Research Impact: Horror film produced by British Academy Innovation Fellow is selected for prestigious film festival

1 Nov 2023

British Academy Innovation Fellow Professor Jason Lee has produced a new horror film, Paw (Richard Elson, 2023), which will make its debut at the Rome International Film Festival in Georgia, USA, this November.

Professor Lee, of De Montfort University, was awarded the British Academy Innovation Fellowship for his project ‘Meeting the Screenwriting Skills Gap: Evolving Innovation in the British Film Industry Through Mental Health and Disability Equality’. The project aims to meet the UK film industry's skills gap by enabling those with mental unwellness and disabilities to join the industry.

As part of the funding, Professor Lee partnered with Jones Bamber Productions to form Evolution Film in 2022. The organisation provides opportunities for disabled or neurodivergent individuals to feature either onscreen or behind the scenes. Evolution Film also conducts workshops and events on equality and filmmaking.

Evolution Film, which now has 400+ members across 4 continents, examines and addresses the inequality and underrepresentation in the film and television industries worldwide. Its steering group includes academics, filmmakers and mental health professionals who specialise in neurodiversity, mental health, and disability.

The Rome International Film Festival is renowned for exhibiting breakthrough artists, showcasing talent from local to international filmmakers. The festival also invites industry icons to share their knowledge through masterclasses and workshops, with Hollywood icon Ethan Hawke starring in a conversation this year.

Paw is an adaptation of English author W. W. Jacobs’ short story ‘The Monkey’s Paw’. In Professor Lee’s version, the film centres around a Welsh family’s conflict about their farm’s crop failure with overarching themes of family dysfunction, alienation, and disability.

A Still from Professor Jason Lee's Film Paw

Professor Lee said:

“Of the UK’s working population, 20 percent of people are disabled, but in film and TV this is under 2 per cent, so there is a real need for our work. I am really pleased with what we have achieved so far with both our creative and academic outputs, and we will be holding our own film festival to showcase this work in 2024.

“It is a real honour to have our second British Academy-funded film selected for the prestigious Rome International Film Festival, hopefully the first of many selections!”

Evolution Film have produced two other films with British Academy Innovation Fellowship funding, including Ryan Can’t Read, produced with Oscar and Academy award winning production company Slick Films, and Up and Down again with Elson Media.

The Innovation Fellowships Scheme provides funding and support for early-career and mid-career researchers in the humanities and social sciences to partner with UK-based organisations in the creative and cultural, public, private, commercial, or policy sectors.

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