Selling Your Idea: What Makes a Great Funding Application?

BFI NETWORK South West Talent Executive Nadia Attia has read countless scripts for Channel 4, BBC, BFI, Studiocanal and more, and as an ex-filmmaker herself she’s been on the flipside of applying for funding. She took some time out to share her learnings with you, to help your application stand out and prepare you for the next round of funding.


Tell Us Something New

What we need to see in your director/writer’s statement is whether your passion for this project comes through: why you, why do you want to tell us this story now, and what is it saying that we haven’t heard before? In your script/feature pitch make sure your voice is on the page – we’ll pick it up through the scene and character descriptions, and in how you handle dialogue and atmosphere. Our remit is to find unique perspectives so avoid clichés and stereotypes and subvert our expectation. Don’t, however, make your story so ambitious or opaque that we don’t have a clue what’s going on!

Keep It Short  

Think about where you start your story – the opening image is so important. Does scene 1 set up your world or characters effectively, foreshadow something, give us a clear idea of the tone and genre? If it doesn’t do any of those things, ditch it. If it does one or two of those things, great, but can it work harder for you? It’s true what everyone says, ‘come in late and leave early’: tantalise us, don’t bore us. And remember that we only commission films of up to 15 minutes (and it’s well known that films over 10 minutes are harder to programme), so hone your script, give us the meat with very little fat. If you can distil your story into a single log line that’s half your job done as you’ll see what the real themes are and what to focus on.


“Give us the meat with very little fat”


Paint Us a Picture

Supporting materials are very important for animation projects as they give us an idea of style and execution, and for feature treatments they allow us to see the potential to turn your idea into a cinematic experience. If you don’t include a mood board (or similar) in your application that’s fine too, but in your creative vision statement remember to include some comp titles to allow us into the world that you’re creating – these could be references to film, TV, visual artists or even a music genre or motif. Make it really easy for us to visualise your film.


“Make it really easy for us to visualise your film”


Be Inclusive

Don’t just check boxes – we can tell when diversity is an afterthought. Is your story inclusive in the sense that the narrative includes global majorities and different backgrounds and perspectives without being tokenistic? Is the language you use inclusive, are the characters well rounded enough to not cause offence? If you’re not writing from lived experience have you done your research, or considered enlisting a qualified co-writer? Have you thought about how you might reach wider audiences with your film?

Take Your Time

Don’t rush your application simply to get it in for the deadline – if your script isn’t ready, or you haven’t spent adequate time working up an achievable budget (with plans for extra finance if needed), then put a pause on it and come back next year. Have you asked beta readers to check out your script, or might you consider working with a freelance script editor to help you nail it? Is your idea better suited to a TV pilot or a play? If the shoe doesn’t fit… don’t mutilate your story so much to fit the criteria that it ends up losing its original meaning.

I hope these brief thoughts and observations were helpful. Best of luck with your application, I look forward to reading your wonderful new story soon!

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