A £2,000 business recovery grant from Open North Foundation (ONF), will be a gamechanger for an ambitious film exhibition and distribution agency based in Newcastle.
The funds will help Tull Stories to launch its recently acquired Icelandic, award-winning, black comedy, Driving Mum, into cinemas and online in March 2024.
ONF was established in 2020 to assist businesses in the North East to recover from the ravages of the pandemic. Since then, it has widened its remit to assist small and early-stage businesses that have a compelling case for support to enable them to grow at pace.
Jonny Tull is founder of Tull Stories , which releases films in the UK and provides support for independent cinemas, cultural organisations and filmmakers, festivals and other film distributors. Jonny, has 25 years of frontline experience in film distribution, film programming and marketing for the cinema, heritage and arts and culture sectors.
Recent Tull Stories film releases include Mikey Corker’s documentary Savage Waters, Jens Meurer’s documentary Seaside Special, Maysoon Pachachi’s drama Our River…Our Sky and Jon Sanders’ UK drama A Clever Woman.
Jonny, said: “The film that this grant award will be applied to represents a major gear change for Tull Stories. After years of bootstrapping its releases and with limited resources, this award will allow us to bring in an external PR specialist to work on Driving Mum’s release.
“They will have a remit to promote the film not just to the film press, but to act on the added opportunity around the film, acting as a gateway to Icelandic culture. We want this film to be in more than just the film pages of our newspapers.
“Without this award, we would have been limited to releasing without PR support. It will be transformative.
“Cinema and cinemagoing has been incredibly affected by the pandemic. Already an evolving pastime and one which requires care and attention and finger-on-the-pulse thinking, when COVID 19 closed cinemas and changed our habits, it moved how films were released, how they were consumed and how they were talked about ahead by about five years.
“Our own work has been impacted by several elements. We set up our company just prior to the global pandemic, meaning our startup was stalled for two years. in addition, our core aim, that of taking independent films to cinemas, has been rocked by the slower-than-anticipated return to cinemas by audiences.
“Finally, with the rapid growth in online viewership, we have had to factor in a heightened online element of our business, resulting in increased costs.”
All who work for Open North Foundation do so free of charge and it has secured the support of leading North East businesses and organisations dedicated to helping to rebuild the economy of the North East. All monies raised and business support services that are available to successful applicants are donated by fellow North East businesses, wider organisations and individuals.
Richard Swart, Chair of the Open North Foundation, said: “The ONF was established to support small businesses impacted by Covid but has now expanded its remit. We welcome applications from any micro or small business looking to grow and can demonstrate to ONF Directors that it is well run, has a clear business plan and that the grant will have a positive impact in terms of supporting growth and creating employment.”
Jonny, added: “I’m so happy that I discovered the Open North Foundation. I was astounded to hear that it was volunteer-led, and am utterly grateful for the award. For a small, and emerging north east film sector business like mine, and especially one that is not operating in production, opportunities for support are hard to come by. To have the Open North Foundation recognise the hard work and ambition of what I’m hoping to achieve, as well as the hurdles we must pass, is incredibly supportive on a number of levels.”