LONDON — The U.K. Film Council has unveiled a major revamp of its £4 million ($8 million) a year development fund, led by the fund’s new topper Tanya Seghatchian.
Seghatchian has split the fund into two separate strands, with different policies for established filmmakers and for first-timers.
Writers, directors and producers with proven track records will get more coin and autonomy to run their own development process, while newcomers will receive smaller amounts and be subject to more active supervision by UKFC execs.
There will also be a special category, dubbed Signature Awards, reserved for world-class auteurs, whether from the U.K. or elsewhere, who want to develop British projects.
Seghatchian has also announced that the UKFC will no longer charge a premium on its development awards. Previously, producers had to pay back 50% more than they received on the first day of shooting.
This shift in strategy has also resulted in a shake-up of staffing at the fund. The jobs of two senior development execs have been abolished. They will be replaced with three new posts, all requiring hands-on production experience.
The changes are designed to improve the rate at which projects backed by UKFC coin are converted into production, and also to increase the quality of the projects themselves.
Since the UKFC was founded in 2000, the development fund has poured a massive $65 million into British scripts. But there’s a widespread feeling in the industry that too much of this coin has simply disappeared down the drain.
Seghatchian, whose producing credits range from “Harry Potter” to Pawel Pawlikowski’s BAFTA-winning “My Summer of Love,” took over as head of the development fund in May. She has set about restructuring its activities in line with her practical experience of making movies.
“I’m just trying to apply common sense, to be a bit more intuitive about how we work,” Seghatchian said. “What I’m looking for is the best projects, and the best mechanism to get them made.”
Established filmmakers will have to pass a more rigorous test than before to get coin. In most cases, they will be expected to bring matching finance. But once they receive the money, typically between $50,000 and $250,000 per project, they will be given more freedom to spent it their own way.
The UKFC will also commit in principal to support such projects through all the phases of development up to “pre-pre-production,” rather than requiring the filmmakers to re-apply for additional funding at every stage.
“I want to be as enabling and supportive to people in the industry who know what they are doing as I can be,” Seghatchian said.
The First Feature Film Development Program will hand out smaller amounts of funding, typically no more than $50,000 apiece. The fund’s execs will take a hands-on role with these projects, particularly those with no producer attached, and will also seek to bring in industry mentors.
The success of this program will not simply be judged by whether particular projects get made. “To be realistic, it might be about building a relationship between a writer and a director, or coming up with a great writing sample,” Seghatchian explained.
The Signature Awards will be given to “filmmakers who have a personal style, who plow their own field, who are considered as world class,” she said. “I certainly feel that we as a nation can benefit from having clearly identified filmmakers who are supported by the national film funds,” she argued. “Some people work in a slightly less conventional way, and would benefit from a slightly looser approach.”
She cited Lynne Ramsay and Shane Meadows as the sort of British auteurs who might be candidates for such backing. She also made clear that money could be given to filmmakers from anywhere in the world who proposed projects “of value to British culture.”