BFI invests £2.5m in UK producers, announcing Vision Awards

BFI Vision Awards provide up to £2m of National Lottery funding to 20 producers and producer teams over next two years, while 12 emerging producers are selected for new BFI NETWORK INSIGHT professional development programme.

BFI Vision Awardees 2020

The BFI is investing up to £2.5m of National Lottery funding in producers from all over the UK as it announces recipients of its Vision Awards, and those selected for the new professional development programme BFI NETWORK INSIGHT. Awarding up to £2m over two years to 20 producers and producer teams, Vision Awards are providing invaluable support and funding to some of the UK’s most exciting and ambitious producers as they are establishing their careers. Twelve emerging producers who are yet to make their first feature will benefit from the comprehensive BFI NETWORK INSIGHT programme.

Ben Roberts, BFI Chief Executive, said:

When all parts of our industry are feeling the impacts of this shut down, investment in our independent producers is more important than ever. They are the cornerstone of our industry, and these early career producers will be central to bringing exciting talent together to create powerful and culturally diverse stories. It is the strength of these stories and their ability to connect with audiences, which will play a central role in our industry’s continued cultural and economic success, as well as its recovery.

These two distinct but complimentary programmes offer crucial support to early career producers. Recipients across both programmes represent a diverse group of producers with over 35% from outside London and the South East, over 70% are female or part of a female producing duos, and over 35% underrepresented ethnicities.

The fourth edition of the BFI Vision Awards is providing a maximum of £50,000 per year to each of the 20 producers or producing teams. The funding gives recipients creative and financial autonomy, empowering them to develop their ambitious and diverse film slates and build their businesses. This year it has targeted more experienced producers, who have made between one and three distributed projects (features, television or immersive content). The funding and support aims to boost their careers, giving them the stability and security to forge ambitious creative partnerships, and to get quality and distinctive projects they have fostered off the ground. As with the previous round, 50% of the BFI Vision Award will be non-recoupable, encouraging producers who may be unable to support themselves financially on a full-time basis to devote themselves to developing their slate.

The BFI NETWORK INSIGHT programme was set up to address a gap identified in training and support available for producers taking serious steps towards their debut feature and growing sustainable, creative companies. At a formative stage of their career, the comprehensive programme aims to provide in-depth knowledge of navigating the life-cycle of a project from the pivotal position of the producer.

Modules include project development and IP, managing creative relationships, business planning and sustainability, business affairs, packaging and financing, co-production, and marketing and distribution – with environmental sustainability and inclusion woven into the content of every module. The programme will culminate in a trip to a film market next year. Screen Yorkshire is working with BFI NETWORK on the full design and delivery of the programme, led by their Head of Creative Programmes, Caroline Cooper Charles.

This year’s Vision Awardees will join the 12 selected producers to benefit from a number of modules. To provide significant reach beyond those selected for the course, materials developed for the programme will be available online.

While participants cannot be physically together at the moment, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are already engaging with the programme. Some elements will run online, while others will be delivered in person as and when it is possible. Key to INSIGHT is creating a strong cohort to foster long lasting peer support and creative collaboration, which remains a priority whether delivering the programme by traditional or alternative means.

The BFI’s first Vision Awards in 2008 supported 15 companies looking to scale up their business and establish their international reputation through making critically acclaimed and commercially successful films.  With its Vision Awards for 2013-2015, the BFI widened the field by supporting 19 companies, including 12 emerging companies. The 2016-2018 Awards backed 22 production companies focusing on emerging producers, to support for their development activity and enable them to expand their relationships and the work they develop.  

A number of previous Vision Awardees have successfully capitalised on the unique investment and support to define their company’s identity, move projects into production and develop viable businesses.

Alumni include Emily Morgan, who with her company Quiddity Films produced the critically-acclaimed and multi award-wining I Am Not A Witch, for which she won the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut with the film’s writer/director Rungano Nyoni. Upcoming projects include Supernova directed by Harry Macqueen, starring Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci, and Make Up, the feature debut from Claire Oakley starring Molly Windsor.

