THE SEAN CONNERY FOUNDATION AIMS TO ACCELERATE POSITIVE CHANGE THROUGH STRATEGIC GRANTMAKING TO INSTITUTIONS IN SCOTLAND AND THE BAHAMAS
16 November 2023: The National Film and Television School (NFTS) is proud to announce the expansion of NFTS Scotland, launching an open call to join an exciting new training programme for 30 emerging Scottish filmmakers from April 2024, through the newly established Sean Connery Talent Lab.
With an unwavering commitment to fostering exceptional talent in the world of filmmaking, the NFTS has partnered with the Sean Connery Foundation to provide a platform for Scottish artists to hone and develop their craft and increase the scale and ambition of their work.
To ensure the programme is as accessible to as many people as possible, each of the 30 places will be substantially subsidised, with 70% of fees generously underwritten by the Sean Connery Foundation.
The Sean Connery Talent Lab is supported by a wide range of industry partners, trusts and foundations who have pledged their support to underpin the programme with additional funding, bursaries and scholarships. BBC Film is the production partner with several other partners joining the Talent Lab including: The Dana and Albert Broccoli Foundation, FirstStage Studios, Blazing Griffin, DNA Films, Hartswood Films, Juniper Trust, LS Productions, the Rank Foundation and Synchronicity Films.
This new and transformative 12-month talent development programme is set to become a cornerstone of the Scottish film industry. It will offer a unique opportunity to enable 30 aspiring filmmakers across five disciplines (writers/directors, producers, cinematographers, editors and production designers) to bring to life their own unique short films, made with the support of BBC Film.
Located in Leith, Edinburgh, within an expanding creative quarter under development by FirstStage Studios in partnership with Forth Ports and others, the selected participants from across Scotland will embark on a collaborative filmmaking journey beginning in April 2024. Six dynamic filmmaking teams will be assembled, gaining access to a first-class training curriculum, made up of seminars, hands-on workshops and mentorship opportunities. Dedicated guidance from renowned NFTS Heads of Department and prominent industry executives, including BBC Film, will enrich and enhance the development and post-production process.
Each team will receive a £25,000 production budget, with free access to cutting-edge equipment and unrivalled training facilities provided by the NFTS. The tailor-made programme is designed to further amplify the expertise of each participant in their respective craft specialism, allowing them to refine their skills and push the boundaries of creativity.
The programme is designed to be part-time, enabling participants to strike a balance between other paid work and professional engagements. Aligned with the unwavering commitment of the NFTS to promoting diversity within the industry, the Sean Connery Talent Lab is dedicated to offering a supportive and inclusive experience for disabled and neuro-divergent individuals, including those with conditions such as dyslexia, a cause close to the heart of the Sean Connery Foundation.
After 12 intensive months, the Sean Connery Talent Lab will culminate in the creation of six short films that will serve as powerful industry ‘calling cards’, offering an invaluable launchpad for the 30 talented individuals to make their mark on the world of film. The final films will be submitted for both UK and international film festivals and will premiere at a prestigious showcase event, with industry figures from across Scotland, the UK and beyond invited to attend the screenings. Upon successful completion of the programme, participants will be awarded an NFTS Diploma in Filmmaking.
Jon Wardle, NFTS Director said:
"This is an exceptional opportunity for emerging Scottish filmmakers to build upon their distinctive creative talents. As we expand our work in Scotland, the NFTS, the Sean Connery Foundation and our raft of pivotal partners are dedicated to nurturing the brightest emerging stars within Scottish filmmaking, ensuring that the legacy of Sir Sean Connery continues to inspire future generations of storytellers.”
Stephane Connery, Chair of The Sean Connery Foundation added:
“From the inception of the Sean Connery Foundation, our vision has been to expand access to the film and TV industry for talented Scots who may never have dreamt they could access the film industry, especially those who have faced challenges or deprivation. As a life-long learner himself, and someone driven by a commitment to hard work and excellence, Sir Sean would be gratified that we have partnered with the NFTS, a world-renowned film school, to bring this extraordinary training programme to Edinburgh, the city of his birth. We believe this is just the beginning of an exciting journey together.”
