The James Walker Legacy Award – An Update

29th November 2023

In September 2020 we launched the James Walker Legacy Award to commemorate our dear 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.

James Walker

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 Course and he subsequently won 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 where he was part of our family.

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.


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, set up by the NFTS and Lee & Thompson to commemorate James and create a lasting legacy in his name.

The Award provides much needed support to aspiring screenwriters and producers in the first crucial year after graduating from the NFTS to help them hit the ground running, 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 & 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 & television industry.


Three Years On: An Update

  • To date the Award has supported 30 screenwriters and 6 producers in their first year post graduation from NFTS.
  • Support for Screenwriters: The financial support given to the screenwriters 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. (At the end of this update are just a few quotes from recent recipients of the JWLA financial reward.)
  • JWLA Producer’s Package is now well established. Each year two graduates from the MA in Producing course 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 & TV team.
  • We have recently selected the two beneficiaries of this year’s JWLA Producer’s Package – Tidža Karup and Hayder Hoozeer – who are following in the footsteps of the 2021 and 2022 recipients, Danielle Goff, Jack Pollington, Carolina Cordero and Karima Sammout-Kanellopoulou.
  • We look forward to supporting them both 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 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, Head of Screenwriting at the NFTS, 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.”


Some quotes from recent graduates of the Screenwriting MA and recipients of the JWLA financial award:

“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.” 

“The Award was quite literally a godsend, and as the granddaughter of a Sunday school teacher, I do not use that word lightly.”

“I was able to take my mum to the BAFTAs which was a highlight of my entire life up to this point.”

“I wanted to thank the James Walker Legacy Award for the gift of time. Finding time to write and the mental space to dream is often the greatest challenge writers face. Not to mention the time and money required to attend festivals and networking events vital to our emerging careers.”

“The award enabled me to write full time without working to supplement my income over the summer, which was invaluable to me as a writer with chronic illness.”

“I am from the Northwest and do not have immediate access to London, so again this was extremely helpful and allowed me to afford a career in London without having to move away from my family.”

“A big thank you to the James Walker Award for the boost you gave me at the toughest juncture of the MA – the transition from the course back to the ‘real world’.”

“Not knowing your immediate next steps after a two year masters is daunting. Financial support at such a crucial time was a much-needed catalyst for the beginning of my professional life.”

“I grew up in a single parent family in the Shetland islands, and my first job at 15 was a nightshift gig, cleaning out the inside of oil skips – which are skips they use to collect the gunk spewed up in the sea when they drill for oil. One year after finishing at the NFTS and I’m currently working at Toff Guys Productions, which is Guy Ritchie’s company, and I’m part of the team that’s ghost writing the upcoming live action Disney Movie. It’s been such an incredible journey and your award made this last year so much easier, because I was able to focus on writing, applications, interviews, and I didn’t have the stress that comes with worrying about rent money.”