Tuesday, 17 April 2012

March Drinks with Jamie Wolpert

It was a busy one this March as we welcomed Jamie Wolpert, the new Development Editor at the BFI Film Fund, as our featured guest. 

In Development members took over much of the Soho Theatre Bar, with a possibly record turnout for our first anniversary drinks. 

Jamie chatted with lots of his fellow network members and shared his first month’s experience in the new job, as well as insight into developing and script editing the upcoming Sky Atlantic series Hit & Miss.

As you might expect, the role of Development Editor is a busy one, with a constant pile of scripts to read, applications to assess, development meetings with the great and the good of the industry and a remit to keep an eye out for the upcoming talent.

If you’re planning on submitting a funding application to the BFI, Jamie shared a few observations from his first weeks: They currently receive something like 20-25 first-stage applications a week. Here, you pitch the project, in all its facets, before they request to read the script. Apparently the odds that they’ll request the script are quite good. However, where people tend to trip up at the first hurdle is if the initial application does too little to demonstrate the track record, experience, planning or strategy to suggest the production is viable. Jamie observed this can happen for quite different reasons, sometimes arrogance; ‘Everyone knows me so I don’t need to explain myself’, and sometimes naivety; ‘Here’s my great idea, now you help me make it’. Clearly the BFI Film Fund doesn't have the time or money to run your production for you, so the onus is on the applicant to make a good case for their ability to carry off this particular project.

Once you get to the script request stage, the fall-out rate is obviously higher. According to the BFI Film Fund guidelines, 90% of applications are ultimately unsuccessful. However, if there’s potential in the project, there may be an opportunity for a meeting to discuss it, (even if the ultimate answer on funding is no). It's useful, of course, to put a human face to those assessing applications, get their input and open lines of communication for the future. 

Thanks to Jamie for coming along and sharing these insights. We look forward to welcoming him to future drinks get-togethers, (when he has the chance, amid busy evenings of plays and screenings!).

Onto April’s drinks, and our featured guest is Jon Croker – former Story Editor at the UK Film Council, who's worked on projects including Attack the Block, The Iron Lady and The Woman in Black. Jon is now a full time screenwriter and was just announced in Variety as writer of the sequel to The Woman in Black (currently 'the most successful British horror of all time' The Guardian). He’s joining us to share insights from his experience on this hit project and others and to chat on the subject of moving between feature script editing and screenwriting. Should be another great night! See you there.

(Read more about Jon and Jamie on our profiles page)

The Woman in Black UK Trailer