Speaking on behalf of the Foundation, Jason Connery commented:
“As a director and actor, I know the difference world-class training combined with a network of support can make in terms of building confidence and opening up opportunity. I couldn’t be happier that through this programme, we are bringing both to Scotland. Dad always believed that education was a vital investment for anyone to achieve their full potential, and so supporting a programme that will enable emerging Scottish filmmakers to realise their own unique vision and hone their particular talent within a collaborative environment, with a view to benefitting the wider Scottish film industry, is a dream come true.”
Isabel Davis, Executive Director at Screen Scotland said:
“The filmmaking landscape has changed significantly over the last five years, with Scotland’s creative and economic growth now well recognised. The generosity and vision of the Sean Connery Foundation enables the NFTS to broaden its existing programme, provided with Screen Scotland’s support. We warmly thank the programme partners who, through their generous support and commitment to excellence, have joined the Sean Connery Foundation in recognising the wealth of talent in Scotland’s film community.”
Applications for the Sean Connery Talent Lab are now open until midnight on Monday 29th January 2024.
For more information on how to apply and for eligibility criteria, go to: nfts.co.uk/sean-connery-talent-lab.
ADDITIONAL CONNERY FAMILY GRANTS ALREADY ANNOUNCED INCLUDE:
GLASGOW MEDIA ARTS CENTRE (GMAC)
Established in 1982, GMAC Film is an open access media centre based at Trongate 103 in Glasgow. Its mission is to engage young people, communities, and emerging film talent from under-represented groups to:
Build confidence, skills and aspirations
Increase access to education, training and employment
Raise awareness of social issues through film
Create a fair, ethical and diverse screen sector in Scotland
It achieves this through six main pillars of work: youth work, education, employability, filmmaking, partnerships and community engagement. GMAC Film seeks to empower people of all ages and backgrounds to engage in projects free at the point of delivery so that low income is never a barrier to taking part, giving confidence, knowledge and ambition to those who become involved, allowing each voice to be heard.
Euan Platt, CEO of GMAC Film has said “GMAC Film has been championing diversity and increased access in the screen sector for over forty years, so we are thrilled to be selected as one of the Connery Foundation’s new grantees. This support will allow GMAC Film to sustain and develop its work across our wide range of programmes for young people, communities, and emerging film talent, and help ensure that more people -- regardless of background -- have the opportunity to use filmmaking as a way of conveying personal experiences, highlighting social issues, and telling powerful stories.”
STATION HOUSE MEDIA UNIT (SHMU)
Station House Media Unit (SHMU), established as a charity in 2003, is one of the core cultural organisations in North East Scotland and is at the forefront of community media development in the UK. We are a community anchor organisation, supporting residents in the seven regeneration areas of Aberdeen in film and TV production, radio and podcast broadcasting, traditional and on-line publications, music production and digital inclusion. These platforms are used as vehicles for personal and collective change; supporting skills development, active citizenship, community capacity building and community development. The organisation also supports other disadvantaged communities, both geographic and communities of interest, including an employability and training arm, and an adult services arm which provides support and opportunities for adults with barriers, including those who are criminal justice experienced and in recovery. We are also and SQA accredited learning centre offering a range of high-quality film and media qualifications, including the delivery of the Creative & Digital Media Foundation Apprenticeship in secondary schools across Aberdeenshire.
Murray Dawson, Founder & Chief Executive of Station House Media Unit added “We are absolutely delighted to have been selected by the Foundation for this award as it aligns perfectly with our core values; transforming the lives of young people from disadvantaged communities through creative film & media. This funding will allow us to turbocharge our moving image programmes with young people across the region; expanding existing successful programmes while introducing brand new initiatives co-designed alongside the young people who will directly benefit. This generous contribution from the Foundation will undoubtedly lead to raised aspirations of young people across the North East, supporting them to realise careers in the film-making industry, whilst providing them with a transferable skillset that will also build their confidence and self-esteem. We can’t wait to see the impact this investment will have on the young people who participate -- and to watching all the great films they’ll be making along the way.”
SCREEN EDUCATION EDINBURGH (SEE)
Screen Education Edinburgh (SEE) provides high-quality screen education, training and production programs for all ages. Originally founded as Pilton Video in 1981, SEE specialises in developing people from areas of deprivation, from rural areas and low-income backgrounds, those living with a disability, and those from diverse backgrounds.
