Stories About Place – The launch of series two of the iFeatures podcast

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For as long as I’ve worked at Creative England (which is a little over two years), our purpose has always been abundantly clear to me and one of the main appeals of my wanting to work here; help nurture homegrown talent and support them to thrive in a healthy, creative eco-system. Nothing could be truer and embody these core values more than our annual debut feature filmmaker development lab, iFeatures.

For any budding filmmaker in the UK, I can guarantee the opening date for the next round of applications is firmly penned into their calendars and for very good reason. The past filmmakers who’ve embarked on their iFeatures journeys is a list worthy of mentions: William Oldroyd conceived and birthed the critically acclaimed Lady Macbeth through the iFeatures programme, Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling was the proud outcome from iFeatures 3 and Dan Kokotajlo graced screens with BAFTA nominated The Apostasy in 2017. But I’m not here to namedrop the previous successes and accolades that have came about as a result of iFeatures. I’m here to tell you about series two of the iFeatures podcast which will be featuring this year’s fresh new talent and the stories they’re hoping to visualise on the big screen in the coming years. Before we get into the second series, ‘Stories About Place’, it seems just to start from the beginning; series one.

Series one was not only the first podcast series for iFeatures, but a first for Creative England too. Our debut podcast consisted of eight episodes (if you missed it, I seriously recommend you go and give it a listen here). We knew that our audiences were craving for more information on the programme and what better way to give it to them then an audible, backstage pass to the development labs. Any aspiring feature filmmaker will to you that developing your first feature script is a very personal and lengthy process, which takes a lot of re-discovery and external (professional) eyes delving into the true meanings of the narrative and your characters. These professional’s eyes who work on the programme are a carefully selected team of industry experts ranging from distribution execs and festival consultants to successful producers and directors. Series one comprises of interviews with these experts, Creative England, BFI & ScreenSkills, stakeholders and of course, our filmmakers. So we faced a dilemma; how do we create a second series without becoming repetitive? Our solution? Focus more closely on the teams and their stories. Rummage into the very reasoning of why they want to tell THIS story and what the importance of location is.

Each of our episodes will include a segment from the local film office or Creative England Filming in England team, who will divulge information around other productions that have used locations in their area. That’s right; we’ll be giving you the hot scoop of where all your favourite shows and films called home.

I met this year’s 12 teams and was overwhelmed by their eagerness to tell their stories on the podcast. Spoiler – these are stories that you will definitely want to hear. First up was Thea Gajic whose drama is set around the story of her father, a Serbian ex-addict who uses his passion for Balkan music to stay afloat and fight his unrelenting demons, set in Bristol.

So, we packed our bags and hit the long but scenic route down the M5 to Bristol. If you’ve never been to Bristol, you need to, seriously. If their Amsterdam-esque canals, scattered with independent restaurants, isn’t enough to allure you how about their extensive list of local craft beers off King Street, not to mention the boho rainbow neighbourhood of Montpelier. Bristol is the epitome of creativity; it’s coursing down each road and every district.

We met Thea at Temple Meads and proceeded to drive around the city as she reminisced of the times she visited her father here. We finally settled at a spot that has one of the best views of the city: a small alcove which has been carved into a concrete booth was our recording booth, overlooking the river Avon and Clifton suspension bridge.

Watching Thea’s previous work, there’s a real rawness to her shorts – she speaks so passionately about the stories she wants to tell and often draws from personal experiences when scriptwriting. She matter-of-factly stated “the major cities in England are very multi-cultural and diverse, their stories need to be told and reflected on screen.”

We proceeded to drive around Clifton as Thea talked us through the conception of Surviving Earth, the main character Vlad and what her future audience can expect. But enough with the spoilers, experience Thea’s story for yourself in episode one here

From our short trip to Bristol it’s clear to see why so many productions are drawn to its docking heart and tangibly vibrant neighbourhoods. We caught up with Natalie Moore from Bristol Film Office who proudly stated that “Bristol is vibrant, versatile and film-friendly” and I couldn’t agree more.

Now settled back up North, I caught up with Tom Haines who’s also on the current cohort of iFeatures, developing a project called Boa Constrictor alongside producer, Anna Griffin. His previous work speaks for itself, with his coming of age short Night of the Foxes premiering at London Film Festival. Tom spoke passionately about his project and the influences he’s drawn out of Bristol for his character development. Tom’s most recent short, The Mission can be watched here.

Both iFeature filmmakers emphasise the necessity of Bristol as a setting for their pictures. For Tom, Bristol’s underrepresented reputation is desirable and enriching; the city holds a “specificity” to the cinematic world. And for Thea, Bristol’s lure is personal, it is “imperative” that her story is captured in the hometown of where her father, the protagonist, called home for a large, defining section of his life.

All episodes are available on Spotify, Apple podcast, Audioboom & Google play. Tune in to become a part of our filmmakers’ journeys. You never know, they might inspire your own.