"It has been great to see such diverse people meet in the same room to share ideas and creativity. There has been a real buzz."
Hopeful filmmakers and TV series creators from across the West Midlands pitched story ideas to executives from leading international production companies at the first Birmingham Film Market.
Senior representatives from 12 top companies including Sony Pictures, the producers of the Ghostbusters and Venom film series, and Red, the makers of acclaimed TV series such as Years and Years and Finding Alice, listened to proposals from 50 delegates at The Grand Hotel, in Colmore Row, on Friday (November 26).
With several aspiring writers receiving interest from the production companies and the opportunities to hold further discussions, the Birmingham Film Market organisers hope the event can help kickstart investment in Midlands-based productions and grow support for local talent to develop content for top producers.
The organisers aim to stage the Film Market again following positive feedback from both writers and producers, increasing opportunities for under-represented voices in the region to regularly share stories with wider audiences.
Among the production company decision makers to attend the event were Red head of development Chloe Dunbar, Sony Pictures senior vice president of scripted production Michaela Fereday, Channel 4 senior portfolio manager Caroline Percy and Soph Webberley of Warp Films, the makers of the film version of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
Endorsed by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and Kidulthood and Tomb Raider actress Jaime Winstone, organisers set up the Film Market to give talented local people the rare chance to meet top-level industry bosses on a one to one basis to outline their ideas for films and TV series.
Through a speed networking pitch style process, each delegate had 10 minutes to present their ideas to five executives from production and distribution companies to a prepared scheduled, all lined up by the organisers through a matchmaking criteria.
Having heard the outline ideas and raised questions about their potential, executives can now follow up the stories they want to develop. The producers have lined up follow-up meetings and calls with the writers they met at the Film Market.
The other companies represented were Bank Side Films, Curzon Films, Creative England, Goldfinch First Flights, Independent Entertainment, Bad Wolf Studios, Broke & Bones, Portopia Productions, Merman Productions and Acorn TV.
Among the writers taking part Scarlett Kefford, founder of Birmingham-based Script Sirens, a group for women and non-binary writers. Scarlett said: “The Film Market has been an invaluable experience. Without it there would be no way I would have access to these kinds of powerful people from these kinds of companies and be able to relate to them as human beings about the ideas we have to offer.”
Writer Hakam Poselay, of Check List Films, said: “We are passionate about the Black Country and Birmingham being better represented. People should not have to go to Manchester or London for productions to be made. It is exciting to be part of an event like this and see where it takes us.”
Martyn Ford, whose acting credits include appearances in Fast & Furious movie F9: The Fast Saga and Kingsman: The Golden Circle, was pitching ideas for a new movie. He said: “The first Birmingham Film Market has been a phenomenal success. It has been humbling to get a positive response from meeting decision makers in the room. The opportunities which could come out of the event could be life changing and I have had some great feedback.”
Among the event partners from the industry side was Smash Media, a digital platform for writers looking to shape their pitches. CEO Fiona Gillies said: “There is nothing like the Birmingham Film Market in this region so it has been great to see decision makers and content creators come together at such a well-run and organised event. The quality of the pitches has been high so it has been great to see the likes of Sony Pictures take part.”
The organisers are working to a five year plan to raise the profile of the Midlands within the global film and TV industries. The Birmingham Film Market was set up by Sophie Ivanova, Mellissa Donello and Louise Osbourne. Louise said: “We have had more executives take part than we originally expected and we have had a great response from Midlands filmmakers.
“It has been an incredibly positive event which encourages us that there is a great future for the Birmingham Film Market. Giving the region’s talent the chance to pitch locally to top decision makers will, we hope, set in motion new productions which raise the profile of our local film industry.”
Sophie Ivanova said: “We want Birmingham to have its own identity and original voice in TV and film production. We are trying to do something in ‘the world of dreams’ which will create the infrastructure for more talent from the West Midlands to be heard.” Mellissa Donello added: “It has taken a year of planning but we have persevered and are all so pleased with how the event has gone. It has been so rewarding to bring so many people together.”
Actress Jaime Winstone, who played Barbara Windsor in 2017 BBC biopic Babs and whose film credits include Tomb Raider and Made In Dagenham, is a partner for the Birmingham Film Market and attended to lend her support. She said: “It has been great to see such diverse people meet in the same room to share ideas and creativity. There has been a real buzz.
“Birmingham has a lot of creativity but its TV and film industry is not as well-established as other leading UK cities. Events like the Film Market make a big difference and I am excited to see what comes out of the conversations taking place.”
Steven Knight named the winner for an award in his name as Fernando Antonio Maffei from Kidderminster for The Britalians, his script based on his Italian grandfather’s experience relocating after World War II in the West Midlands. The winner will receive a mentoring session from the Peaky Blinders creator, along with a ticket to the Birmingham Film Festival Awards Ceremony, held at the Grand Hotel on Saturday, where Fernando was presented with his trophy.
The partners for the event included Create Central, Smash Media, Bootcamp Media, Birmingham Film Festival, the Grand Hotel, Film Freeway, Alliotts chartered accountants and business advisors, Wnder, Gold, Final Draft, Write On podcast, the Film Festival Doctor, BOA and Birmingham City University.