First Features Application Guidelines

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Please email the Short Circuit team at hello@shortcircuit.scot if you require support to make your application.

About Short Circuit and First Features

Short Circuit is the key hub for new and emerging filmmaking talent in Scotland, delivered by Film City Futures in partnership with Glasgow Film, and funded by Screen Scotland and BFI NETWORK.

First Features is Short Circuit’s feature film development fund, which will enable Scotland-based filmmakers to take that career-defining step towards making their debut feature.

Who does First Features support?

First Features is a scheme for emerging filmmaking talent in Scotland. As a writer, writer/director, or producer you will have a track record in short film or another narrative-based medium, and some acclaim or industry recognition for your previous work.

We also welcome applications from those who have established careers in documentary, TV, theatre, literature and other forms of visual or performing arts.

All applicants should be able to demonstrate significant experience of crafting a dramatic narrative in at least one of these formats, as well as recognition from the relevant industry or creative sector.

Short Circuit is keen to encourage applications from individuals and teams currently under-represented within the Scottish screen industries, which includes writers, directors and producers from Black, Asian or Ethnic Minority backgrounds, Disabled and D/deaf people, the LGBTQI+ community and women.

What are we looking for?

Short Circuit is seeking proposals for bold and compelling fiction projects (live action or animation) that have theatrical ambition and the potential to resonate with audiences globally. Tell us in your application why you are excited by this story, why you are the person to tell it, and why now.

All features developed with our support must be:

  • A ‘single project’ work of fiction, either live action or animation;
  • Capable of being a feature-length film (min. 75 minutes) for theatrical release;
  • Achievable on a first feature budget of £2M or less (for live action projects);
  • Capable of obtaining theatrical and video release certificates no more restrictive than BBFC ’18’;
  • Capable of qualifying as British in order to obtain UK Film Tax Relief; and
  • Reflective of good practice outlined within relevant BFI Diversity Standards, both on and off-screen

Who can apply?

We welcome applications from individual writers and writer/directors looking to develop a treatment or first draft, as well as teams with a producer or production company attached. To apply for support beyond first draft, you must have a producer or production company on board. Applicants must meet the following criteria.

Writers are eligible to apply if they are 18 or over, based in Scotland, and not in full time education. They must also have at least one writing credit on any of the following:

  • A feature film script or TV pilot that has either been commissioned or optioned by a third-party producer or company working in content development or production
  • A screen-based work that has found an audience, e.g. a narrative work commissioned for TV or online; or a short film that has screened at a BAFTA-qualifying short film festival, has won an award, or has been picked up for theatrical distribution, broadcast television or commercial online distribution by a major platform
  • A professionally produced theatre or radio play/piece, which has received positive attention from industry and/or public
  • A published novel or a collection of short stories or poems, which has received positive attention from industry and/or public
  • A no-budget or micro-budget feature film, funded without industry support and which has received positive attention from industry and/or public

Writer/Directors must satisfy at least one of the above criteria in writing and will also be able to indicate a distinctive directorial vision, with at least one directing credit on any of the following:

  • A screen-based work that has found an audience, e.g. a narrative work commissioned for TV or online; or a short film that has screened at a BAFTA-qualifying short film festival, has won an award, or has been picked up for theatrical distribution, broadcast television or commercial online distribution
  • A professionally produced theatre play, which has received positive attention from industry and/or public
  • A no-budget or micro-budget feature film, funded without industry support and which has received positive attention from industry and/or public
  • A proven track record in documentary film or TV (e.g. broadcast or alternative distribution)
  • A substantial track record in another visual or performance-based craft, e.g. cinematography, photography, art direction, acting

Producers will have at least one professional producing or development credit, or can demonstrate significant editorial and/or financing experience on any of the following:

  • A screen-based work that has found an audience, e.g. a narrative work commissioned for TV or online; or a short film that has screened at a BAFTA-qualifying short film festival, has won an award, or has been picked up for theatrical distribution, broadcast television or commercial online distribution
  • A professionally produced radio play/piece, which has received positive attention from industry and/or public
  • A no-budget or micro-budget feature film, funded without industry support and which has received positive attention from industry and/or public
  • A proven track record in documentary film or TV (e.g. broadcast or alternative distribution)

What kind of support can I apply for?

There are two levels of support, each defined by specific stages of the project:

Early Development – to treatment and first draft

Further Development – to second draft and beyond

Selected projects will be supported by the Short Circuit Talent Executives and be expected to meet designated milestones in order to develop a feature idea from outline to treatment, treatment to draft, or early stage draft to a polished feature package.

