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27 October 2014

iFeatures and Beyond: Introducing The Levelling

This week, we welcome the creative team behind The Levelling – one of eight projects through to the final round of development on iFeatures.

Back in May we introduced you to Team Ugly List, a talented group of women (Alex Kalymnios, Abby Ajayi and Jessica Levick) who had come together to make their supernatural genre film, The Ugly List, as part of Creative England’s iFeatures scheme. They were generous enough to share their story of the film’s development, and give us an insight into their roles as director, writer and producer

In September, iFeatures transitioned into the next stage and eight teams were shortlisted for full development. Sadly, The Ugly List was not selected, but Abby, Alex and Jessica have agreed to continue their blog and share their development process beyond the scheme. A brave and bold move that we’re grateful for, and believe will be no-less fascinating for our readers.

Alongside these three talents, we’d like to welcome to the blog director Hope Dickson Leach and producer Rachel Robey, whose film The Levelling has been selected for further development funding through iFeatures. If successful, they will be one of three feature projects to receive £350k from Creative England, the BFI and BBC Films in early 2015.

Over the next few months, Hope and Rachel will give us an insight into their progress on the scheme, and in comparison, Team Ugly List will give us a glimpse into their development as they continue independently. It should be a fascinating journey. To kick things off, we’ll hand over to Hope…

The Levelling
The Levelling

Itʼs intense, thereʼs no question.

Weʼre through to the final eight teams in the iFeatures scheme, and we now have three months to get our projects ready for the final submission in January. Three months to write a script, a greenlight-able script, assemble other elements, and… actually, the script seems like the thing.

Which is a pain, because Iʼm the writer as well as the director. And I know scripts are hard to write.

Hereʼs the story so far. Our film, The Levelling, is a drama set in the Somerset Levels in Spring 2014, a few months after the floods that battered the farming community there. Rachel Robey from Wellington Films is producing, and by the end of August, we had come up with a twelve page treatment, a four minute mood reel and a production pack full of sample artwork, locations, cast and distribution strategies.

We spent the summer assembling these elements from long story discussions, visits to farmers in Somerset and the backbreaking work that is figuring out what your story is and how you want to tell it.

And all the while we were falling more in love with our film. The looming deadlines weighed heavier than most do, because we knew we might not get to take it any further (under this scheme). This is the hell of development – not that you have to spend time imagining your film from start to finish, but the thought that once youʼve done that you might not actually get to make it.

But we got through, and now we have three months to write a script and supersize the production pack. At the end of this round, three teams will be chosen to make their films. Five teams wonʼt. If this was the Great British Bake-Off, itʼd be time for the Showstopper. Like I said, intense.

We started this further development period with a three-day residential in Bristol where we had sessions which seemed to centre around our concerns for the next stage, and how quickly everything would keep moving from then on if we got commissioned. Script Editor, Ludo Smolski, talked to us about our worries on writing so quickly, and told us not to try and change our habits (which I took as permission to keep eating all the chocolate). Team dynamics pro, Blaire Palmer, talked to us about leadership, and Justin Chadwick made us believe we were ALL going to make our films, no matter what happened with iFeatures. Then Richard Holmes taught us how to pitch our projects as if to the Weinsteins, which convinced me that they probably wouldnʼt make our film if we had to go to them for funding. But it was fun anyway.

Buoyed up by this inspiration and support, we dispersed back to our own little caves around the country to begin the writing. All the months of intense work have led to this, and if we get it right, then many more months of wonderful madness could follow. The pressure is immense. The quiet is deafening. The blank pages seem brighter than usual.

The rest of oneʼs life has never looked so dangerously bewitching. My children seem all the more charming as I drop them off at nursery – ʻshould I be doing this?ʼ I wonder.

ʻTheyʼre only this little onceʼ etc. But that is just my inner procrastinator at work, trying to distract me from my dream. So I stuff her mouth with chocolate to keep her quiet and knuckle down. It doesnʼt have to be intense, really. Itʼs just writing. Tap tap tap. 

Written by Hope Dickson Leach | November 2014

More about the team behind The Levelling

Hope Dickson Leach – Writer/Director

Hope completed her MFA in filmmaking at Columbia University where she made three short films that played at festivals worldwide. Hope’s award-winning thesis film The Dawn Chorus was selected for Sundance, Edinburgh, London and many other festivals. Screen International made her a Star of Tomorrow and Filmmaker Magazine named her one of the ’25 New Faces of Independent Film’. Since her return to the UK, she has made further acclaimed short works for Channel 4, Film London, the UK Film Council and the National Theatre of Scotland. She is currently developing several features. @hopedickle

Rachel Robey – Producer

Wellington Films was founded in 2000 by producers Rachel Robey and Alastair Clark. Their BAFTA-nominated debut feature, London To Brighton earned them the Best Achievement in Production award at the 2006 British Independent Film Awards and a nomination at the London Critics Circle Film Awards for British Film Producers of the Year. Other credits include Better Things, the critically acclaimed debut feature film by Duane Hopkins, Alexis Dos Santos’ Unmade Beds and Justin Molotnikov’s Crying With Laughter . Wellington is currently in active development on a slate of feature film projects with development finance from the BFI, Film4, Creative England, Creative Scotland, Ingenious and the British Film Company. @wellingtonfilms