Shortlist revealed for the IWC Schaffhausen filmmaker bursary award in association with the BFI

The BFI and IWC Schaffhausen today revealed the three filmmakers shortlisted for the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in association with the BFI. At £50,000, and now in its 5th year, it has established itself as the most significant bursary of its kind in the UK film industry, expressly designed to support the future careers of exceptional new UK film talent.

Acclaimed actor, director, screenwriter, producer and poet, Michaela Coel (I May Destroy You, Black Earth Rising, Chewing Gum, Black Mirror, Been So Long) will join Ben Roberts, Chief Executive of the BFI and Christoph Grainger-Herr, CEO of IWC Schaffhausen, to select the winner, which will be announced at The BFI London Film Festival 2020 Virtual LFF Audience Awards, on Sunday 18 October – the Closing Night of the BFI London Film Festival.

The 2020 shortlist are Cathy Brady, writer/director of her debut feature Wildfire, Aleem Khan, writer/ director of his debut feature After Love and Francis Lee, writer/director of his sophomore feature Ammonite.

The Bursary is presented in recognition of outstanding UK talent at the beginning or early stages of their careers and is designed to support a writer and/or director by providing them with the financial stability and time needed to develop their creativity. The Bursary affords them the freedom to focus on future projects without the pressure of deadlines or the distraction of taking paid work – a precious and extremely rare opportunity for a filmmaker. Previous recipients include writer/directors, Rose Glass (Saint Maud) in 2019, Richard Billlingham (Ray & Liz) in 2018, Daniel Kokotajlo (Apostasy) in 2017.

Hope Dickson Leach (The Levelling) was awarded the first Bursary in 2016. Dickson Leach, the co-founder of Raising Films, campaigns for improved working practices for parents and carers and is currently developing several new feature films in the US and UK. Following their wins, Daniel Kokotajlo and Richard Billingham were both nominated for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer at the BAFTAs in 2017 and 2018 respectively, with Billingham going on to win The Douglas Hickox Award for Debut Directors at the British Independent Film Awards. Rose Glass’ debut Saint Maud is released in the UK this Autumn.

The Bursary Award exists to support some of the UK’s brightest and best filmmakers and the nominees also have a strong track record of successes over the last four years.. Director Harry Wootlif (Only You), shortlisted in 2018, went on to win The Douglas Hickox Award for Debut Director at the British Independent Film Awards last year and will soon direct True Things About Me, based on her adaptation of the novel by Deborah Kay Davies and starring Ruth Wilson. Filmmaker Michael Pearce (Beast) went on to win the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut in 2019 and fellow 2017 shortlistee Rungano Nyoni (I Am Not A Witch), was awarded the Wellcome Screenwriting Fellowship in partnership with the BFI and Film4 in 2018. 2019 shortlisted filmmakers Hong Khaou (Monsoon) and Peter Mackie Burns (Rialto) will have their sophomore features released in the UK on 25 September and 2 October respectively.

Chaired by Tricia Tuttle, Artistic Director of the BFI London Film Festival, a panel of industry figures – Eva Yates, Commissioning Executive at BBC Films, Lauren Dark, Commissioning Executive at Film4, Farhana Bhula, Development & Production Executive of the BFI Film Fund, and Akua Gyamfi, journalist and founder of The British Blacklist – selected the shortlist of filmmakers. To be eligible for the Bursary Award a writer, director or writer/director must be UK-based and have their first or second film in Official Selection at the BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express®. The panel commented on the 2020 shortlist:

“As a panel, we were excited by the breadth of talented new filmmakers in this year’s programme and selecting only three was extremely hard. Our shortlisted filmmakers Cathy Brady (Wildfire), Aleem Khan (After Love) and Francis Lee (Ammonite) moved us with rich, distinct stories from authentic perspectives and demonstrated true excellence in the craft of filmmaking. As a glimpse of what the UK film can offer, it’s incredibly exciting.”


