On Tuesday 31 January and Wednesday 1 February, Film London hosted the fourth iteration of UPstream, our innovative early-stage IP market showcasing promising projects from exciting new and emerging storytellers working in a variety of formats.
From novels and short fiction to podcasts and audio drama, graphic novels and illustration to TV/feature pitches, the stories from our carefully selected “IPsters” lend themselves to adaptation for screen. We find our projects via research, referrals from our outreach networks, and our partnerships with B3 Biennial of the Moving Image, The Gotham Film & Media Institute and WattPad.
Building on previous years, the 2023 UPstream market expanded to two afternoons, featuring nineteen projects presented to dozens of invited guests from major film, TV and games production companies as well as broadcasters and sales agents.
After an introduction from Film London CEO Adrian Wootton OBE, WattPad WEBTOON Studios’ Carla Zeller kicked off the presentations in earnest with two Webtoon graphic novels and one WattPad story, all of which have captivated millions of readers.
Elsewhere in the prose fiction world, author and screenwriter Wendall Thomas presented Lost Luggage, the first entry in her popular Cyd Redondo Mysteries globetrotting adventure novel series, and producer Ana Emdin told the room about a compelling sci-fi young adult book she’s optioned that captures some of the “lost years” feeling we had during the COVID pandemic.
Heather Taylor and Hillary Nussbaum of Cereal Made also captured contemporary anxieties and debates with their musical audio drama that could be the anthem for a generation grappling with “post-truth”. Writer/director Simon Kent Fung’s proposed audio drama took an autobiographical turn, drawing on his own experiences finding friendships in the unlikeliest of settings. Similarly inspired by personal experience are artist filmmaker Joseph Wilson’s TV pilot that asks big questions about the world of drag, and documentarian Giulio Gobbetti’s project that explores belonging in a once-popular Italian seaside town where visitors and workers alike only belong for a season.
The room enjoyed hearing from some exciting comedy writer-performers: Tiggy Bayley, a beloved presence on TikTok who’s looking to expand her short film Tildypops, and artist Babak Ganjei, who’s working with Blink Industries to develop his comic (no pun intended) graphic novels about freelancing and parenting for screen.
Animation was a popular format at this year’s market. Filmmaker Baff Akoto and animator Jide Johnson walked the room through their concept for a genre-driven animated anthology drawing on fascinating and hitherto unseen mythology. Producer Alexander Bodin-Saphir shared his vision for an animated anthology based on a compelling book set in Afghanistan. Artist and author Eglantine Vittu spoke about the abundant potential of her illustrated book Matcha and the Origami Forest for animation or a game.
We heard from the incredibly creative immersive entertainment company Swamp Motel, whose work includes the interactive short The Alter and the live experience Saint Jude which recently opened to great reviews. And we heard from the wonderful people at Intermission Youth Theatre, an inspiring organisation that uses theatre and film to change young lives, counting among its patrons Naomie Harris OBE and Sir Mark Rylance.
As ever, true stories formed a memorable part of UPstream. We heard captivating little-known, suspenseful World War Two stories from filmmaker Talena Sanders as well as You Had Me At Black’s Onyx Èspri and Martina Abrahams Ilunga; and actor/writer Adrian Wheeler spoke about his labour of love, a richly researched and emotive drama about a community grappling with a disaster at sea.
All of these projects would make for hugely compelling TV, film or games. Projects have been picked up at the previous two editions of UPstream, and more broadly, the market allows artists and producers to forge relationships that could result in lasting collaborations. We’re hugely excited to see this year’s IPsters thriving, and we look forward to building on the event in future years.
Overview by Sanj Krishnan
The next iteration of UPstream will take place in early 2024. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org