Early Development

For Early Development, we are able to provide support to take an outline or treatment through to a polished first draft script.

The maximum that can be awarded for a single project for Early Development (across all stages to polished first draft) is £20,000.

Awards are made in stages and you can apply for up to a maximum amount at each stage of your project, as outlined below.

Award Stages

  • Treatment: maximum £5,000
  • First draft: maximum £15,000

We do not require applications to have a producer or production company attached to apply for Early Development funding.

For your project to progress from one stage to another, you will be required to submit a new application and development budget.

Further Development

These awards are for teams with existing feature projects that have a developed first draft. Projects that have received Early Development support from Short Circuit can also access Further Development support.

We require all applications at this level to have a producer or production company attached. We also expect you to supply a market strategy and finance plan for your project that indicates its commercial potential and how you intend to move the project closer to being made.

There is no cap on Further Development funding for an individual project, though we recommend £10,000 as a reasonable request at each stage.

You should request only the amount you need to complete one stage of Further Development (e.g. second draft to third draft, packaging or financing draft etc).

You must provide a clear breakdown of costs within the development budget section of your application. Please consult the Development Budget section for guidance on what you should include.

Please note that the number of projects we are able to support through all stages of Further Development is very limited.

Eligible Costs

Development support will be bespoke to the specific needs of each project but may include:

  • Writers’ fees
  • Script/story editing services
  • Producer fees and a contribution to company overheads
  • Mentoring
  • Workshopping (e.g. table reads)
  • Option fees (these must be reasonable and viable for the project’s budget level)
  • Legals (relating to the rights of the project, e.g. writer agreement or option)
  • Animatic (for animated projects)
  • Market attendance fees
  • For Further Development awards only: late stage costs such as casting, budgeting, scheduling, storyboarding, audience design
  • Other professional development particular to the creative progression of the project

Ineligible Costs

  • Any costs relating to the project that pre-date an award being made
  • Research (if it is speculative rather than crucial to the development of the project)
  • Travel, accommodation & subsistence
  • Director fees

Development Budget

These outline costs are intended to help you complete the development budget that you are required to submit as part of your application.

Please note these are only a guide and not an exhaustive or definitive list.

As our development awards are repayable should your project go into production, your development spend should be proportionate to the budget of the project.

Writer fees outlined here are minimums in accordance with PACT and WGGB rates.

Writer Fees:

  • Treatment: £2,700
  • First draft: £9,450
  • Second/third draft: £3,240 per stage

Producer Fees & Overheads:

  • Fees: 10-20% of submitted development budget
  • Overheads: Maximum 10% of submitted development budget

All producer fees and overheads should be reasonable and in accordance with the scale of the proposed project.  Please note that we will not cover 100% of the general running costs associated with your business.

Script Editor Fees:

Up to £2,500 per draft and set

Partnership Finance

Although partnership funding is not required, we welcome you securing additional support from other industry sources, with the exception of Screen Scotland and BFI NETWORK, who are funding partners of First Features.

Access

If any members of your team have personal access needs that will incur a cost during the period your project is in development with us, you can include these costs in your budget as part of your funding request.

These costs are not just Disability access focused and may also include additional costs that help reduce barriers faced by members of your team.

We define such needs as specific support required in relation to a protected characteristic of the Equality Act which will result in an actual cash cost to your development budget.

If you are unsure whether your needs can be covered, please contact a member of the Short Circuit team at hello@shortcircuit.scot to discuss.

Access costs in this context can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Childcare costs, where applicants are unlikely to be able to undertake the planned activity without this support. Please note that childcare costs are classed as a taxable benefit, so whilst we will reimburse these costs, you will be responsible for reporting this to HMRC.
  • Personal assistance support
  • Transport
  • An advocate (to support you with communication)
  • Accommodation
  • Equipment including adaptations
  • Communication support such as BSL interpreter, note taker, speech to text reporter, lip speaker, translation of documents into other formats/language, translation of documents into Easy Read or other formats such as large print or audio, translation support if English is not your first language
  • Communication support provided remotely or purchasing software and equipment to deliver communication support

If you require support for such costs, you would include them in your development budget under the category Access Support. These costs will not count towards the maximum award amount.

How to Apply

Short Circuit accepts applications for First Features on a rolling basis, meaning there is no deadline for submitting applications.