The final three in contention for the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award in Association with the BFI are:


Cathy Brady – Writer & director of WILDFIRE – (European Premiere)

Screen International Star of Tomorrow and NFTS graduate Cathy Brady is a two- time IFTA-winning director, for her short films Small Change and Morning. Morning was also nominated for European Academy Award for Best short. In 2011 Cathy directed the BIFA- nominated TV drama Rough Skin for Channel 4’s Coming Up strand. In 2014, she directed an episode of Jack Thorne’s BAFTA-nominated series Glue and went on to co-develop and direct the first series of Stefanie Preissner’s Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope for RTE/BBC3/Netflix.

In 2017 Cathy was one of fifteen female directors selected for BAFTA Elevate and in 2019 she was selected as one of The Irish Times ‘50 People to Watch’. Her debut feature Wildfire, (backed the by the BFI, Northern Ireland Screen and Screen Ireland) which she wrote and directed, stars Nora-Jane Noone and Nika McGuigan and had its world premiere at the recent Toronto International Film Festival. Cathy Brady said:

“It is such an honour to be on the shortlist and in such talented company. Thank you. I’m still in shock.”


Aleem Khan – Writer & director of AFTER LOVE – Festival Gala (European Premiere)

Born and raised in Kent, Aleem Khan is a writer and director of mixed English- Pakistani heritage. His debut short film, Diana, premiered at the 2009 London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. His subsequent short, Three Brothers, was commissioned by Film London on the inaugural London Calling Plus scheme and premiered at the 2014 London Film Festival before touring the international festival circuit. A BAFTA nomination for Best British Short Film followed in 2015 and later that year, Aleem was named a Screen International Star of Tomorrow.

A 2017 Fellow of both the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs, Aleem is also an alumnus of Guiding Lights, The Locarno Filmmakers Academy and BFI Flare. His debut feature, After Love, was backed by BBC Films and the BFI and was selected for this year’s Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week, and also received an Official Selection at the Telluride Film Festival ahead of its LFF premiere. Aleem Khan said:

“This is such an incredible acknowledgement and rare opportunity, thank you to IWC Schaffhausen, the BFI and pre-selecting panel for including me in the shortlist – and what wonderful filmmakers to be shortlisted alongside also.”


Francis Lee – Writer & Director of AMMONITE – LFF Closing Night Film (European Premiere)

Francis Lee is a filmmaker from West Yorkshire, England. His debut feature film, God’s Own Country (2017), premiered at Sundance 2017, where Francis won the Directing Award. The film went on to be theatrically released worldwide, winning countless awards and nominations including Best Film British Independent Film Awards 2017, Best Film Evening Standard Film Awards, Michael Powell Award for Best British Film 2017, Breakthrough British Filmmaker of the Year London Critics Circle Film Awards 2017 and a nomination for the BAFTA for Outstanding British Film 2017. God’s Own Country became one of the most successful UK debut films for years. Ammonite, which was selected in Cannes, Telluride and the Toronto International Film Festival 2020 is his second feature and is due for theatrical release worldwide 2020/21. Ammonite was backed by the BFI and BBC Films who both supported the development with See-Saw Films. Francis Lee said:

“I am honoured to be shortlisted for the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award, especially given the incredibly high calibre of previous shortlisted and winning filmmakers. As a second-time filmmaker, I am thrilled to be part of a shortlist this year with such exciting filmmaking talent”


In 2019 the IWC Bursary Award in Association with the BFI was won by writer/director, Rose Glass whose debut feature Saint Maud premiered at the LFF that year. The film, which has garnered much critical acclaim will be released in the UK on 9 October 2020 by Studiocanal. Explaining how the Bursary has benefitted her, Rose Glass said:

“Financial security at a time like this has been an absolutely invaluable gift; not only in the most immediate, practical senses but in terms being able to focus my attention entirely on writing and creativity, without financial stresses, knowing that there are people out there encouraging you and wanting to see and read more. It’s honestly the most incredible privilege and I’m hugely grateful to both the BFI and IWC Schaffhausen for supporting me in this way.”


The Bursary presentation will take place at The BFI London Film Festival 2020 Virtual LFF Audience Awards on Sunday 18 October in London.

Tickets for this years festival are available now

Cinerama Film Online coverage begins from the 1st October 2020