Kate O'Hara in Film & TV


Interview: Director Hope Dickson Leach Talks ‘The Levelling’ and iFeatures

iFeatures4, our low-budget feature film development programme run in partnership with the BFI and BBC, has recently closed for applications

Designed to provide production and development support for teams of emerging writers, directors and producers, the scheme aims to ultimately produce a slate of three micro-budget projects that reflect the English regions. By giving teams a budget of £350,000, iFeatures has previously produced films like Guy Myhill’s coming-of-age tale ‘The Goob’, Martin Radich’s family drama ‘Norfolk’ and Alex Taylor’s otherworldly ‘Spaceship’, earning awards and critical praise in the process.

Writer director Hope Dickson Leach applied to our third round of iFeatures to develop ‘The Levelling’, a rural-set family story about devastation, both figuratively and literally. “It’s actually a family story - a father daughter story set in a world of grief,” Dickson Leach tells Creative England. “As I was developing the idea the floods happened and they offered a context for the story that made it larger than it was. The film is about a family who don’t communicate and the damage that does. It’s about how enormous crises happen and we are offered a chance to change the way that we function or carry on and risk them returning.” 

This same ethos of redemption was mirrored in the devastation littered across the flooded Somerset landscape and the ways in which locals came together. “Much of the community on The Levels believe the Somerset floods happened largely because the rivers had gone undredged (the rivers in Somerset are manmade and require maintenance to prevent them clogging up with silt) which felt like a perfect metaphor for a family that doesn’t communicate,” adds Dickson Leach. “The way the community responded to the floods and rallied around, came together and made change happen was also an echo for my main character who is determined not to let her brother’s death be another tragedy that their family just endures silently.”

Due for release later this year, ‘The Levelling’ will be Hope Dickson Leach’s debut feature film, one of three projects to be greenlit through last year’s iFeatures3. “I’d been aware of films made through the scheme in previous years,” recalls Dickson Leach on hearing about iFeatures. “As a filmmaker trying to make a first feature, you keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to make that leap, and iFeatures offers one of the best in the UK.

“Allowing people a chance to make long form work and retain an authorial voice is such a privilege for the filmmaker,” adds Dickson Leach, “but it’s also the only way that audiences will get to see new, fresh cinema. It’s a risk that the industry must take, and doing it at this budget level allows them to take that risk.” 

The support offered by the scheme, both technical and financial, proved to be key in developing ‘The Levelling’ from script to screen. “Working with experienced executives and filmmakers was obviously a huge help,” explains the director. “You don’t make a film on your own and learning to embrace the support is an important step. I was lucky to have insightful advice offered at every step of the process.”

As for advice for those about to apply for iFeatures4? “Know what kind of film you are making before you try to make it,” suggests Dickson Leach. “No-one will give you money if you aren’t sure what it is and you need their money to make it, so do your job. Throw yourself into it, embrace the low budget, tell a story that only you can tell.”

iFeatures4 has recently closed for applications, follow us on Twitter for further updates.

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