A Talent Exec’s Guide to the Early Development Fund

Our south west Talent Exec Nadia Attia offers some extra insights on what the BFI NETWORK’s Early Development Fund (EDF) is, and why it can be a valuable stepping-stone in your career.


Image credit: Yummy Mummy. Courtesy of Dreammore Films Ltd.

The Key

The EDF is for writers with a solid creative track record who are ready to make their debut long-form project. The EDF can provide you with a small amount of money to help you create a brilliant 10-page treatment document (plus any supporting visual materials such as a pitch deck or mood board), which will then help you ‘sell’ your project to financiers and collaborators. As we know, producers are in high demand so having some professional-looking materials to entice them and bring your story and vision to life is essential. Think of the EDF as a key to help you unlock your potential and find your champions.

‘Think of the EDF as a key to help you unlock your potential and find your champions’

Show me the Money!

You can apply for up to £5,000 for things such as a writer allowance for your time, a producer allowance (if you have a producer attached to the project), access-related costs, research materials and trips, design support, maybe even contributor fees if you plan on interviewing subjects relevant to your idea. Really think about exactly what you need, and apply for just that amount (our pot is limited and we want to support as many writers as we can). We expect you to outline what your award will be spent on at the time of applying, so plan wisely. Also think about sustainability  – do you need to travel or could meetings be held online?

What’s the Big Idea?

Let’s assume that you’ve already considered how your idea fits with the BFI Funding Priorities and Diversity Standards. What else are we looking for? Well, it can be any genre but has to be a scripted, narrative-driven idea that’s live action, animation or immersive, and an idea that would result in a film of over 70mins and a cert of no more than 18. Since this is your debut you won’t be getting a huge budget to make it, so be realistic and smart about the scale of your story. Do we really need another aspirational James Bond-esque film with private-jets, glam locations and a cast of hundreds? Perhaps audiences would resonate more with a tale that is prescient, urgent, something that offers a fresh angle on the world right now… And make sure it’s original, not a biopic or an adaptation of existing material (unless you are the author/sole creator of said material). Remember that we don’t ask you to sign over any rights to us; this is your baby. 

‘This is your baby’

What’s New?

In this 2023 round of the EDF you don’t need a producer to apply with. The BFI have also introduced a Stage 2: once you’ve handed in your treatment and fulfilled your contractual obligations you’ll be invited to apply for further funding to take your idea to a first-draft script. More details on this will be provided at the time, and it will involve you signing another agreement. Each region is expected to support at least 3 projects at Stage 1, and 1 project at Stage 2, so this is still a competitive fund, and this time around we won’t be able to offer feedback on every application (only those shortlisted). So make it count and make sure you’re ready: you won’t be able to apply the year after with the same idea unless specifically asked to do so.

We look forward to reading your application, have fun with it, and best of luck!


If you have any specific questions on the fund drop us a line or email bfinetworkfunding@bfi.org.uk

In Oct we held a Q&A, with special guest Sophie Mair, which may answer some more of your questions, you can watch that back here.

Further information

  • Guides & Resources Read more
  • A Talent Exec’s Guide to the Early Development Fund Read more
  • Selling Your Idea: What Makes a Great Funding Application? Read more

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