This guy and one of his directors were only mildly helpful. He really seemed to like the actual Mars idea and pressed me for details of the story, then said that he is a genre fan and I should not be ashamed to be making a genre movie. I didn't act ashamed, but he said in his experience a lot of UK higher-ups think of "high concept as scary".
name actor was recommended as a strategy for getting funding
actors agents in the UK are much more closed to reading indie scripts than agents in the USA
funding bodies have "their people" and even if it looks like they support random groups of people, upon closer inspection those people will often have worked with them before etc. Apparently tough to break in there.
get anyone famous you know, eg. another director, to endorse your work even if they're not involved in it and that will help a lot