Mentoring scheme for Indies, Indielab Accelerator, has launched an online programme for its 2020 edition.

The virtual community platform will take the place of Indielab Accelerator’s 2020 live programme. The physical accelerator programme, which was due to start last month, was initially postponed until September in response to the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic, but will now be hosted on the new community platform which can be accessed here.

Indielab Connect will offer a package of services to Indielab Accelerator’s 2020 cohort. These include a one-to-one mentoring scheme, consisting of four one-hour sessions focusing on the steps that can be taken to mitigate the impact of lockdown; a free legal helpline available to all alumni, sponsored by leading media law firm Harbottle & Lewis; and a finance helpdesk, managed by tax consultants Ecovis Wingrave Yeats, which will advise on the government support available to indies.

Sony Pictures Television (“SPT”) is also to provide a diversity-based bursary scheme, reflecting Indielab Accelerator’s increased focus on regional and BAME-owned production companies.

Indielab Accelerator has been working with Indigo Talent to recruit top industry names to serve as mentors to the 2020 cohort. Several partnerships have already been set up, with Left Bank Pictures’ Andy Harries mentoring Merman; Alexandra Fraser mentoring Spirit; BBC’s comedy chief Shane Allen advising Saturday’s Child; and The Garden’s Magnus Temple partnering with FirstLook TV.

The platform will serve as the hub of virtual community, providing Indielab Accelerator’s 15 independent producers with a peer-to-peer network to create a match as near as possible to the physical networking opportunities offered by the programme’s live events. It will also offer masterclasses, ‘break-out and reflective spaces’, and speed-dating opportunities with potential industry partners. As with the live event, the online programme will also feature a line-up of speakers drawn from the UK industry. Among the speakers for the 2020 programme are former Channel Four chief executive David Abraham, who will deliver the opening keynote, Barcroft Media founder Sam Barcroft, Richard Johnston, CEO of Endemol Shine UK, Sally Woodward-Gentle, producer of Killing Eve, Andrew Sheldon creative director and founder of Leeds based indie True North and Jonathan Stadlen, founder and MD of Knickerbockerglory.

Indielab Accelerator’s 2020 cohort consists of BEEZR Studios, Bone Soup Productions, FirstLook TV, Forest, ie ie productions, Little Door Productions, Merman, Milk and Honey Productions, Parable, Phoenix Television, Red Sky Productions, Saturday’s Child, Spirit Media, Very Nice TV and Yellow Door Productions. Each participating indie is been invited to nominate two employees to take part in the programme.

Victoria Powell, founder and CEO of Indielab Accelerator, said: “It is an extraordinarily difficult year for our cohort, the indie sector is under threat. Sector change has accelerated, and indies have to both survive and think strategically at the same time.  We are here this year to support out indies to do both. Networking is more important than ever, and we have built that at the heart of our platform.  We’ve studied a range of webinar and digital conferences, but haven’t much liked what we’ve seen. So we’ve created an entirely new concept. Nothing can replace face-to-face contact, but we believe Indielab Connect is the next best thing. It’s a genuinely innovative way for us to deliver our programme in a safe yet dynamic way, enabling our 2020 cohort to stay connected, and stay in business, emerging stronger and more resilient through these challenging times.”

Indielab Accelerator is also marking its fifth anniversary with an increased focus on regionality and diversity. Launching this year is a diversity bursary scheme, supported by Sony Pictures Television.

Richard Parsons, Sony Pictures Television, Chief Operations Officer, International Production, said ‘I’m delighted that we can support Indielab again this year – it’s important for Sony Pictures Television to support initiatives which make a direct and meaningful impact on our industry, especially with regard to diversity and especially at this time. Well played Victoria for her resourceful response in creating Indielab Connect, I’m sure the 15 participants will benefit hugely from the programme.

Miles Jarvis, executive producer and managing director of Phoenix Television, a 2020 cohort member said: ‘We have long admired Indielab as we’ve seen the trajectory of many companies that have gone through the scheme and done very well.  Our participation couldn’t come at a better moment, the Indielab team has been very supportive in facilitating the mentoring programme at such a critical time. Jaimi West, who I own and run Phoenix with, look forward to connecting with others who are sharing similar experiences and to see how the virtual peer to peer community could help us all in times to come.’

Jon Creamer