Applications should be made via the online application form on our website.

Applications can also be accepted in other formats including:

  • Written application in English, Gaelic or Scots
  • BSL video

Application Timelines

Once you have applied, you will be emailed a confirmation within five working days, notifying you about when you can expect a decision. Our aim is to inform you of that decision within six weeks of applying.

We will endeavour to provide project feedback to applicants to First Features who meet the eligibility criteria for the fund. Ineligible applicants will be informed of the reason why their application was unsuccessful.

Application Checklist

Teams or individual writer/directors and writers should prepare the following information to include in the application form:

  • Story Outline (1000 words max) – This should outline the dramatic action of the film, as well as conveying a clear sense of theme, tone, genre and character development
  • Personal Statement (1000 words max) – This should express each team member’s creative and strategic proposals for the project, outline the type of support you think the project requires, as well as how your feature proposal reflects good practice outlined within relevant BFI Diversity Standards, both on and off-screen
  • Development Budget – a breakdown of how you intend to spend the award (including writer’s fees and other applicable costs)
  • Short biography for all team members (any writer or writer/directors, producers and director if attached)
  • Examples of writer’s previous work
  • Supporting links to website, IMDb page, Vimeo or other site to view previous work and achievements
  • Visual material to support your project (e.g. Pinterest moodboard)
  • Existing feature draft or treatment (depending on level of support requested)
  • Chain of title (if your project is based on existing source material)
  • Market Strategy and Finance Plan (if applying for Further Development support)

Terms of Funding

This fund is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland. If you have any objections to receiving funding from this source – for example some applicants do not wish to receive money from sources of gambling – then please tell us and if successful we can arrange for the funding to come from other sources.

Assessment Criteria

All applications that meet the eligibility criteria outlined within these guidelines will be assessed in full.

If your application is eligible, an assessor will initially consider the strength of the project, based on the story outline. If recommended, we will then evaluate your previous work and look at the overall package of the team and idea, taking into account the following criteria:

  • the creative strengths of the proposal;
  • the strengths of the project team;
  • the likely career progression benefit for filmmakers;
  • how the story will connect with audiences;
  • consideration of how your project reflects good practice outlined within relevant BFI Diversity Standards and provides opportunities to under-represented groups in Scotland;
  • the project’s viability at a first feature budget level;
  • the project’s likely need for National Lottery support;
  • the overall balance of projects receiving support, to ensure variety in the work being funded.

When will I find out if I am successful?

We will aim to turnaround a decision within six weeks of submitting your application. During busy periods this may be longer, and we will let you know if this is the case.

If your application is unsuccessful, we will outline the reasons for the decision and offer feedback. You may submit another application, though must have pre-approval from the Short Circuit team before reapplying with a project that was previously unsuccessful.

What happens if I am awarded funding?

You will be notified about the outcome of your application via email. If you are successful, this email will outline any specific conditions attached to this award.

Early Development Awards

Once you have received an email confirming your award, you will be issued with a funding agreement which will lay out the payment schedule of your award. You must note and adhere to all the terms and conditions of the funding agreement, including assignment of rights, repayment terms and appropriate crediting of Short Circuit and its funders (more info below).

Once the agreement is signed, we will release the first instalment of your award directly to the bank account named in the agreement (you will not need to invoice).

Repayment

If your project goes into production, you will be required to repay any Short Circuit Early Development funding on or before the first day of principal photography. In entering a development funding contract with Short Circuit, we will be granted 10% of the producer’s rights to the project that will be reassigned upon repayment.

Further Development Awards

Recipients of a Further Development award will be contracted with Screen Scotland and therefore subject to the terms of Screen Scotland’s Development and Production Fund.

Crediting Requirements

The support provided by Short Circuit is only possible because of the National Lottery. We ask the filmmakers we fund to do everything they can to acknowledge the National Lottery and its distributors (Screen Scotland and BFI, in this case) as the source of this funding. This includes displaying the National Lottery, Short Circuit and funding partner logos on your feature film if it goes into production, acknowledging that the project has been developed with the support of National Lottery funding.

We ask beneficiaries to actively acknowledge and spread the word about their project being made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, whenever they can. This includes mentioning the National Lottery, at a minimum, on press releases, on print and marketing materials, online including through social media, and when speaking to the industry and the wider public about the project.

Full crediting guidance will be set out in your funding agreement.