Graham Fitzpatrick, Principal Officer for SEE has said "We are incredibly thankful for the support from The Sean Connery Foundation in establishing our SEE Young Filmmakers Hub. This funding will enable us to provide invaluable opportunities to young people between 12 and 18 who are passionate about filmmaking, regardless of their circumstances. With this support, we can help them develop the skills, knowledge, confidence, and connections needed to pursue a career in the film, TV and media industries. The vision of The Sean Connery Foundation, inspired by the legacy of Edinburgh born and bred Sir Sean Connery, resonates deeply with our organisation's mission. By supporting local talent and inspiring young people in the city where he grew up, the Foundation is truly connecting with Sir Sean Connery's roots. We are honoured to be representing Edinburgh in the Foundation's funding portfolio and be part of the Foundation's efforts to make a positive impact in Scotland's cultural and educational priorities. We look forward to making a meaningful impact in the lives of aspiring young filmmakers and creating a more inclusive and accessible film industry in Edinburgh and beyond."
The Portal Arts is an award-winning creative media and arts charity based in Govan, Glasgow. We deliver two strands of work; community media access and Creative Steps for positive mental health. Through co-creative productions, we use filmmaking as a tool for community engagement, to raise issues and represent local people. Our socially engaged production model delivers media skills through participation, mentorship and training, with the aim of improving wellbeing and addressing inequality. Creative Steps is a positive mental health programme for adults who are experiencing enduring mental health conditions. We also recently launched The Portal Studios, the film production arm of the charity, which focuses on impact filmmaking and bringing unheard voices to wider audiences.
Moya Crowley, CEO of The Portal Arts has said “We’re delighted to receive this funding gift from the Connery Foundation, which will allow us to create a significant body of work with young people from under-represented backgrounds, including those with neurodivergent conditions. We aim to break down barriers, challenge misconceptions, and enable access for young people by engaging them at an early stage of the filmmaking process, providing them with knowledge, skillset, and confidence, through the creation of short form filmmaking and impact producing, on a broad scale.”
SCOTTISH YOUTH FILM FOUNDATION
The Sean Connery Foundation grant increases operational capacity, allowing SYFF to expand screen education efforts in three areas of focus: film education in schools, film outreach projects that reach students in need and the execution of their annual youth film festival.
“My dad’s career in the film industry happened by accident and changed the trajectory of his life. Discovering the crafts and trades of film-making, beyond acting and directing, should not be reserved only for the rich, well-connected or lucky ones. And, making and discerning screen-based storytelling is nothing short of a vital 21st-century skill. It builds creativity, agency and voice, project management skills and empathy, to name just a few. Supporting SYFF, and screen education more generally, as a focus of our foundation is an exciting and natural expression of my father’s legacy that we hope will help to prepare the young Scottish people for the future that lies ahead,” said Jason Connery.
“We couldn't be more delighted to be among the first grantees of the Sean Connery Foundation. Sean Connery personifies Scotland’s film industry and his lifelong championing of literacy is one that SYFF shares. We teach young people to express themselves through films and to understand them. This grant will allow us to expand our reach and our ability to help young Scots realise or raise their ambitions using modern project-based learning. The skills acquired are transferable and can be life-changing for many of the young people we encounter,” said Scottish Youth Film Foundation co-founders David Barras and Scott Mackay.
ST. ANDREWS UNIVERSITY
The Connery Foundation is partnering with the St Andrews’ Scottish Oceans Institute to bring together postgraduate and undergraduate students from Scotland and the Bahamas. The students will conduct collaborative ocean research projects on-site with The Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization.
"Having received an honorary doctorate from St Andrews University, an institution Sean held in high regard, this gift is intended to support a centuries old tradition of academic excellence and a relationship that was dear to my father. St Andrews is a vital contributor to research on ocean protection, an area of focus for the Sean Connery Foundation, and we are hopeful that this grant will help to accelerate this progress while establishing new bridges of collaboration between Bahamian and Scottish scientists, researchers, and students," explained Stephane Connery.
“We are very excited to receive funding from the Connery Foundation for marine science in the Bahamas. In our project, we will teach students from the UK and the Bahamas in an environment that allows for mutual cultural exchange and appreciation while addressing critical questions for marine conservation,” said Dr Julie Oswald, Sr Lecturer, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews.
“Engaging with marine conservation in countries that hold our most precious marine resources is paramount if we want to maintain them. The Connery Foundation support will enable us to bring students from different countries together to conduct research to that end. We are very grateful for their support,” said Professor Vincent Janik, Director of the Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews.
In partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council, the Sean Connery Dyslexia Initiative will help schools provide additional dyslexia and literacy support for children, both at school and at home. The programme is focused on both learners and educators. Every learner involved will benefit from three sessions per week of personalised or group support from specially trained educators. In addition, the educators will learn how best to respond to the needs of learners with dyslexia and those with other literacy difficulties.
“For my father, who came from an extremely modest background, learning to read opened the door to a world of endless possibilities. With literacy, hard work, and dedication he was able to forge an extraordinary career. When his beloved granddaughters were identified as dyslexic, Sean became acutely aware that someone can be both highly intelligent and yet struggle to decode language. Just as learning to read opened the doors of opportunity for my father, we hope this programme will help to open the doors of opportunity for children challenged by dyslexia and, in success, be expanded across Scotland with government support,” said Stephane Connery.
“I am delighted and extremely grateful to the Sean Connery Foundation for their support with these two exceptionally generous grants. Both the Tutor Bursary Fund, which will enable our specialist dyslexia tutors to provide 2,500 hours of tutoring to children and young people most in need across Scotland, and the ground-breaking Dyslexia initiative in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council will make a significant difference to children and young people with dyslexia in Scotland,” said Cathy Magee, the Chief Executive of Dyslexia Scotland.
SCOTTISH INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION TRUST
The Sean Connery Foundation grant provides resources for eight additional grantees, supporting the Scottish International Education Trust in its mission to give financial help to Scottish men and women who show exceptional ability and promise in their academic field and find themselves at a critical moment of need on their educational journey.
“In 1972, my father founded the Scottish International Education Trust with his entire $1,000,000 pay check from "Diamonds Are Forever," a bold philanthropic act that he was very proud of. Fifty years on, SIET’s mission to help talented Scots in moments of need pursue their educational goals continues to inspire our whole family in its vision and focus,” said Stephane Connery.
“Sean Connery had a passionate belief in the importance of education. Having had a scant education himself, he was well aware of the value of learning and the empowerment it brings and the contribution Scots can make on the international stage because of it. The Trust exists to give financial help to Scottish men and women who show exceptional ability and promise. When they need to further their studies or professional training anywhere in the world, a grant from the Trust can make a huge difference and open a door to the future for uniquely talented individuals whose success stories could now fill volumes. Fifty years on, the Trust has given well over 1000 grants amounting to over £2 million. SIET is delighted to have a relationship with the Sean Connery Foundation where, working together, we can secure Sir Sean’s legacy into the future,” said Ginnie Atkinson, Chair of the Scottish International Education Trust.
LYFORD CAY FOUNDATIONS
The Lyford Cay Foundations FOCUS programme is an out-of-school enrichment programme aimed at college readiness and providing students with demonstrated potential and need an access to education. The grant supports the mission of the organisation and expands FOCUS’ reach into additional Bahamian communities.
“Our family has a long-standing relationship with Lyford Cay Foundations and is thrilled to be working with them in this new capacity. This programme yields outstanding results for participating students and the wider community alike,” said Saskia Connery, Sean Connery’s granddaughter.
“The Lyford Cay Foundations’ mission is to empower people to fulfil their potential by investing in learning opportunities for those who will benefit the most from it. We help scholars achieve their dreams for a college education and assist many in overcoming barriers to higher education with the academic support provided by our FOCUS programme. We are humbled that the Sean Connery Foundation, which honours the legacy of Sir Sean, believed in the Foundations’ work and we are delighted to receive this grant to support our FOCUS programme. Thank you,” said Nicola Virgill-Rolle of Lyford Cay Foundations.
BAHAMAS REEF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION
BREEF runs the Bahamian chapter of the Eco-Schools Program, which addresses the lack of ocean literacy. The grant will support BREEF’s mission to expand access to ocean education.
"We have been aware of BREEF’s work to educate children and in turn their communities about the importance of environmental stewardship and marine conservation for many years. The Eco-Schools Program is the largest sustainable schools programme in the world with over 59,000 registered schools in 72 countries across Europe, Africa, the Middle-East, Asia, the United States, Mexico and Brazil. We admire BREEF’s goal to provide eco-schools training to teachers in every single school across the Bahamas and are pleased to support them in this effort,” said Stephane Connery.
