We are pleased to announce the five projects which have been selected to receive early development funding through First Features. The final round of our programme.

We are pleased to announce the five projects which have been selected to receive early development funding through First Features.

First Features is for writing, writing/directing and producing talent from all across Scotland who have bold and captivating fiction projects that possess a strong theatrical ambition and have the potential to resonate with audiences worldwide.

For this round, we received 104 applications which were initially assessed by our pool of external readers. Following an extensive assessment process involving Screen Scotland’s Scripted team and the Short Circuit Talent Executives five projects have been selected to receive development support and funding. 

These five projects and their filmmaking teams are;


Writer: May Sumbwanyambe

Based on a true story, Enough of Him explores the life of Joseph Knight, an African man enslaved by plantation owner Sir John Wedderburn and brought to Scotland to serve in his Perthshire mansion. Highly favoured by Wedderburn and yet still enslaved, Knight balances on the knife edge between obligation and a soul-deep yearning for freedom.

May Sumbwanyambe was described by The Scotsman as ‘one of the key creative figures in Scotland’s increasingly determined effort to come to terms with its own colonial past, and particularly with Scottish involvement in slavery and the slave trade,’ May Sumbwanyambe is an academic, radio dramatist and award-winning playwright from Edinburgh.

Previous productions include:

ENOUGH OF HIM (National Theatre of Scotland, Pitlochry Festival Theatre) GHOST LIGHT, (Edinburgh International Festival and National Theatre of Scotland), JOSEPH KNIGHT, (BBC Scotland, National Theatre of Scotland), AFTER INDEPENDENCE (Arcola Theatre, Papatango Theatre), THE PARROT HOUSE (Guildhall School of Music and Drama), AFTER INDEPENDENCE, THE TRIAL OF JOSEPH KNIGHT and BACK HOME (BBC Radio 4).

He is currently writing new stage plays for The Citizens Theatre and The National Theatre of Great Britain.


Writer / Director: Kaljeven Singh Lally

Struggling to move on from the traumatic passing of his brother, BALI (20s, Sikh, Punjabi Heritage) begins to uncover a side of him that he did not know about. This journey leads him to encounter Five Evils that will challenge and test him.

Kaljeven Singh Lally is a Writer/Director based in Scotland. He began working professionally in the Film and Television industry in Post Production, going from a Post Production Trainee to Assistant Editor to Editor. 

In 2021 he fully committed to his long term goals of Writing & Directing and gained his first Broadcast Credit as a Director the following year with an Episode of River City. Since then he has Directed three blocks of the Continuing Drama and has had the opportunity to shadow and Direct 2nd Unit on Screw Season 2 & Shetland Season 8.

With his writing he focuses more on the unique and specific stories related to his voice and lived experiences. Some of these have been brought to life as self produced Short Films and now with the future he is looking to build on this momentum.


Creator: Kristina Tsenova; Original story: Kristina Tsenova, Cecile Durel; Screenplay: Cecile Durel; Producer: Audain Thompson.

In 1940 Glasburgh, as the War slowly makes its way up, an unlikely trio—a disillusioned Italian immigrant ice-cream maker, a determined biracial Scottish boy with dreams of owning his own ice-cream shop, and an aspiring young engineer—band together to create the perfect ice-cream while defying societal expectations and discovering the power of friendship, resilience, and acceptance.

Kristina Tsenova is a digital artist and visual storyteller from Bulgaria, who has been studying, living and working in Glasgow for the past 9 years. She has a traditional art background, degree in 3D Animation and passion for animated films, illustration and writing. She has worked as both 2D and 3D artist for educational games and kids media, as well as an art director, visual development artist and assistant lecturer in Applied Computer games. She won a 3D art internship at Disney Research – Edinburgh and was a finalist in the Rookie of the Year 2018 and 2019 – 3D Animation ( an annual competition with more than 3000 entries from 90 countries).

Cecile Durel is a Glasgow-based playwright and screenwriter. She received a prize at the St Andrews Playwriting Award in 2022 as well as support from the Playwright’s Studio Scotland and Zinnie Harris throughout the writing of her newest theatre work Samhain. Her plays Leopold Vindictive and There is no problem (here) were produced at the Fringe (2019). Her two first plays (in French) were written for and produced by a private studio in Lyon. Cecile published her first novel at 17 (in French) in Belgium. She enjoys working in different parts of Europe and immersing herself in languages and local cultures.

Audain Thompson is a Jamaican – British entrepreneur and a UK-based independent film producer. He’s currently developing shorts, features, and TV projects through his company Hidden Kingdom. He previously graduated from the National Film and Television School (NFTS) with a Master’s in Creative Business for Entrepreneurs and Executives. Audain served on the Board of Trustees at Gulbenkian Theatre in Kent for 3 years and 2 years at Creative Estuary providing the board with invaluable insight into the barriers facing disadvantaged young people getting into the creative industries.


Writer / Director: Olivia J. Middleton; Producers: Sean Hind, Wendy Griffin.

Adapted from the book by Archie Hind, Fur Sadie is set in the post-industrial Glasgow of the late 1970s. The story follows Sadie Anderson, a middle-aged, working-class housewife who rediscovers her childhood love for piano in wake of a lifetime spent in service to her husband and sons.

Olivia J. Middleton is a writer and director from Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Her short film, Rosalyn, won Best Scottish Short at Edinburgh Short Film Festival 2020 and Best Cork Short at Cork Film Festival 2019. Olivia’s most recent short film A90 was commissioned by Short Circuit 2020 (Screen Scotland/BFI NETWORK). It has gone on to screen at BAFTA and Oscar Qualifying Film Festivals and was listed by Director’s Notes as one of “10 must-catch short films” at Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2022.

