or second feature, the initiative will see 16 projects go through funded and supported development, culminating in three filmmaking teams being greenlit for production on a budget of £350,000 each.

A first glance it may seem a little unrealistic to make a film at that budget level and hope that in this evolving and challenging landscape it will reach the audience it deserves. But that is precisely the point.

With just over 50% of the films in Britain being made around these budget levels, we need to start producing artistically and commercially viable films that are ambitious in concept but practical in scale.

There are already some amazing trailblazers lighting up the distribution skies; Monsters by Gareth Edwards, Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, or A Field in England by Ben Wheatley. Superb stuff and of a level we should all aspire to.

But it wasn’t just that they had a great vision - they were supported by experienced producers and executives along the way. Not everyone has those opportunities and that exposure and that’s something we need to fix.

It’s not just about the one or two that go out and storm the box office, it’s about all the films you don’t always hear about. Who can blame you?

Despite the best efforts of many, these films often aren’t even making it as far as the industry, let alone an audience. And yet we urgently need them. They are our lifeblood, our R&D.

Whether they are in the cast, the crew or catering, aspiring filmmakers need time to learn, raw talent needs to be given a chance to succeed and distinctive voices need some quiet to be heard.

Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t happen overnight and we don’t all get it right first time.

Which brings me back to iFeatures. Why does it matter? Well we’re focusing the conversation on the next generation of filmmakers by creating a space in which they can interact with their first audience: you.

By giving them the exposure they deserve, and through working with teams through every step of the process, we’re putting emerging talent front and center in everything we do.

We know every story is not going to excite each and every one of you. We know not every writer or director will be to your taste. But they still deserve our support and respect for trying something new, breaking new ground and experimenting with story and ideas the more established and successful can’t afford to do.

I’d say that’s a pretty healthy state of affairs. As long as we all recognise what we all stand to benefit from discovering and nurturing new talent; a vibrant and healthy industry that can continue to grow.

So why iFeatures? We’re already seeing very promising signs from the first two incarnations of the scheme. Romantic comedy Eight Minutes Idle directed, by Mark Simon Hewis, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, hits screens on Feb 14. Its producer Sarah Cox has landed a directing gig at Disney.

Michael Powell Award nominated Katarzyna Klimkiewicz who directed Flying Blind recently finished directing the sixth season of Polish television hit show Czas Honoru.

The teams from The Goob and Norfolk are busy putting the finishing touches to their films as Spaceship prepares itself for production. Sounds like heaven? Well almost. There are still some areas we need to focus on.

We want more applications from ethnic minorities, we want more women filmmakers in the teams, and we want more films that genuinely reflect the regions, not as a setting but as a cultural microcosm. The local experience that reflects on the universality humankind (don’t give me grief, I read that somewhere).

What’s changing? In a nutshell…

  • Applications now open to filmmakers from across the UK but regional content requirement strengthened. 

  • Stronger focus on encouraging applications from women and BAME filmmakers. 

  • Documentaries will no longer be considered although we welcome fiction projects from documentary filmmakers.

  • Filmmakers must now submit a full treatment (up to 10 pages) instead of a synopsis.

  • Creative England, BFI and BBC to provide enhanced support for marketing/distribution/exhibition of completed films. 

So if you’re an aspiring filmmaker with a fresh and distinctive regional voice it’s an incredibly attractive opportunity to get development, training, and of course the chance to make a feature.

Yes, it’s hard work but so is getting any film made. All you have to do to have a shot at iFeatures is apply.

If you’re industry, on the other hand, then this is your chance to see the future take shape.

And it’s worth taking notice, because, you might need them one day, almost as much as they need you today.

The new iFeatures guidelines will be available from today on the website www.ifeatures.co.uk.

Christopher Granier-Deferre is the new executive producer of iFeatures.

Prior to this he produced Gone Too Far!, written by Olivier Award-winner Bola Agbaje and directed by Screen Star of Tomorrow Destiny Ekaragha, and premiered at the BFI London Film Festival last year.

Other producing credits include The Hide by Marek Losey, Angel by Francois Ozon and A Thousand Kisses Deep starring Jodie Whittaker and Dougray Scott.

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