BFI NETWORK Short Film Development Programme

Tom Wightman is the BFI NETWORK Talent Executive for Film Hub South East. Here he introduces the BFI NETWORK Short Film Development Programme and explains the application process, which led to shortlisting the final ten applicants. Scroll down to hear from the filmmakers and writers themselves and how they feel about being selected for the programme. 

Our friends in the BFI NETWORK North Hub developed a really successful script development programme that supported writers and filmmakers from all creative backgrounds and we felt it was important to adapt a similar model for talent in the South East. We were receiving a number of applications from writers who obviously had talent, but whose scripts needed substantial work and therefore weren’t quite ready to be supported by the BFI NETWORK Short Film fund. We ran a number of successful writers labs in the past with Kate Leys and from these decided to develop a new format, that would enable writers to develop an idea from an initial paragraph into a fully developed script over a period of a few months. Each successful applicant would receive mentorship from Kate Leys, myself and other people within the industry to offer them a different perspective.

We received 118 applications, a lot more than we were anticipating, which made the selection process extremely difficult. If we run the programme again we’d like to do more outreach to ensure we reach more people with no prior experience, as we mostly received applications with some prior experience. After careful consideration we created a long list of 40 applications, which we then managed to get down to the final ten. Ultimately our decision was based on applicants that had a really distinctive vision and voice, alongside an idea which we felt could realistically be achieved.

Tom Wightman, BFI NETWORK Talent Executive for Film Hub South East

Selected writers and filmmakers

Aasaf Ainapore

“I’m thrilled to have been selected for this scheme and to be given the opportunity to access the development skills and depth of knowledge of Kate Leys and the BFI NETWORK team.”


Eleanor Dolan

“I am very excited to be selected for the BFI NETWORK Short Film Development Programme – it is the support and guidance I have been looking for (as I did not go to film school), to structure a powerful narrative into script format. The concept I sent in was very personal to me, so for BFI NETWORK to recognise and support my idea is a huge confidence boost. I cannot wait to develop the concept into a script, which we can then put forward for funding to make the film!”


Harry Francis

“It’s a truly incredible feeling having been selected for the programme. The opportunity to develop my short film with the support that’s on offer is a chance I can’t wait to get stuck into and make the most of.”


Julia Stovell

“I am delighted to be selected for the BFI NETWORK Short Film Development Programme! It is an amazing opportunity for me to develop a story I have been passionate about making for some time, and I very much look forward to meeting and working with everyone involved.”


Patrick Monger

“I’m thrilled to be selected for the BFI NETWORK Short Film Development Programme. I consider short films to be the hardest form of screenwriting to tackle, so I’m very much looking forward to approaching this challenge with the support of the BFI NETWORK team and learning from them and my fellow participants.”


Pip Swallow

“As someone quite new to filmmaking, having the support of the BFI NETWORK in developing my next idea is an incredible boon. It’s also going to be a wonderful opportunity to meet some regional collaborators. I’m really looking forward to it!”

Rhona Foster

“I’m extremely excited to develop my new short film on the lab and am particularly grateful for this wonderful opportunity to work with a Script Editor for the first time. I can’t wait to see how my writing progresses. Having recently moved to Margate, I’m really keen to connect with other filmmakers through the programme here in the South East.”

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Smari Gunn and Stephanie Lewis

“We are proud to be a part of the BFI NETWORK Short Film Development Programme with an idea which we feel very passionate about. Getting support for the project and having a chance to navigate it with fellow writers is a big encouragement and we can’t wait to get started.”


Tom Young

“As an aspiring writer-director the recognition of BFI NETWORK support means a lot, and the opportunity of both professional mentoring and the chance to pitch to producers is hugely exciting. My short film idea is an offshoot from a community-based project about a real-life priest’s struggles to set up a charity for young male sex workers in 1980s London – it’s a story I think deserves a wider audience, hopefully it can now get one.”

Vee Tames

“I was delighted to find out I had been selected for the BFI NETWORK Short Film Development Programme and am extremely excited to not only be working with esteemed industry guests but also meet other emerging writers and directors. I wouldn’t be writing in the first place without having taken part in the BFI Film Academy whilst I was still in school, so to be working with the organisation once again a couple of years later is a pleasure and a privilege.”

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