U.K. program targets minority filmmakers


LONDON -- Black and minority filmmakers here are getting a shot in the arm with the launch of a hothouse program for feature ideas backed by production company B3 Media, U.K. broadcaster Channel Four's Film4, Dutch film development house Binger Film Lab and British training body Skillset.

B3 Media and its trio of backers said that B3 FeatureLab will "supercharge" four movie scripts from black and minority ethnic filmmakers with a track record in film, TV, radio, the visual arts and new media.

Sixteen people will get the chance to develop a treatment and extended story outline under the watchful eye of B3 Media and Film4 executives.

At the conclusion of the program, four projects will be given the chance to pitch for further development toward production as part of the B3 Media and Film4 slate.

"In the midst of costume dramas flooding our screens in today's Britain, I think we must look at possibilities and activities within drama," said Turner Prize-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen, who is backing the plan.

"The B3 FeatureLab seems to be an ideal way to generate ideas and scripts that can develop into modern day narratives -- which are needed, not just for entertainment's sake, but also for a greater understanding of where we are dramatically in contemporary Britain," McQueen said.

Nelson George, whose latest project "Life Support" with Queen Latifah won a Golden Globe, agrees.

"I've been affiliated with (B3 Media chief) Marc (Boothe) and B3 since the early 1990s, when his company was marketing African-American films in the United Kingdom," George said. "Now the company has evolved into an innovative, progressive force in developing a generation of black British talent."

The B3 FeatureLab will kick off with a "discovery training week" in London where participants will examine different aspects of the industry, receive practical support and master-classes with leading industry figures and filmmakers, organizers said.

Eight projects will be selected to go on to a development training week at the Binger Film Lab in Amsterdam in April for close development work with individual script editors. Four projects will then undergo a final week of intensive script masterclasses and project pitch sessions before formal presentation to B3 and Film4.

"We're looking for creativity, edginess and ways to redefine the notion of 'British Cinema'," Boothe said. "We want to produce the next wave of U.K. films that reflect the contemporary multiethnic experience and speak to international audiences."