Emily Morgan commented:

The Vision Award helped to radically change the course of my career. I was suddenly able to work exclusively through my own company and freely dedicate time and finance towards a slate of projects that excited me.

Bennett McGhee who, since setting up Silvertown Films, has produced feature documentary Bobby about sporting icon Bobby Moore, released by Entertainment One in the UK, and rap battle drama VS. with BBC Films, released by Altitude. Upcoming is the BBC Films-backed, Pulse Films collaboration Mogul Mowgli – starring Riz Ahmed, who co-wrote the script with director Bassam Tariq – which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival winning the FIPRESCI prize for best film in the Panorama strand.

Bennett McGhee, commented:

The Vision Award cannot be understated. It allowed me to grow my business with complete autonomy, and fired up more resilience to take risks and champion talent who I believe in. I’ve also been part of a very special group of producers (the other awardees) who have supported each other over the years and become a very tight unit. That bond will remain even when the last penny from the award is spent.

BFI Vision Awards 2020-22 (in alphabetical order by company):

Manon Ardisson and Chiara Ventura, Ardimages UK Ltd

Ardimages UK producers Manon Ardisson and Chiara Ventura prioritise diverse, female-driven films that challenge the norm and spearhead change through entertainment. Their innovative and internationally minded outlook is rooted in their combined experience and backgrounds. Manon previously produced the BFI-backed, BAFTA-nominated and BIFA-winning feature God’s Own Country (Sundance 2017), and co-produced two critically acclaimed films from Venezuela, La Soledad (Venice 2016) and La Fortaleza (Rotterdam 2020). Chiara produced the feature documentary Romantic Comedy (SXSW 2019), selected for over 40 festivals worldwide. They currently have projects in development with the BFI and Film4 among others, and are working with talent including Jenny Lu, Morgan Lloyd-Malcolm, Louise Stern and IR Bell-Webb.

James Watson, Bêtes Sauvages Ltd

James is a London-based producer with Wild Beast Productions. Having started working in music promos, fashion film and short documentaries, he produced his first feature A Moment In The Reeds, which played at over 80 festivals worldwide, and was nominated for a BIFA Discovery Award as well as two Jussi Awards in Finland. James is developing Mikko Makela’s sophomore feature Sebastian and working with him as co-writer on a scripted series. He is currently developing a slate of queer feature films and is a proud member of the Queer Producers Network.

Emily Precious and Lizzie Brown, Bird Flight Films Ltd

Lizzie and Emily joined forces at Bird Flight in 2018 following a successful producing collaboration on Emily’s Harris’ Carmilla (2020). They’ve recently worked as the UK field producers on two high-profile US documentaries. Previously, Lizzie’s short film Love Is Blind from writer/director Dan Hodgson was nominated for a Palme d’Or in Cannes and her first feature Beyond was released by Netflix and Amazon Prime. Emily has worked on-set and in-house for Fred Films and Ealing Studios, her credits include Associate Producer on Fisherman’s Friend, Patrick and Crooked House.

Chris Patterson, Causeway Pictures Ltd

Chris founded Causeway Pictures in 2009, developing and producing film, television, documentary and corporate projects. Before starting Causeway, Chris spent many years in the production industry as Location Manager and Production Manager on projects such as Quantum of Solace and Hellboy 2. These projects where shot all over the UK and Ireland giving Chris excellent regional experience. Since his first feature doc, Hostage to the Devil, was sold to Netflix in 2017, Chris has been developing a range of projects across television, features, documentary and more recently animation.

Kate Byers and Linn Waite, Early Day Films Ltd

Kate and Linn are founders of Bristol-based Early Day Films. Winning BIFA’s Breakthrough producer 2019 and the 2020 BAFTA for best debut feature, their critically acclaimed feature Bait (Mark Jenkin) continues to screen internationally following an award-winning UK campaign with BFI Distribution. From a short film background (September BAFTA winner 2009, Hard Cracked The Wind 2019), Linn and Kate work with some of the most exciting voices in the South West. Presently, they are bringing together a slate of original features, collaborating with new talent and established writers and directors.

