‘Doctor Who’ Star Jodie Whittaker to Lead Short Film Fund Championing Female and Non-Binary Filmmakers (EXCLUSIVE)

“Doctor Who” star Jodie Whittaker will lead a short film fund aimed at championing female and non-binary filmmakers.

The Empower fund, a community-led initiative backed by Primetime, a global vetted platform to help the industry find and hire more women above and below the line behind the camera, and Bournemouth Film School, was launched at the Cannes film market. It aims to remove the barriers of access to finance and star power that restrict underrepresented filmmakers. The fund will focus on championing female and non-binary filmmakers and grant them access to a minimum of a £10,000 ($12,430) grant in addition to other perks.

Whittaker will feature in or voice the final film, with the intention of increasing the visibility of the project and the filmmaker selected. The actor will also collaborate to create a prompt for filmmakers as a starting point for a character or story she would like to explore. There will be a focus on accessibility and reaching filmmakers who might not traditionally put themselves forward for grant funding. A brief will then be distributed and U.K.-based female and non-binary filmmakers will be encouraged to submit their short film project for consideration. Five projects will be shortlisted via an industry jury, and from that Whittaker will select the live action or animation film she would like to take part in or voice.

The fund will be accessible for any female or non-binary filmmaker who has directed at least three short films, one of which must have screened at a BAFTA or Academy qualifying film festival. The teams applying for funding must adhere to BFI diversity standards in order be considered.

Primetime was launched by actor Victoria Emslie (“Downton Abbey”) at Cannes in 2019 and the platform was relaunched earlier this year. It has members in some 70 countries, including multi-BAFTA, Emmy and Academy Award winners and nominees. Bournemouth Film School, at Arts University Bournemouth, has partnered with Primetime as part of its Funding Futures platform, which houses several funding schemes to support filmmakers, creatives, artists and innovators.

Whittaker said: “Being a part of this exciting journey and having the opportunity to work with talented new voices and creatives is an absolute joy. I can’t wait to work alongside Victoria and the amazing teams at Primetime and Funding Futures.”

Emslie added: “Community-driven change is one of the single most powerful and actionable ways to shake up traditional funding pipelines and the projects that receive finance. By paying in for each other with this focused intentionality, the rise to the top is navigated together as a collective.”

Jonathan Carr, director of the Bournemouth Film School, said: “The success of our groundbreaking Funding Futures schemes hinges on the strength of our partnerships. Our key focus is to encourage positive change within a sustainable industry. We’re delighted to play a pivotal role with Primetime to create a funding opportunity to truly champion inclusivity.”

Will Shutt from Funding Futures said: “The Empower fund hopes to create a space to make a film with filmmakers that reflects the core values of Primetime’s mission. I’m excited to see the outcome of connecting talented filmmakers with Jodie and the award. It can only lead to something special.”

Bournemouth Film School is hosting a Funding Futures showcase event at BFI Southbank on June 16 to unveil the Empower fund.

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