Despite being one of the most filmed cities in the world, London’s own homespun feature production is paradoxically low, compared to other cities like New York and Los Angeles. The gloomy statistics set the alarms off at Film London, the institution in charge of promoting and fometing filmmaking in the capital. "Hundreds of films are made here, but when we looked at the proportion of films being made by Londoners it was tragically low," says Adrian Wootoon, FilmLondon’s director.
And what could be behind the dearth of local production? "Of course it boils down to money and London is a very expensive city. But we thought there was something missing. Why is it that people are not making low-budget films like the ones made by American independent filmmakers?"
With the availabity and affordability of high definition video and the possibility of editing a feature on home computer, FilmLondon started to look at examples in America and other European cities and realised that the timing was right to launch an initiative to promote micro budget cinema. "We thought it was in the zeitgeist, so to say. One example is the current success of documentaries. We started to do some research and when we got the interest of the BBC as a broadcast partner, the project started to take shape," says Wooton.
The project, which has been named Microwave, is a funding scheme that will initially distribute £75,000 to ten projects, which can only be proposed by people who live in London. The story also has to be set or revolve around the city. "The idea is to give filmmakers opportunity and stimulate micro-budgets. It’s low risk – it may be a lot of money for an individual but a relatively small sum for an organisation. You’re not going to have investors worrying about their money like when you’re dealing with a budget of £1million."
Apart from having to be a Londoner, what are the other prerequisites required from applicants? "We will expect applicants to have some basic instruction on the filmmaking process. We will also expect a tight script and a budget. We won’t be asking for anything too radically new: it has to be viable and we can’t afford to spend too much time in development hell," says Wooton. In order to help makers have a smoother ride, they will be assisted by mentors to guide them through the process. "Mentors are there to provide information and advice framework, to assist in training workshops but also to give personal one to one advice if and when a filmmaker should need it whether it be on casting, shooting editing etc. The mentors will be drawn on more by some people than others but everyone will have access to them."
What is his guessing as to the type of films that a limited budget will attract? "I think it will attract personal films with smaller actions, even though if a filmmaker says to us he can get some special effects for free, we will be all for that – we want people to be entrepeneurial."
For more information on Microwave, follow Film London link on the left side bar