Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Screenwriting and Scones

Event: Screen South Information Day

Date: Monday 14th May 2007

Venue: Friends Meeting House, Brighton. A church hall, basically, but a nice one with free refreshments including home-made scones. This is a first - I have never before been to a screenwriting or filmmaking event where anyone has provided home-made scones. God bless the Quakers.

The Set Up: Screen South periodically hold these events across the region. The morning session involved brief talks / Q&A sessions from various speakers (see below). Lunch - not provided, alas! - was at 12:30pm, and the afternoon was taken up with individuals’ one-to-ones with a Screen South representative. Upon registering, one could book this interview, the first step towards applying for funding. Registration started at 9:30am. I got there at 9:35am, and I almost missed out on a slot, they’d filled up so quickly. So, first piece of advice is to get there early.

The speakers

Screen South: Jo Nolan, Miranda Robinson, and Vanessa Cook each spoke about the agency, its aims, its production and development department, the funding awards available, and how to apply. I’m not going to repeat a lot of this information, as it’s available from their website. But a few points of interest:
  1. Database: if you are working in film in the region, and you haven't already done it, get your details in the database on the Screen South website. If you’re looking for local crew, this is the place to look.
  2. Digital Shorts: the scheme will be running again in September / October. There will a roadshow when the scheme is launched, which will visit Brighton and other places.
  3. RIFE (Regional Investment Fund for England) awards: funding that’s available throughout the year. Small awards (up to £500) run to monthly deadlines; large awards (up to £5000 for an individual, £10000 for an organisation) run quarterly. Application forms and guidelines are available from the website, and the application process will involve an interview or interviews with different panels, depending on the amount sought.
  4. Production funding: there is no production funding available through Screen South (except for specific strands like Digital Shorts). But the situation is being looked into, and this may change.
  5. Training funding: Screen South would expect an applicant to have approached Skillset first before applying for training costs from the RIFE awards. Skillset can cover up to 80% of training costs (see below).
  6. Distribution funding: Applications can be made for funding to take completed shorts to festivals.

The most interesting section for me was a discussion about the typical path for a writer to apply for feature film development:

Stage 1 - Apply for £40 from the Small Awards fund to get script coverage from a reader that Screen South would arrange. This will be a 2-3 page report, and will take approximately two weeks. If you have already got coverage of this kind, you can submit this to Screen South, and – if it is to the required standard - you may be able to skip this stage.

Stage 2 - the coverage will be the basis of a redraft of the screenplay, which would be expected in no less than six weeks. This draft can then be submitted for an in-depth Script factory report (£80, again applied for from the RIFE small awards). This will be a 5-6 page report, and will take approximately six weeks.

Stage 3 - Another draft, and then the writer can apply for funding for a script editor to work with them to develop the material. After that, the writer will need to get a producer attached to the project to apply for further development funding. Screen South can provide advice on getting a producer, where the film sits in the market, and tips for moving it into pre-production.

Lighthouse: Sarah Flint, CEO. Lighthouse is one of the key regional partners to Screen South. Twenty-one years old this year, they provide professional development support for filmmakers, screenwriters and artists. Some training is available to all, some selectively based on an application. Sarah talked about some very exciting schemes coming soon, so keep an eye on their website. Successful last year was the ‘Guiding lights’ mentoring scheme. They hope to be running this again in 2007.

Lighthouse also hire out equipment, and rooms for meetings, events or screenings. Monthly, they hold their own networking events (a write up of a recent one is here).

Skillset: Rachael Duke, Film Fund Manager. Skillset has a film fund, and a TV freelance fund available, bankrolled by lottery money. The list of accepted training courses is on their website, and is quite extensive.

For training up to £800 in value, Skillset can pay 80%. Applications can be made at any time in the year, but you must have written confirmation that you’ve been accepted onto the course when you apply, and they cannot fund courses retrospectively. It’s worth planning ahead if you’re going to apply, to ensure you have enough time for the application to be processed – on average it takes four weeks per request.

You need to have demonstrable professional experience in the field for which you’re getting training; they can advise you on eligibility if you’re unsure (contact by telephone or e-mail).

BBC Writers’ Room: Paul Ashton’s session was covered in detail here.

One-to-one: Mine was at 3:30pm, which gave me time for a long lunch at The Hop Poles where I planned out the details of what I wanted to discuss. The interview was with Miranda, who I already know from working with her on my Digital Short. She answered my many questions helpfully, and we talked about the feature project. I left feeling very positive about my next steps.

Value for Money? It was free, so a big, fat YES. In fact, if you have a project that qualifies, these people can give you money. And home made scones.

Definitely recommended.


Lianne said...

Thanks for posting that Stuart. The 3 stage feature script funding is a fantastic initiative. Again I find myself wishing my regional screen agency offered something like this. Screen Agency Envy strikes again! I'm especially impressed by the free scones :-)

potdoll said...

Loved reading this!

Stuart Perry said...

Potdoll, thanks muchly.

Lianne, it might be worth checking with your regional agency: Screen South don't mention the 3-stage script analysis on their website, but it is available. You never know.

Lianne said...

I've contacted Film London a couple of times about what they can offer screenwriters and only been told about the Pulse and Borough Production Schemes, which have script development 'elements'. But perhaps I'll harass them again soon! :-)