Supporting Filmmakers' Futures - The James Walker Legacy Award
In September 2020, The National Film and Television School and Lee & Thompson launched The James Walker Legacy Award to commemorate graduate and colleague James who passed away in 2019 at the age of 38. Three years into the scheme, we look back at what has been achieved to date and the impact of the Award on the industry that James held so dear.
"The James Walker Legacy Award was a massive help to me, removing my postgraduate financial stresses and allowing me to put my focus into my writing."
James was a much-loved writer, producer, lawyer and friend. He had the breadth of talent and personality to succeed as both a lawyer and as a creative producer and writer, and he did this all effortlessly.
James graduated from the National Film & Television School's Producing MA, subsequently winning a BAFTA for Best Short Animation in 2014 with two of his NFTS course-mates for their graduation film, Sleeping With The Fishes. James then combined his love of film with his vocation as a solicitor and worked for over six years in the Film team at Lee & Thompson.
In the wake of James’ untimely death, some of those who knew him best as both a friend and colleague joined together with his family and friends to discuss how to best pay tribute to James, remembering the wonderful person he was, the spirit in which he lived his life and the values he embodied.
"Being from a working-class background, the award relieved me of so much financial pressure and I am so incredibly grateful to all those who made that happen."
About The Award
With the support of James’ family and friends, The James Walker Legacy Award was launched on the first anniversary of his passing to commemorate James and create a lasting legacy in his name, set up by the National Film and Television School and Lee & Thompson.
The Award provides much needed support to aspiring screenwriters and producers in the first crucial year after graduating from the School to help them hit the ground running and dedicate their time to further developing their portfolios and establishing themselves in the industry.
Award recipients receive some or all of the following: financial assistance; bespoke mentoring; legal advice; development and networking opportunities.
Funds for the Award were donated by Lee & Thompson, James' family and friends together with a significant and generous contribution from the wider film and television industry.
"I’m really grateful for the award…It definitely gave me that extra little bit of reassurance needed when I went out into 'the real world."
Three Years On: An Update
To date, the James Walker Legacy Award has supported 30 screenwriters and 6 producers in their first-year post graduation from the National Film and Television School.
The Support for Screenwriters, given to graduates from the NFTS Screenwriting MA, has been incredibly well received and has helped recipients enormously, taking the pressure off post-graduation and giving students breathing space to focus on their creative endeavours.
The JWLA Producer's Package is now well established. Each year two graduates from the Producing MA are selected to benefit from a range of practical support and guidance, including mentoring, legal advice and networking opportunities. The programme is delivered by Antony Swiatek and Luke Carey from Lee & Thompson's Film and TV team.
"It helped me carve out a few more hours each week to write new material, polish my existing scripts, and apply to various schemes and opportunities."
The beneficiaries of this year's JWLA Producer's Package Tidža Karup and Hayder Hoozeer were selected recently to follow in the footsteps of past beneficiaries including Danielle Goff, Jack Pollington, Carolina Cordero and Karima Sammout-Kanellopoulou.
We look forward to supporting both Tidža and Hayder this year and continuing our relationship with previous recipients as they go from strength to strength.
Antony Swiatek, Partner at Lee & Thompson, colleague and great friend of James Walker said, "James was, both personally and professionally, someone who was instinctively generous with his time and willing to take a chance on people with the same sort of passion as his own – that attitude and approach is something we both keenly miss and aspire to follow daily. I know that all of us here at L&T are proud to continue our support for this award in his name, and Luke and I, in particular, continue to take a great deal of pride in leading the mentoring side of the JWLA for NFTS graduates making their first strides as independent producers. Long may it run!"
Maria-Amália and David Coulling, James' sister and brother-in-law commented: "James went out of his way to support others in film and TV, particularly those on their way into the industry. With thanks to Lee & Thompson for carrying James' flame, and to those many others who do so including the JWLA producers and writers, we know James would be very proud of everyone involved in JWLA, as are we."
Brian Ward, NFTS Head of Screenwriting said: "The James Walker Legacy Award has been of incredible benefit in supporting our graduating screenwriters in their first six months in the industry, perhaps the most crucial time in their professional lives. The generosity of the award has enabled them to continue to meet agents, producers, commissioners, streamers and broadcasters, and most importantly, to continue to write full time. I hope that generosity has been in some small way repaid by the successes they’ve all subsequently achieved. The Award is not just a fitting tribute to James, but an invaluable gift to all those who’ve received it.”