UK production outfit Antonine Films has launched a short film initiative, "8 1/2", designed to nurture new talent based in Scotland. Named after the Federico Fellini classic, the title also represents the running time of each short to be produced under the scheme.

Supported by a wide range of Scottish industry sources, including the National Lottery, Scottish Screen and the Glasgow Film Office, the initiative will operate on a budget of about $375,000 (£250,000) in its first year and is initially envisaged to run for three years before being reviewed.

Actor-turned-director Peter Mullan, who made Orphans with Antonine, has agreed to be patron of the scheme which will also call upon the talents of screenwriter Paul Laverty (My Name Is Joe), producer Paddy Higson (The Silent Scream) and writer-director Morag McKinnon (Home).

Applicants will be asked to supply a one page idea for a drama. The twelve ideas selected by an industry panel will then take part in an extensive training programme. The final four scripts will participate in a Short Film Lab run in conjunction with PAL (Performing Arts Labs) which will take place over five days in January 2001. Production of the films will begin in the Spring with the final results expected to premiere at next year's Edinburgh International Film Festival. Of the total annual budget, $180,000 (£120,000) has been allocated for the production costs of the four films.

Broadcast rights in the UK have been taken by BBC Scotland and BBC Choice and Antonine hopes to secure a sales agent for possible theatrical and internet distribution.