Stephanie Aspin and Helen Simmons, Erebus Pictures Ltd

Erebus Pictures was founded to create quality, commercially driven projects for film and television. A 2018 Screen Star of Tomorrow, Helen produced two features: the BIFA nominated Chubby Funny and upcoming Say Your Prayers. Stephanie worked on major studio films and is now leading shows commissioned with BBC, Sky Atlantic and Quibi. Under Erebus Pictures, the duo have produced several successful shorts, including The Uncertain Kingdom’s Swan. Their slate mixes commercial fare with indie debuts; drawing on their diverse experiences to create content for an increasingly global audience.

Oliver Kassman, Escape Plan Productions Ltd

Oliver founded Escape Plan in December 2015. The company’s first production, Rose Glass’s BFI-backed debut feature Saint Maud (starring Morfydd Clark and Jennifer Ehle), premiered at TIFF 2019 to rave reviews and sold-out worldwide. Previously, Oliver was Head of Production and Development for eminent producer Michael Kuhn’s Qwerty Films, where he scouted and developed many of the company’s projects, including Stephen Frears’ Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, on which he worked as Associate Producer. Last year Oliver was named one of BAFTA’s Breakthrough Brits.

Fiona Lamptey, Fruit Tree Media Ltd

Screen Star of Tomorrow 2019, Fiona is a Film and television producer, with 12 years’ experience working at Channel 4 and Film4. She established Fruit Tree Media in 2013 to champion unrepresented voices, working with some of the UK’s most exciting talent. Fiona has produced a number of distinctive and cross-disciplinary works and is currently in production on a mini-series for Film4 that imagines possible futures for people of colour, in the UK. The Vision award will help seed fund ideas that reimagine identity, transcend social limitations and incite audiences into action.

Anna Griffin, Griffin Pictures Ltd

Anna established Nottingham-based Griffin Pictures with the ambition to become an incubator of diverse talent, producing progressive work with cultural relevance that reaches international audiences. Anna is working with some of the UK’s most exciting and inspiring talent, from her home region and beyond, and has projects in development with Film4 and the BFI. The company’s launch project, short film The Tunnel, from BAFTA nominated Arash Ashtiani, is currently in post-production and aiming to hit the festival circuit in late 2020.

Chi Thai, Hot Knife Ltd

Chi Thai produces features, documentary, animation and immersive work. Her ambition is to dismantle the conditions that marginalise stories and storytellers, especially those from the East Asian diaspora. She is a cofounder of the advocacy group, BEATS. She is currently working across a variety of adaptations, including Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell with Cartoon Saloon; The Promise by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin; Dark Chapter by Winnie M Li and The Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen. Recent credits include short Little Miss Sumo (a Netflix Original) and RTS-nominated VR feature, IF.

Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor, Joi Productions Ltd

Joy is a producer and writer who recently produced Blue Story, written and directed by Andrew “Rapman” Onwubolu for Paramount and BBC Films. In 2019, she was nominated for Breakthrough Producer award at the BIFAs. In 2016 she produced White Colour Black which premiered at the BFI London Film Festival and earned director Joseph A. Adesunloye a nomination for the inaugural The IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in association with the BFI. Joy set up film production company Joi Productions, to focus on queer, black and female-led work. She currently has work in development with the BFI, BBC Films and Film4.

Lindsey Dryden, Little by Little Films Ltd

Gloucestershire-based Lindsey is an Emmy®-winning producer whose credits include Sundance Special Jury Award-winning and Oscar® shortlisted Unrest (2017, PBS/Netflix), Trans In America (2018, ACLU/CondéNast) and Lost and Sound (2012, SXSW). She focuses on illuminating storytelling by and about LGBTIQ+ folks, women and disabled people, and she’s known for nurturing exciting new voices, and centring authenticity, artistry and collaboration in her work. A proud founding member of Queer Producers Network and FWD-DOC, Lindsey is the 2019 Simon Relph Memorial Bursary recipient and a fellow of BFI Flare X BAFTA Crew Mentoring and Guiding Lights.

