Jaime Winstone to lead cast for Rose Tremain adaptation.

Writer/director Jan Dunn and producer Pippa Cross have launched a crowdfunding campaign for their planned feature film adaptation of Rose Tremain’s novel Sacred Country.

The story is about a 6-year-old girl, Mary Ward, in rural Suffolk in 1952 who realises she is a boy. The film follows Mary’s quest to become Martin over the next three decades.

The Indiegogo campaign is now live at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sacred-country, and aims to raise £50,000 of the film’s initial funding in the next five weeks.

Producer Cross, whose credits include Bloody Sunday and Shooting Dogs, told Screen that the crowdfunding campaign was about more than raising money, but showing other potential partners that there is an engaged community and audience for the film, including LGBT networks and Tremain readers.

“It’s not a niche film but it can start with a niche audience,” Cross said. “The journey that Mary goes on is to be comfortable in your own skin…so many of those struggles are so pertinent to the world we live in now. The film is so vital to get made.”

The film’s production budget will be just above £1m – with more financing coming via traditional backers and a potential EIS fund. The team hopes to start shooting before the end of 2015. The film already has received development funding from the Kent Film Office.

“I was in Mary’s skin from when I started reading,” Dunn said. “It’s uplifting but has the trials of a journey…The story is much bigger than the transition story.”

Jaime Winstone, who will play the lead role of Mary/Martin, was also on hand at the crowdfunding launch at BAFTA on Friday evening. She said joining the cast was “super exciting.” “It’s about Mary and how she wanted to be different and accepted. I naturally related to her. It’s so important to get this message across. It’s a really personal role, it’s brave and it’s true…I can’t wait to get my teeth into this role.”

Dunn adds, “It’s a hard role to cast, you need somebody pretty damn special to play it.”

Brenda Blethyn and Shirley Henderson are also expected to join the cast.

Dunn, whose past films include Gypo, Ruby Blue and The Calling, encouraged potential supporters to spread the word about the film to their networks. “If it starts with acorns and spreads out into an oak tree, that’s great.”

The London launch followed other crowdfunding ‘roadshow’ events in Ramsgate and Brighton.