Olivia recently finished shadowing and 2nd unit directing on Amazon’s The Rig (season 2) under director John Strickland.

Sean Hind was born in Glasgow and is the grandson of Archie Hind, the author of Fur Sadie.

Sean graduated from Screen Academy Scotland in 2016 with an MA in Film Producing. Currently freelancing as a 3rd Assistant Director, he is pursuing a career as an AD while working on the development of Fur Sadie. He has credits on films such as Dumbo, Jurassic World Dominion, Pinocchio, Black Widow and Scottish indie film Limbo and continues to pursue his career as an AD while nurturing his ambition to produce.

He is currently working as 3rd Assistant Director on Lockerbie, a new six part TV drama produced by World Productions that will air on BBC One and Netflix in 2025. He has just set up Modern Archive Films, through which Fur Sadie will be developed and produced, in collaboration with other producing partners.

Wendy Griffin has worked in the Scottish film and TV industry for many years as both a line producer and producer and set up her company Selkie Productions in 2014. She produced the music documentaries Big Gold Dream (EIFF audience award) and Teenage Superstars and more recently two documentaries for The Lynda Myles Project with Susan Kemp and Mark Cousins directing. She produced the low budget features Wasted and Phea, and feature film The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with National Theatre of Scotland which screened on Sky Arts. She worked as co-producer on Not Another Happy Ending, The Lost King, Out of Darkness and Sister Midnight (which is selected for DF in Cannes this year). She is presently producing the TV series Lions written by Richard Gadd. Selkie has several projects in development with Screen Scotland, BFI and Film Cymru.


Writer / Director: Cora Bissett; Producers: John McKay, Laura McBride.

A Queer Feminist Thriller inspired by the real life woman, Christian Caldwell, who dressed as man in 1600s Scotland in order to become a witch Pricker. When she falls for a ‘witch’ she has been called to condemn, escape and murder and inevitable retribution tests their love.

Cora Bissett is a multi-award winning Theatre/Film director, actor and writer originally from Fife. She was Associate Director at the National Theatre of Scotland from  2014-2022. Productions include the musical adaptation of Peter Mullan’s iconic film ‘ORPHANS’ ‘GLASGOW GIRLS’, and the multi award  winning ‘ADAM’ (by Frances Poet) which they went on to adapt into Scottish BAFTA winning TV  drama, co-directed with Lou Lockwood (BBC Scotland/Hopscotch Films/  NTS) she directed Lisa mcGee’s brilliant ‘I’d Like To Speak To the Manager’ (Derry Girls) as part of  the ‘SKINT’ series for BBC 4/ Hopscotch Films. She was  awarded funding from Short Circuit for THE SINGER which she directed and co-wrote with Deaf artist Jamie  Rea, who also starred. Produced by Laura McBride at Lothian Films and co-produced  by James Heath at MTP. World premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2023 and screened at BFI London Film  Festival where it was nominated for the  Best Short Film Award. 

Laura McBride is the founder of Lothian Films, an Edinburgh-based production company which champions diverse voices and women writers and directors. Projects include; BFI Network short films SCUZZ (Alia Ghafar), BAFTA Scotland nominated GROOM (Leyla Coll- O’Reilly), LFF Short Film Award nominee THE SINGER (Cora Bissett & Jamie Rea, co-produced by James Heath at MTP) and SLEAZY TIGER (James Ley, co-produced with Jack Cowhig). 

Laura co-produces with John McKay at Compact. Projects on their joint slate include; THE PHARMACIST (Rachelle Atalla) in development with BFI, LOVE SONG TO LAVENDER MENACE (James Ley & Savvas Stavrou) in development with Screen Scotland, PRICKER (Cora Bissett) in development with Short Circuit, LiM Lab selected GIFT FROM GOD (Catriona MacInnes) and THE MUNITIONETTES, a six part TV series written by Alice Clark. 

Laura is an Associate Producer on FALLING INTO PLACE (Aylin Tezel), a co-production between Compact Pictures and Weydemann Bros. She is also an Associate Producer on TORNADO (John Maclean – Slow West) produced by Leonora Darby at Tea Shop Productions. 

John McKay is a longtime writer and director emerging now as a producer at Compact where he works with Lothian Film’s Laura McBride – his movies include CRUSH with Andie Macdowell and Imelda Staunton, PICCADILLY JIM with Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney, and NOT ANOTHER HAPPY ENDING with Karen Gillan and Stanley Weber; tv includes WE’LL TAKE MANHATTAN which won the Prix Europa for Best Drama; as well as the charming young adult tv film KATY, winner of Rocky and BAFTA awards, and of the International Emmy. 

New Talent Shorts produced in Scotland include; 1745 (Gordon Napier, Morayo Akandé, Moyo Akandé) and A GLIMPSE (Zinnie Harris).

John’s debut feature film as producer, Aylin Tezel’s romantic drama FALLING INTO PLACE has won the FIPRESCI Critics Prize at Tallinn, the Bayerischer Filmpreis, and the TIDESCI Rome Audience Award, ahead of its UK cinema release in Autumn 2024.

Congratulations to each of the successful teams. An incredible pool of talent is on display with this cohort. We can’t wait to see their projects develop, and watch where their filmmaking journeys take them next.

After four successful years, Film City Futures has made the decision to conclude its delivery of Short Circuit. This decision will come into effect on June 30th 2024. However, we are pleased to announce that the First Features projects selected for funding in the latest round will continue to receive support beyond June 30th. This support will be led by our funders BFI NETWORK and Screen Scotland. Currently, BFI NETWORK and Screen Scotland are actively working on a continuation strategy and this will ensure ongoing support for the live individual projects and for the wider filmmaking community in Scotland.

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