Pietro Greppi, Lunapark Pictures Ltd

Pietro focuses on stories of outsiders from visionary talent, often featuring LGBTIQ+ and female leads and cross-cultural perspectives. He produced Andrew Steggall’s BFI-backed debut Departure, Giacomo Cimini’s award-winning short The Nostalgist, and executive-produced three upcoming debuts: Camille Griffin’s Silent Night, starring Keira Knightley, produced by Marv and Maven; Marley Morrison’s Sweetheart, funded by Microwave; and Eliza Schroeder’s Love Sarah, starring Celia Imrie. With 2016 BFI Vision Awardee Serena Armitage, Pietro completed Sarah Clift’s BFI NETWORK short Valerie Venus and is developing Clift’s feature debut Two Old Maids and Claire Oakley’s feature English Animals.

Jennifer Monks, Pencil Trick Productions

Jennifer is a BAFTA, Royal Television Society-nominated and BIFA-winning Producer. Previous films have been selected for SXSW, Sydney, Sundance, Encounters, Cannes, Edinburgh and BFI film festivals. Jennifer runs Liverpool-based Pencil Trick Productions. In 2019 Pencil Trick was named a CE50 company identifying it as one of the top 50 creative companies in England. In 2019 Jennifer was awarded a John Brabourne Award. Jennifer is passionate about supporting regional talent and an advocate for parents working in the creative industries.

Farah Abushwesha, Rocliffe Limited

Farah is a BAFTA-nominated producer and Amazon best-selling author. Her work includes The Singapore Grip by Christopher Hampton (Atonement, Dangerous Liaisons) with Colm Meaney, Charles Dance and Jane Horrocks; BBC Amazon series The ABC Murders starring John Malkovich and Rupert Grint with Mammoth Screen; Netflix Original Irreplaceable You with Christopher Walken, Steve Coogan and Gugu Mbatha-Raw and The Last Photograph with Danny Huston and Sarita Choudhury. She is the founder of the BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Showcase and Competition.

Camilla Wren and Shirine Best, Other Productions (FKA Roxanna Films Ltd)

Producers Shirine and Camilla bring a wealth of industry experience to their joint venture Other Productions. Shirine’s debut feature WESTWOOD: Punk, Icon, Activist (2018) was nominated in the prestigious World Cinema Documentary category at Sundance, and saw her included on the BIFA longlist for emerging producers. Camilla’s production and development experience spans film and television, having worked on high-end drama for companies including Left Bank Pictures, and on the development and script editing of several Warner Bros’ Studio features, including the Fantastic Beasts franchise. Other Productions is their creative collaboration specialising in both film and television, with an ambition to champion a range of diverse new talent and develop bold international stories.

Sarah Brocklehurst, Sarah Brocklehurst Productions Ltd

Sarah started her career in the theatre industry before producing her first feature Black Pond, directed by Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley, which was nominated for the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut. Most recently, Sarah produced the BIFA-winning Animals, directed by Sophie Hyde, written by Emma Jane Unsworth, which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Sarah has been named a Screen Star of Tomorrow and a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit, and her company was selected as one of the UK’s top emerging production companies in Screen Daily’s Brit 50 list.

Hanna Thomas and Ed Talfan, Severn Screen Ltd

Cardiff-based Severn Screen develops and produces film and television content for the national and international market. Recent productions include Gareth Evans feature Apostle and acclaimed drama series Hidden. Producers Ed and Hannah have over 20 years’ experience in the industry and are committed to working with established and emerging talent to bring new stories to the screen. Partners on recent projects include BBC Films, All3Media International, XYZ Films, World Productions, Pulse Films, Daybreak Pictures, BBC Wales, S4C and Ffilm Cymru Wales.

Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, The Sixty Six Pictures

A 2019 BAFTA Breakthrough Brit, Fodhla recently produced Ammonite, the second feature from Francis Lee (God’s Own Country) starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, and is currently working on the Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer’s sophomore feature God’s Creatures. Her debut feature was the critically acclaimed, BFI-backed, BAFTA-nominated and multi-award-winning Lady Macbeth (Toronto, 2017) starring Florence Pugh and Naomi Ackie, which was released to universal critical acclaim. Fodhla produced the Michael Caine-starring documentary feature My Generation (Venice, 2017) and her animated graduation film Head Over Heels premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and later won an Annie Award, the Cartoon d’Or and an Academy Award® nomination. Fodhla holds an MA in producing from The National Film & Television School and is currently on the board of BIFA. In 2019, she was named a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit.

Rebecca Mark-lawson, Tyke Films Ltd

Rebecca Mark-Lawson runs award-winning Tyke Films, producing work with original voices, exploring the intersection between documentary and fiction. Aiming to make a bold contribution to the UK filmmaking landscape through projects telling rarely seen, personal stories, the slate is drawn from left-field sources and less represented geographies and communities. In 2019 Tyke delivered BFI-backed feature documentary Irene’s Ghost, one of the ‘Best Films of 2019’ (The Guardian), which premiered at the BFI London Film Festival, was nominated for a BIFA and will enjoy its UK television broadcast on Sky in 2020.

BFI NETWORK INSIGHT 2020-21 participants (in alphabetical order):

Sorcha Bacon

Sorcha Bacon is a BAFTA and BIFA-nominated producer and founder of Try Hard Films. She is behind the BFI NETWORK SHORT Wren Boys (Sundance, SXSW); If You Knew (Sheffield Doc/Fest, BFI London Film Festival) and Pompeii (Critics Circle, BFI London Film Festival). Her work spans documentary and fiction, with features in development with BBC Films including her 2019/2020 iFeatures project, Maggy. She is currently co-producing a documentary with producer Steven Lake, which is in development with Catapult Films. In 2018, Sorcha was named one of six rising LGBTIQ+ talents by BAFTA and BFI Flare and in 2019, a Film London “Lodestar” celebrating emerging talent in the capital.

Alexandra Blue

Alexandra is an award-winning producer committed to bold, original and inventive storytelling. With a talent-led approach, Alexandra’s short films have been Oscar®-longlisted and received acclaim at festivals including the BFI London Film Festival, Clermont-Ferrand, Flickerfest and Palm Springs. Previously working in development roles at Heyday Films and Element Pictures, Alexandra’s accolades as a producer include Emerging Producer of the Year (SASA), Best Emerging Filmmaker (Shorts Film Festival) and a nomination for Best Short Film at the Australian Academy Awards. Alexandra’s current development slate includes projects with Film4, BFI and Screen Australia.

Holly Carrington

Holly Carrington is an RTS-nominated producer, a graduate of the National Film and Television School and collectively her films have premiered around the world most recently at the BFI London Film Festival, BFI Flare, Leeds International Film Festival and CamerImage. In 2019 she started her own production company, Diploid Productions, creating quality content born out of collaboration and has committed herself to redefining the northern and working class identity through the projects she brings to screen.

Douglas Cox

Focused on delivering internationally appealing genre films and television, Douglas is developing a strong slate with some of the UK’s brightest filmmakers, including projects with Kate Herron (Sex Education, Loki), Emily Greenwood and Mustapha Kseibati (Screen Star of Tomorrow). With a background in high-end television, Douglas has produced BAFTA-shortlisted and Méliès d’Argent-winning genre shorts, notably Rob Savage’s Dawn Of The Deaf & Salt, and counts the BFI London Film Festival, Sundance and Canneseries among 200+ festival screenings. Douglas was selected for Film London’s Microwave, EIFF Talent Lab, SFTN’s Talent Programme and is a 2017 BFI NETWORK Weekender alumni.