Complaints

The total value of applications to First Features will likely outnumber the amount of funding available, therefore it is inevitable that applications will be turned down and applicants may be disappointed by the outcome. You may only make a formal complaint against a funding decision if you have good cause to believe that the procedures for processing your application were not adhered to or applied in such a way as to prejudice the outcome of an application. In this case please refer to the complaints procedure included in our Terms & Conditions.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of the First Features fund or application process please email hello@shortcircuit.scot.

FAQs

Eligibility – Applicants:

1. I’m a writer without a director or producer. Can I apply?
It depends on which stage of support you are applying for. If you’re a writer or a writer/director with a feature film idea and meet the level of experience we’re looking for, then you can apply on your own to develop a treatment or first draft. If your project is selected, we will help to connect you with a producer as part of your development journey. If you are applying for a Further Development award (i.e. beyond first draft), you must have a producer attached before you can apply. Please contact us if you are at this stage and are yet to attach a producer, and we may be able to help you make connections with potential producers.

2. What are the BAFTA-qualifying short film festivals and why is it significant that my work has shown at one of these?
You can find the current list here. As you can see from our full eligibility and assessment criteria, it is by no means our only reference point, but it is a helpful marker for us that your work has achieved industry recognition and you are at stage to consider making your first feature

3. I am a writer/director working with a producer based outside of Scotland, can we apply?
We have a commitment to support Scotland-based producers and therefore strongly encourage teams to explore attaching a co-producer based in the nation. However, we will accept applications from production companies based outside of Scotland working with a first-time feature writer or writer/director who is a permanent resident of Scotland (and who is the lead writer on the project).

4. We’re a co-writing team, can we apply?
Yes, you may apply as long as the lead writer or writer/director is based in Scotland and meets the required level of experience.

5. I am a Scottish writer or writer/director but I don’t live in Scotland. Can I apply?
No, the lead creative must be based in Scotland. However, you could be attached to a project as a co-writer. You should make your local BFI NETWORK partner your first port of call, as they will offer feature development funding in nation or region where you live.

6. I’m a first-time feature writer or writer/director working with a producer who has already made a feature, can we apply?
Yes, you may apply if you’re working with a more established producer.

7. I’m a first-time feature writer working with a director who already has a feature credit. Can we apply?
We will consider this as an exceptional circumstance for Further Development applications, and strictly on a on a case-by-case basis; provided that the director is based in Scotland. You would be expected to indicate in your application that it is of specific benefit to the first-time feature writer and the project to have a more experienced director attached, for instance in terms of attracting production funding. However, your award cannot cover fees or other expenses for a director who already has a feature credit.

8. I’m a documentary director, am I eligible?
Yes. We encourage writer/directors with significant experience in other mediums to apply, though you must be applying with a fiction project.
Directors with a documentary proposal should refer to Doc Society’s feature fund and the Scottish Documentary Institute. Directors with a feature documentary credit may also be considered as a first-time fiction writer/director.

9. I am currently at film school or university, can I apply?
No, you are not eligible to apply if you are currently enrolled full-time in formal further/higher education. You may apply if you are graduating before December 2020 and have accumulated significant experience to prepare you to make your first feature.

10. I am under 18, can I apply?
No, you must be over 18. If you’re 16-25 years of age, passionate about film and interested in a career in the film industry, you should consider getting involved in the BFI Film Academy.

11. I have a feature film idea but no prior experience in film or another form of narrative storytelling. Can I apply?
We would advise that you look into other opportunities before applying, as we expect First Features applicants to have established a significant track record in filmmaking, or another form of storytelling or visual art practice. As a starting point, we would recommend you begin to make contacts within the industry to find potential collaborators, and consider establishing your voice through short form work, for instance our Sharp Shorts scheme.

12. I was previously funded by Scottish Film Talent Network (SFTN). Can I apply?
Yes. If you are applying with a project that already received SFTN support, you can apply for the next stage of development (i.e. treatment to first draft; first draft to second etc). Alternatively, you can apply with a new project.

13. Can I work in full-time employment during the development process?
Yes, however please be aware that you will be expected to meet certain draft deadlines, so you should seriously consider whether this is something you are able to balance with other work commitments.

14. I’m a Scotland-based producer/production company wanting to option existing material to develop into a feature film, but I don’t yet have a writer attached. Can I apply?
Please email us at hello@shortcircuit.scot with a note of interest. We may then introduce you to suitable writers to enable you to make an application.

