The BFI Network’s newly hired regional talent development executives made their first collective public appearance at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Friday evening.
They were in town to share information about how they planned to scout and develop the most promising new filmmakers in their respective regions.
Directors looking to make their debut features need to prove themselves first with short films that win international prizes and recognition, said Josic Cadoret from Film Hub London. Cadoret believed he had been involved in the commissioning of about 400 short films.
“It keeps on being a fresh task. It is always very exciting to see what new talent is coming through in London,” Cadoret said.
He suggest filmmakers looking for support should always have a feature in their “back pocket” ready to tout.
“Even if you’re going to a short film festival, you never know who you are going to meet,” he pointed out. “If you think you are ready to move into that arena, you have to have that pitch ready in your mind.”
Presentation is also an issue. In a digital world, the execs expect applicants to work “on the visual side” of their applications - and not just to send them in “dry black and white.”
Include images of potential locations and from other films comparable to your own. Concision is vital - make sure the script is the right number of pages and that biogs are not the length of War And Peace.
There were two representatives from Film Hub North, Jessica Loveland and Alice Ramsey.
“The best way to engage with me? If you’re a new talent who has already made some shorts and gone to film school, and are already aware of the work we are doing, and you have a producer and a project - it’s just applying to us!” said Ramsey.
The duo explained how they plan to divide their region. York-based Loveland will “cover North Yorkshire up to Berwick…but then it turns kind of wild!”
She also oversees Northumberland, Cumbria, Cheshire and Merseyside.
Ramsey, meanwhile, deals with Lancashire and the “majority of Yorkshire.”
Both promised they will collaborate closely, regardless of geography. “We have these amazing cities, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester that all have their own very distinct cultural identities…our challenge now is to try to connect up their communities of filmmakers,” they said.
They said they are looking for projects with “distinct personality and for directors ready to take risks. With limited funding, they plan to invest “strategically” and to support new talent at the point where they can best move “careers forward” and enable filmmakers to “take a step up.”
“Don’t be shy about being passionate,” Loveland said, while Ramsey confirmed they would be looking for grassroots as well as established talent, including people who have been working in other creative industries, ”artists or poets, somebody with a creative track record that can translate into film”.
Nottingham-based Alexandra Jackson of Film Hub Midlands, said she will be travelling everywhere in the Midlands. “I know there is so much talent across my region already…one of the key parts of my programme is trying to bring people together,” she said.
She explained she was determined to break down the east-west divide in the Midlands.
“I was at a filmmakers’ workshop in Leicester,” she recalled. “They said, ‘well, all the money is going to go to Nottingham anyway, so why should we apply?’ Then I went to Birmingham and [the filmmakers there] said ‘the money is all going to go to Leicester, so why should I apply?’ It’s this everlasting circle of people thinking this money is not for them.”
Alice Cabañas of Film Hub South West, has been busy researching. “It has really been about finding out what is happening in the region,” said the executive who is based at the Bristol Watershed.
She alerted filmmakers to upcoming networking and talent development initiatives including a ‘Producing Skills’ workshop in Cornwall later this month, and Connect.Film in Bristol. She will be holding one-to-one sessions with filmmakers at the Watershed in July.
Cabañas and her team have just set up a Facebook page, South West Talent Connect, where local filmmakers can network with each other. “There is an aim to bring people together and foster networks,” Cabañas explained.
Thomas Wightman of Film Hub South East could not make the event but a spokesperson from the region revealed the new partnerships Wightman is developing the Norwich Film Festival and with the Writers’ Centre. Wightman is also in negotiations with the UK Production Guild about setting up a ‘Modular Lab’ for filmmakers in the region.
Initiatives including the “entry-level” Scottish Shorts are underway in Scotland, said Caroline Cooper Charles of the Scottish Film Talent Network (SFTN).
The network can additionally invest up to £25,000 in shorts through its higher-budget emerging talent programme. The money will often be matched by further partners such as BBC Films.
SFTN can also get behind the development of first features, although directors will then need to look to Creative Scotland or the BFI for the actual production funding. Cooper Charles confirmed SFTN will be running the ‘Write For Film’ programme again, aimed at writers experienced in other fields such as poets, playwrights or novelists, looking to make the transition to screenwriting.
Kimberley Warner, head of creative business at Ffilm Cymru Wales, which runs the BFI Talent Network for Wales), made it clear Welsh-born talent based around the UK was very welcome to apply to its schemes. She drew attention to the agency’s key role in developing the award-winning I Am Not A Witch directed by Zambian-Welsh director Rungano Nyoni.
Rounding off the event, held in the Traverse Theatre, BFI Network executives reminded filmmakers of ‘post room’ initiative through which filmmakers can upload their work to the website. Once a month, a project will be picked and the filmmaker will receive up to £10,000.