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Northwest Vision shows foresight

Screen agency launches Digital Departures

As European Capital of Culture 2008, Liverpool will be looking to present itself as a modern, vibrant European city to the extra 2 million visitors expected to arrive next year, and regional screen agency Northwest Vision is certainly doing its bit.

Northwest Vision has launched Digital Departures, a microbudget film plan designed to celebrate the city-wide event and filmmaking in Liverpool.

Partnering with the Liverpool Culture Co., the U.K. Film Council and the BBC, Northwest Vision will dish out £250,000 ($500,000) to three feature-length film projects that will be developed, shot, post-produced and then premiered in the city next autumn as part of the year-long festivities.

Of the 156 initial entries, panelists have whittled the lot down to 12 projects, which include offerings from established Merseyside talent such as writer Frank Cottrell Boyce (“Grow Your Own”) and helmer Terence Davies (“Distant Voices, Still Lives”) as well as emerging filmmakers. Six projects will go to script, with the final three to be decided upon by September.

To ensure a genuinely local feel, Northwest Vision insists that each project must shoot in Liverpool and that at least one of the key applicants must live in the city.

Running the Departures project is American producer Lisa Marie Russo, who cut her teeth in the U.S. indie scene before moving to London and co-producing Brit indie success “Brothers of the Head.”

“I think part of the appeal of the scheme to the likes of Boyce and Davies is the very quick turnaround,” says Russo. “The scripts will be developed with production firmly in mind and not just sit on a shelf like a brick for six years as happens so often in this industry.”

Russo relishes working outside London as “people work across disciplines and are more adept at multitasking. There are no hardcore divisions like there are in London, and it is really a case of all hands on deck. Coming from the U.S. indie scene, I like that spirit.”

The three pics will be shown nationwide on the U.K. Film Council’s 240-screen Digital Screen Network. The BBC is taking U.K. broadcast rights.

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