15. I’m a producer/production company without a project but am looking to collaborate with Scottish talent on a first feature, what do I need to do?
Please email us at hello@shortcircuit.scot with some information about yourself and your prior experience. We may then invite you to events or meet-ups with creative talent.

Eligibility – Projects:

16. Do I have to be a recipient of an Early Development award in order to apply for a Further Development award?
No. We will consider applications at polished first draft or later that have not received funding from Short Circuit, SFTN or a similar funding body.

17. What type of film are you looking for?
We’re not looking for a certain genre of film or type of story, as long as it qualifies as fiction. We want to hear from talent ready to make their first feature who would really benefit from this level of development support, and who have an original story that is both a viable first feature proposition and has the potential to connect with audiences on a global scale.

18. My feature film idea isn’t set in Scotland. Does that matter?
No, your project does not need to be set in Scotland.

19. Can I apply with an animation project?
Yes, we accept animation projects as well as live action; however, your proposal must qualify as fiction, with the intention of developing a script alongside an animatic. In this case, we also expect you to have experience in animation.

20. Do you accept adaptations of existing works?
Yes, though if you are applying with an adaptation of an existing work (this applies to any art form), you must supply a chain of title. This is a legally binding document that states the author of the original work and any subsequent transfer of rights. Alternatively, you might use this document to acknowledge that the work is already in the public domain and out of copyright.

Application Process:

21. What assistance will be given if I need help in making my application?
The Short Circuit Talent Executives are available to assist if you need support in making your application, for instance if you have any learning difficulties or if English is not your first language. You can sign up for a slot at one of our bi-monthly 1-2-1 surgeries here or email us at hello@shortcircuit.scot.

22. What should I include in my personal statement?
This is an opportunity to tell us more about yourself, your project, your team and why we should be supporting you in the development of your first feature film. This should ideally be written by the lead applicant (i.e. the producer), unless you are applying for Early Development funding as an individual writer or writer/director. You should also include how your team and/or feature proposal reflects good practice outlined within relevant BFI Diversity Standards, both on and off-screen.

23. Do I still have to submit a development budget with my application for treatment funding if I don’t have a producer attached?
Yes – if we are to award your project, we need to understand how you envisage the funding to be broken down. If you are awarded, we may revise this with you.

24. When is the deadline for submitting applications?
There is no deadline – applications are accepted on a rolling basis. However, please note that we cannot guarantee funds will be available throughout the entirety of the financial year.

25. How many applications can I submit?
Eligible filmmakers may submit one application at a time and need to receive a funding decision from us before they can make a new application. A writer or writer/director may only have one project funded by First Features at any one time, and producers may have two.

Assessment Process:

26. Who will read my application?
Applications will be assessed by the Short Circuit Talent Executives, Film City Futures management team, and the Short Circuit funding partners. External assessors may be consulted from time to time.

27. When will I hear if I’ve been selected for a development award?
We aim to notify all applicants of the decision on their project within six weeks. If for any reason this should take longer than expected, we will update you on the expected response time.

28. If my application to First Features is unsuccessful, can I reapply?
Yes, you may apply again, though it is advisable that you contact the Short Circuit team before doing so, particularly if you intend to submit the same project.

Development Process:

29. Can Short Circuit cover option fees?
Yes, as long as these are reasonable and not disproportionate to the budget of your project. If awarded, it is your responsibility to ensure that all development work is completed with the option period.

30. How long will the development process take?
Each project will have a different development journey. The Short Circuit Talent Executives will provide guidance and advice on the timeline for your development award and set out milestones for you to progress towards.

31. Is there a cap on development funding?
There is a cap of £20,000 per project for Early Development funding (i.e. up to polished first draft). There is no set cap on Further Development funding, as we recognise that support will look different for every project at this stage.

32. Will Short Circuit help me find the right director for my project?
Yes, if you are at a stage of development where this would benefit your project and progress it further we will seek to identify, through our connections with talent agents, partners and funders, potential collaborators who may be a good fit.

33. What support is there for my script after my First Features development award is complete?
The Short Circuit Talent Executives will advise on next steps, helping you identify other sources of development funding and make connections with potential financiers and other partners.

34. Does First Features offer production funding?
No, First Features is a development fund. If your project is funded and we determine it is ready to start seeking finance, we may offer you guidance and advice on making contacts and other funding applications in that area.

If you would like to discuss eligibility or have a question that is not answered here, please email hello@shortcircuit.scot.