U.K. Film Start-Up Creates Seed Development Fund for New Writers

Gareth Unwin - P 2011

Cascade Media Development establishes a process called "Writers' Couch" to unearth fledgling screenwriting talent.

LONDON – Start-up film and television company Cascade Media plans to set up a fund to bankroll the development of projects including those from unsolicited writers via its Cascade Media Development division.

For the fresh writers, the company is launching Writers' Couch, a pitching process to "help film screenwriters get their projects developed and into production" backed by the fund which aims to raise an undisclosed amount to fuel the plan.

The Writers’ Couch will invite unsolicited writers once a month to pitch their film project, which will already have a completed script, to Cascade development executives.

Projects will be judged on the quality of the writing, the project’s probability for commercial or critical success, as well as how the project fits with the Cascade’s aims for producing genre projects that can work in the international and home market.

Cascade is launching a Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) to invest in developing new scripts including projects that the company gets involved in through the Writers’ Couch and plans are now actively underway to grow this scheme into a bigger Enterprise Iinitiative Scheme fund.

The Enterprise Investment scheme is a U.K. government initiative allowing companies to raise up to £5 million ($8 million) privately on which the investors receive 30 percent tax relief, and any gains made on the investment are tax free. 

The Writers’ Couch will be overseen by Daniel Campos Pavoncelli, Cascade Media Development’s acquisitions and development executive working with development executive Sam Cheetham who will manage the initiative.

Pavoncelli said: "Undoubtedly, we will only be able to fund and work with the filmmakers of a limited number of projects but we are committed to doing as much as we can to support writers who we may not get involved on a specific project but who feel we may be able to support in the future. The Writers’ Couch will also complement Cascade’s plans to develop and invest in projects from established filmmakers."

Cheetham added: "Through the Writers’ Couch we are also looking to build a network of partners in the UK which actively support new writing talent so that we can help cultivate an open, responsive environment within the country’s film industry."

The Writers' Couch and development fund has been welcomed by the industry.

Gareth Unwin of Bedlam Films, co-producer of the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech said: "Nurturing creative talent early in their potential careers is vital for our industry. Finding those fresh new voices that will keep what we produce for audiences relevant and interesting is notoriously difficult and Cascade should be applauded for their willingness to actively engage with talent in this way."

Unwin, who receives 30 odd unsolicited scripts a weeks, notes Cascade should not "underestimate their challenge ahead!"

Chris Jones, creative director at The London Screenwriters' Festival, said such funds can “provide the "vital first rung on the ladder " for emerging writers.

And Stephen May, director of The Screen Arts Institute, added: "Cascade is doing exactly what the business needs in working with emerging writers and putting great film storytelling at the forefront of their development processes."

Cascade said it will consider scripts of any genre and although foreign language projects will be considered, the company plans to prioritize English-language projects.

Cascade COO Cora Palfrey said: “We have our SEIS fund £150,000, part of which we will use for the initiative. We plan to help 'new talent' by partnering them up with more experienced writers, who can further develop their skills. The plan is to invest time as well as money with the individuals."