BBC, Film Council fund tyro helmers

Initiative targeted at directors who have proved themselves in other fields

LONDON — The BBC and the Film Council have agreed to develop and co-produce a slate of four low-budget movies by first-time directors.

The initiative is targeted at directors who have already proved themselves in other fields, such as comedy or documentaries.

Pics will be budgeted at £500,000 ($720,000). Subject matter will be contemporary, but the scheme is not intended to support experimental film-making.

The deal is a joint venture between BBC2 (the pubcaster’s minority channel), BBC Films and the Film Council’s New Cinema Fund.

It’s an attempt to build upon the success of such low-budget BBC pics as “Last Resort” by doc director Pawel Pawlikowski, which won him this year’s British Academy Award for most promising newcomer.

The first project on the slate is “Sweeney,” written and directed by documentary maker Francesca Joseph in collaboration with TV writer Paul Abbott.

The semi-improvised pic, which has already started shooting, follows the performance by an opera company of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” in a maximum security prison.

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