Tony Longe

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Digital Film Production at Ravensbourne University, Tony initially began his career producing music videos with some of the biggest names in the music industry; from international artists like Davido, J Balvin & Future to homegrown talents like Westlife, Aitch & Wretch 32. He most recently produced Random Acts’ The Gift which premiered on Film4, and short film Appreciation which was in official selection at the 2019 BFI London Film Festival and Aesthetica Short Film Festival the same year.

Alice Lusher

Alice joined Cardiff-based and BFI Vision awarded ie ie productions in 2015 to establish and lead their drama department. Building on an international reputation for creating ground-breaking, cross-platform content she has expanded the company’s diverse slate of scripted film and television projects. Alice’s award-winning shorts have screened internationally. In 2019 she produced S4C’s debut short-form bilingual drama series Merched Parchus (Respectable Girls) and was selected for BFI NETWORK@LFF. 2020 sees the release of I Choose the debut narrative short by multidisciplinary artist Tina Pasotra, which Alice co-wrote and produced.

Lucy Meer

Lucy is a BAFTA-longlisted producer and founder of Strive Films, a film production company based in Yorkshire. Her previous work has screened on BBC and Sky Arts, as well as premiering in the opening gala of the Underwire film festival. With a focus on utilising genre to tell dramatic narratives, Lucy aims to produce exciting and engaging films for a wide audience.

John McKay

John McKay is a long-time writer and director emerging now as producer at Compact Pictures – his movies include Crush with Andie Macdowell and Imelda Staunton, Piccadilly Jim with Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney, and Not Another Happy Ending with Karen Gillan and Stanley Weber. His television credits include his film on the love affair between David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton We’ll Take Manhattan which won the Prix Europa for Best Drama; as well as the charming young adult film Katy, winner of Rocky and BAFTA awards 2018, and International Emmy® 2020.

Lorine Plagnol

From France to England, Lorine has been developing her expertise in international production through high-end television dramas, factuals and independent films. Climbing the ladder from assistant to production manager and producer, she most recently worked for the ESPN documentary Be Water (2020), the indie feature film Man in the Hat (2019) and the bilingual Sky Production Das Boot (2018). In 2018, Lorine co-founded the production company Sungazer, with producer Oskar Pimlott. Lorine is a 2020 Rotterdam Producers Lab Alumni.

Gannesh Rajah

Gannesh has spent his career as a producer working with clients including Google, Sky 1, and Spotify. He’s worked at several film festivals (including Sundance London, and twice as a juror at the Sheffield Doc/Fest) and produced several short films that have screened at numerous festivals, including Foyle, Edmonton, and the London Short Film Festival. Currently working as a Development Producer, he was one of Sheffield Doc/Fests 2018 ‘Future Producers’ and was awarded the prestigious ‘Doc Society Fellowship.’

Sophie Reynolds

In 2016 Sophie established SONA films, which aims to produce British films that address real issues whilst maintaining the magic and escapism of cinema. SONA films has a track record of award-winning short films (most recently Vert, SXSW 2020) and has a slate of feature films and television projects including an Anne Fine book adaptation and various projects in development with the BFI. Sophie campaigns for access in the film industry through the UK Producer’s Roundtable and is one of the British Screen Forum’s ‘future leaders’.

Barrington Robinson

Barrington Paul Robinson is a creative producer, alumni of EIFF Talent Lab, a UK Film Council Breakthrough Brit and a Screen Star of Tomorrow. With a background predominately in short films and music promos, his films have been screened around the world. Having recently relocated to the Northwest he has collaborated with interesting new filmmakers creating three new shorts through BBC Films, BFI and New Creatives North. Barrington is working with exciting talent across the regions to develop ideas for film and television through his production company Redbag Pictures. He plans to continue sharing stories, “Powered by the Future, Inspired by the past”.