“BREEF's Eco-Schools Bahamas Program is a part of the largest global sustainable student-led school programme in the world. Currently, the Bahamas network consists of 40 schools spread over six islands with a student population totalling more than 15,812 children. With the support of the Connery Foundation, BREEF will bring educators from around the Bahamian archipelago together for an in-person Eco-Schools Coordinators workshop that will include an in-water ocean conservation training experience. This will help inspire students toward excellence in environmental stewardship and ocean literacy, and expand the Eco-Schools programme to more schools,” said BREEF Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert.
THE CAPE ELEUTHERA FOUNDATION
The Sean Connery Foundation grant supports the Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars (BESS) Programme, a partnership between The Island School and BREEF, that invests in the next generation of Bahamian leaders who will play an important role in the social, environmental and economic stability of the Bahamas.
“Supporting existing, effective, local partnerships is important to our family and the BESS programme is an outstanding example of what’s possible when organisations come together with a shared goal. BREEF and the Cape Eleuthera Island School, with support from the Ministry of Education, are training the next generation of environmental leaders and we are delighted to support them with scholarship funding from the Sean Connery Foundation,” said Stephane Connery.
"The future leaders of the Bahamas will need a deep connection to the ocean to understand the many environmental challenges that the world is facing today. The Connery Foundation's investment in the BESS Programme, a long-time partnership between The Island School and BREEF, ensures that deserving young Bahamians will build confidence to know that they can make a difference for their country and an appreciation for the magic of their unique archipelago,” said Chris Maxey, the Founder of The Island School.
Girl Rising is focused on girls’ education and empowerment and works for a world where all girls can learn, thrive and rise to their capacities. The Sean Connery Foundation grant supports the organisation's Future Rising Fellows programme, which demonstrates the power of girls’ education by supporting young female leaders across sectors who are tackling climate change in their communities, including in the Bahamas.
“With the generous grant from the Sean Connery Foundation, Girl Rising will expand the Future Rising program, which supports young leaders from around the world, including the Bahamas, who are at the forefront of innovative solutions to environmental justice, gender equity and creates a fairer, more sustainable future for all. We are deeply grateful for the Sean Connery Foundation's partnership and commitment to addressing some of the world's most pressing issues,” said Christina Lowery, CEO of Girl Rising.
“As a man who surrounded himself with many strong and fiercely intelligent women throughout his life, including his wife of more than 50-years and his granddaughters, we, Sean's family, know he would have been proud to support education for girls and young women around the world through Girl Rising. Adding to this, Girl Rising's new Future Rising initiative, with its focus on addressing climate change, reflects the Sean Connery Foundation's core commitment to investing in both education and environmental awareness” said Saskia Connery.
LET'S SWIM - BAHAMAS
The Sean Connery Foundation grant supports the ‘Let’s Swim–Bahamas’ programme that works with public schools to provide water safety lessons and ocean literacy workshops across the country. More than 5000 Bahamian students have participated in the programme to date.
“Swift Swimming has an incredible and fun-loving team who work tirelessly to make aquatic life possible for students across the country. We are very excited to support the ‘Let’s Swim–Bahamas’ programme scale to more schools in 2023 so that more children can experience the joy of aquatic life,” said Jason Connery.
“Let's Swim-Bahamas is excited to once again be giving free swim lessons to 10 Government Primary Schools in New Providence after the two-year COVID break! The Sean Connery Foundation donation was such an encouragement to us as we continue to work on rebuilding our financial base to support the program,” said Nancy Knowles from Let's Swim-Bahamas.
LEND A HAND BAHAMAS
Lend A Hand Bahamas (LAHB) was officially formed in 2014 to address the growing need for more community development “Over-the-Hill" in Nassau, Bahamas. LAHB opened their first community centre in 2018 in Grant’s Town. The Connery family’s generous contribution will go toward a recording studio in Lend a Hand Bahamas’ soon-to-come second community centre. It will serve as a place for members of the Over-the-Hill and Downtown neighbourhoods to record music, make broadcasts, play and record instruments, tape the spoken word and much more.
RACE AGAINST DEMENTIA
Founded by Sean Connery’s friend and three time F1 World Champion, Sir Jackie Stewart OBE and based in the UK, Race Against Dementia is striving to catalyse faster progress and even fresher and bigger thinking to deliver life-changing advancement of preventative treatments and cures for dementia. The $1Million commitment has provided an annual gift of $100,000 for 10 years to support the work carried out by the RAD Dementia Treatment Discovery Hub and elsewhere in Scotland.
For the time being the Foundation is not accepting unsolicited grant requests.