The BFI Film Fund has revealed the two feature documentaries it will support following its first ever pitching session at Sheffield Doc/Fest.

The first is Louise Osmond’s Dark Horse, which is produced by Judith Dawson and tells the true story of a group of friends from a working men’s club in a Welsh village who decided to take on the elite ‘sport of kings’ and breed themselves a racehorse.

The second is Brian Hill’s Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer, produced by Katie Bailiff, which examines the case of Sweden’s most notorious murderer whose story shocked the country - but who may not be a killer at all.

The BFI has also committed to further engagement on Jerry Rothwell’s multi-textured “hippy heist” story of the mystics and mechanics who founded Greenpeace, How To Change the World, produced by Al Morrow, which was highly commended by the panel.

The BFI held the pitching event at Doc/Fest in Sheffield on Saturday (June 15).

Nearly 50 applications were shortlisted by a team of senior executives from the BFI and Doc/Fest, with eight projects selected to pitch for funding to an expert panel including representatives from the BFI, Picturehouse and SXSW Film.  

Ben Roberts, director of the BFI Film Fund, said: “We are rabid fans of documentary at the Film Fund, and we hoped that throwing ourselves into the pitching events would energise our selection process and pinpoint those most cinematic stories.

“I’d say it exceeded our expectations in every way, and it was a privilege to hear passionate pitches from each of the eight teams. The strong standard of all the projects helped reinforce what an innovative and exciting form documentary can be, and that our filmmakers are truly world-class.”

Lizzie Francke, BFI Film Fund senior executive, said: “A documentary’s cinematic potential boils down to the three A’s: Authorship, Audience, Aesthetic. These qualities set documentaries of cinematic scale and ambition apart, ensuring that the films stand tall within the Film Fund’s portfolio and provide a legacy for the future within the BFI’s national archive.

“Dark Horse and Thomas Quick fulfilled the brief and both films promise a treat for audiences. We’re also pleased to commit to How To Change The World as the project progresses, and we congratulate all those who pitched and presented such a strong selection of projects, which made the final selection very difficult.”

Eight teams each presented a five minute pitch and took five minutes of questions from the panel to introduce their film’s story and characters, show clips of footage and demonstrate the project’s potential as cinematic documentary destined to be seen on the big screen.

The pitching event took place as part of Doc/Fest’s industry programme and was open to an audience of industry delegates from the festival. The panel comprised the BFI’s Roberts and Francke; producer of SXSW Film Janet Pierson; and director of programming and acquisitions at Picturehouse Cinemas and Picturehouse Entertainment, Clare Binns.

The panel gave feedback and advice to each of the teams before convening privately to decide which projects would be supported.

The teams chosen by the panel will receive a positive decision in principle and will be issued with a Letter of Intent from the BFI Film Fund, demonstrating its commitment to invest, and endorsement of the project.

The move to a public forum is designed to bring greater transparency and insight into the BFI’s funding process and also to help benefit the documentary filmmaking community at large by showing what film industry experts look for when assessing a documentary’s theatrical potential.

Working with Sheffield Doc/Fest, the BFI Film Fund will hold two such pitching sessions per year, with a second to take place later in 2013.