The UK Film Council's Development Fund, which will hand out an average of $8m (£4m) per year through 2011, has announced a number of changes to the way it funds single projects.
Tanya Seghatchian, the Harry Potter and My Summer Of Love producer who took over as head of the fund in May, has devised a new way of working that takes effect today.
'I wanted to figure out how I could unearth and encourage and label first-timers being realistic about the expectations for them, about the kind of support they need and the involvement we can give them. But also to acknowledge from my point of view as a producer that sometimes you want development funding but you already know what you're doing and you can develop it yourself,' she told ScreenDaily.com. 'For those people, we can be less hands-on. And I felt culturally it was important as an organisation to recognise film-makers who do plow their own field. It's like how primary schools and secondary schools and universities are all their own stages and are very different.'
To back up that philosophy, Seghatchian has devised several new 'channels' that projects will be pitched through. One is the First Feature Film Development Programme, for a writer, writer/director, or writer, director, producer teams who have not before made a feature film for UK television or cinemas. These will be awards of up to $50,000 (£25,000) and can be made by writers individually. Because of the inexperience of the film-makers, this channel will provide more mentoring and guidance.
The next channel is the Feature Film Development Programme, for producers and film-makers with 'a demonstrable track record of success in feature filmmaking.' These awards are at amounts 'in line with industry norms,' the Film Council said and will be made at various stages of development until pre-pre-production.
Applicants for this channel are encouraged to bring on matching development funding from partners such as financiers, sales agents and distributors. These applications will usually come from producers but can be made by writers or writer/directors who have their own companies set up. This channel will give the film-makers more autonomy to develop projects on their own.
The third channel is for Signature Awards, for which the Development Fund will invite more idiosyncratic film-makers 'with their own distinctive voice/style.' 'I'm looking for people who plow their own field,' Seghatchian explained to ScreenDaily.com. 'Those will be personal projects for film-makers with a specific vision and we'll encourage original ideas and encourage world-class film-makers to come here to work.'
Revised application forms and new guidelines are available on the UKFC website now.
To support the new channels, the Development Fund will increase its number of staff from eight to nine people in the coming months (including three new hires).
The funding isn't only available to UK talent but foreign talent will usually only be considered if their project is UK related in subject matter or setting. 'We look for films that will potentially be able to qualify as British [under the new Cultural Test For British Film], but things change over time and we recognise that,' Seghatchian said.
'I'm trying to make it easier for us to look at applications fairly and to make it easier for people to compete relative to their own experience level,' she added.
The debut film awards will be decided on quarterly, with the first awards expected in Spring 2008.
Also, the Film Council will abolish its current development premium of 50% for producers and will also not charge interest on awards, which are re-payable on the start of shooting for the developed projects.
The financial procedures are also simplified by not requiring individuals to set up development trust bank accounts.
The Development Fund's plans for slate funding will be addressed in the future. The current slate scheme, set up in March 2005, is the 'super slate' project that initially backed seven partnerships of about 50 UK companies, including Number 9 Films, Film4, Pathe, Capitol and Ealing.
Seghatchian says she will meet with the slate participants in the next month to discuss how slate funding might change going forward. The super slates are on fixed contracts set to expire at various times in late 2007 or early 2008 and the UKFC has invested about $15m (£7.5m) in them over the three-year terms, representing over half of the average $8m/year development fund.
The Film Council has not yet decided what its plans for slate funding will be.