Shortlist announced for this year’s IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award

Michaela Coel will lead the judging panel to decide this year’s winner. The bursary is the most significant of its kind in the UK film industry and is designed to support the future careers of exceptional new UK film talent.

21 September 2020

London Film Festival 2020
Shortlisted for the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award: Cathy Brady, Aleem Khan and Francis Lee

The BFI and IWC Schaffhausen today reveal the 3 filmmakers shortlisted for the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in association with the BFI. At £50k, and now in its fifth year, it has established itself as the most significant bursary of its kind in the UK film industry, expressly designed to support the future careers of exceptional new UK film talent.

Acclaimed actor, director, screenwriter, producer and poet Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You, Black Earth Rising, Chewing Gum, Black Mirror, Been So Long) will join Ben Roberts, Chief Executive of the BFI and Christoph Grainger-Herr, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen, to select the winner, which will be announced at the BFI London Film Festival 2020 Virtual LFF Audience Awards, on Sunday 18 October – the closing night of the BFI London Film Festival. 

The 2020 shortlist are Cathy Brady, writer-director of her debut feature Wildfire, Aleem Khan, writer-director of his debut feature After Love, and Francis Lee, writer-director of his second feature Ammonite.

The bursary is presented in recognition of outstanding UK talent at the beginning or early stages of their careers and is designed to support a writer and/or director by providing them with the financial stability and time needed to develop their creativity. It affords them the freedom to focus on future projects without the pressure of deadlines or the distraction of taking paid work – a precious and extremely rare opportunity for a filmmaker. 

Previous recipients include writer-directors Rose Glass (Saint Maud) in 2019, Richard Billlingham (Ray & Liz) in 2018 and Daniel Kokotajlo (Apostasy) in 2017. Hope Dickson Leach (The Levelling) was awarded the first bursary in 2016. Dickson Leach, co-founder of Raising Films, campaigns for improved working practices for parents and carers and is currently developing several new feature films in the US and UK. Following their wins, Daniel Kokotajlo and Richard Billingham were both nominated for outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer at the BAFTAs in 2017 and 2018 respectively, with Billingham going on to win the Douglas Hickox award for debut directors at the British Independent Film Awards. Rose Glass’s debut Saint Maud is released in the UK this autumn.

Chaired by Tricia Tuttle, Artistic Director of the BFI London Film Festival, a panel of industry figures – Eva Yates, Commissioning Executive at BBC Films, Lauren Dark, Commissioning Executive at Film4, Farhana Bhula, Development & Production Executive of the BFI Film Fund, and Akua Gyamfi, journalist and founder of The British Blacklist – selected the shortlist of filmmakers. To be eligible for the bursary award a writer, director or writer-director must be UK-based and have their first or second film in official selection at the BFI London Film Festival in Partnership with American Express. 

About the filmmakers

Cathy Brady

Writer-director of Wildfire 

Screen International Star of Tomorrow and NFTS graduate Cathy Brady is a two-time IFTA-winning director, for her short films Small Change and Morning. Morning was also nominated for European Academy Award for best short. In 2011 Cathy directed the BIFA-nominated TV drama Rough Skin for Channel 4’s Coming Up strand. In 2014, she directed an episode of Jack Thorne’s BAFTA-nominated series Glue and went on to co-develop and direct the first series of Stefanie Preissner’s Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope for RTE/BBC3/Netflix. In 2017 Cathy was one of 15 female directors selected for BAFTA Elevate and in 2019 she was selected as one of The Irish Times ‘50 People to Watch’. Her debut feature Wildfire (backed by the BFI, Northern Ireland Screen and Screen Ireland), which she wrote and directed, stars Nora-Jane Noone and Nika McGuigan and had its world premiere at the recent Toronto International Film Festival.


Wildfire (2020)

The story of two sisters who grew up on the fractious Irish border. When one of them, who has been missing, finally returns home, the intense bond with her sister is re-ignited. Together they unearth their mother’s past but uncovered secrets and resentments which have been buried deep, threaten to overwhelm them.

Cathy Brady said: “It is such an honour to be on the shortlist and in such talented company. Thank you. I’m still in shock.”

Aleem Khan

Writer-director of After Love

Born and raised in Kent, Aleem Khan is a writer and director of mixed English-Pakistani heritage. His debut short film, Diana, premiered at the 2009 London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. His subsequent short, Three Brothers, was commissioned by Film London on the inaugural London Calling Plus scheme and premiered at the 2014 London Film Festival before touring the international festival circuit. A BAFTA nomination for best British short film followed in 2015 and, later that year, Aleem was named a Screen International Star of Tomorrow. A 2017 fellow of both the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs, Aleem is also an alumnus of Guiding Lights, The Locarno Filmmakers Academy and BFI Flare. His debut feature, After Love, was backed by BBC Films and the BFI and was selected for this year’s Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week, and also received an official selection at the Telluride Film Festival ahead of its LFF premiere.

After Love

After Love (2020)

Set in the coastal town of Dover in the south of England, After Love follows Mary Hussain, a 62-year-old English Muslim convert who suffers an identity crisis after her husband, Ahmed, dies unexpectedly of a heart attack. In the days after Ahmed’s death, Mary discovers that he has a secret family living just 21 miles across the English Channel in Calais, and sets out on a journey to find them, and herself.

Aleem Khan said: “This is such an incredible acknowledgement and rare opportunity, thank you to IWC Schaffhausen, the BFI and pre-selecting panel for including me in the shortlist – and what wonderful filmmakers to be shortlisted alongside also.”

Francis Lee

Writer-director of Ammonite 

Francis Lee is a filmmaker from West Yorkshire, England. His debut feature film, God’s Own Country (2017), premiered at Sundance 2017, where Francis won the directing award. The film went on to be theatrically released worldwide, winning countless awards and nominations including best film at the British Independent Film Awards 2017, best film at the Evening Standard Film Awards, the Michael Powell Award for best British film of 2017, breakthrough British filmmaker of the year at the London Critics Circle Film Awards 2017 and a nomination for the BAFTA for outstanding British film 2017. God’s Own Country became one of the most successful UK debut films for years. Ammonite, which was selected in Cannes, Telluride and the Toronto International Film Festival 2020 is his second feature, and is due for theatrical release worldwide 2020/21. Ammonite was backed by the BFI and BBC Films who both supported the development with See-Saw Films.


Ammonite (2020)

In 1840s England, acclaimed but overlooked palaeontologist Mary Anning is entrusted with the care of Charlotte, a young woman who is recuperating from a personal tragedy. They are 2 women from utterly different worlds. Yet despite the chasm between their social spheres and personalities, they discover they can each offer what the other has been searching for: the realisation that they are not alone. It is the beginning of a passionate and all-consuming love affair that will defy all social bounds and alter the course of both lives irrevocably.

Francis Lee said: “I am honoured to be shortlisted for the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award, especially given the incredibly high calibre of previous shortlisted and winning filmmakers. As a second time filmmaker, I am thrilled to be part of a shortlist this year with such exciting filmmaking talent.”

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