BFI NETWORK Weekender 2021

Meet the participants joining us for this year's flagship development programme

24 March 2021

In a bid to embrace the pivot to online this year, BFI NETWORK has created a new, digital programme for its annual Weekender event that was originally planned for April 2020. The participants that have been selected for the programme boast exceptional talent and promise, and hail from working-class backgrounds from all over the UK. We are thrilled to be working with them, and hope that this year's programme sparks new inspiration and collaborations for a bright filmmaking future. Here are the 2021 participants: 

Zoe Alker - Writer-Director

Zoe is a writer and director from Cornwall. Her short film Yn Mor (At Sea) was made in the Cornish language and won Best Regional Short and Best  Ensemble Performance at the Cornwall Film Festival. Zoe has also directed the devised short film Anoraks for the BBC New Creatives scheme. Zoe is currently working on a feature set on the remote island of Bryher off the coast of Cornwall as well as researching and developing a biopic about the life of sculptor Barbara Hepworth.

Hollie Bryan - Producer

Hollie began her career producing music videos for independent & major record labels leading to produce her first short, Geezer, in 2013. During several years working in theatre Hollie continued to work across multiple platforms working on promos, music videos and a short film shot on location in Japan. She returned full time to producing for screen in 2019, was part of the producers development scheme run by BFI and currently has two short films nearing completion. Drawn to complex flawed characters, and exploring real life at new angles Hollie loves developing stories and daydreaming about what her life would have been like had she never escaped Grimsby in order to feel better about the stresses of being a producer. 

Mathew David - Writer-Producer

Mathew David is a Welsh actor, writer and producer. Since training at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Mathew has worked with BBC Worldwide, Starz, CBS, BBC Wales, Ffilm Cymru Wales, S4C and Welsh National Opera. In 2012 Mathew starred in the Iris Prize short Burger, directed by Magnus Mork, which went on to win a Special Jury Prize at The Sundance Film Festival 2014. Since then Mathew has worked behind the camera on over 9 Iris Prize produced short films and even co-produced a stage version of the festival called Iris On Stage in 2019. In 2020 Mathew was commissioned by BBC Wales, Ffilm Cymru Wales and Arts Council Wales to create his very first short Skinny Fat, which he has not only written but will direct and star in. 

Lizzy Dixon - Writer-Director

Elizabeth ‘Lizzy’ Dixon grew up in Liverpool, walking along tall walls and cartwheeling in front of oncoming cars. Since then she has matured her aptitude for adrenaline and redirected it into storytelling and filmmaking. With a BA in European Theatre Arts, and as a writer and director, she has devised and directed performances across Britain and Europe including film, theatre, site-specific, festivals and community commissions. She focuses her own work in themes of the plight of the working class and institutionalised hypocrisy, with a particular interest in contrasting and straddling the domestic with fantasy, and turning the mundane into something fantastical. Lizzy co-wrote and -directed award winning short Whirlpool, and continues her love for the creative development of a good story whilst working with Five Fifty Five Films. 

Margot Douglas - Producer

Margot Douglas is a North West based producer. She started her career in commercials and promos, before moving on to television, in Factual, Children’s and Creative at the BBC. After working on several award winning short films, Margot produced her first short ,The Third Hand, in 2018. The film went on to screen at many festivals and won awards both in the UK and internationally. It is now available to watch on the horror streaming channel Alter.Her next short, Scrum, a BFI NETWORK funded project, is now doing the festival circuit. Margot is currently developing her first feature film and has 2 short films in production

Tommy Edwards - Writer-Director

Tommy Edwards is a London based writer/director, whose vision centers around characters from marginalized groups, looking at the smaller stories that reveal big ideas. Tommy's realism style puts a stark emphasis on the facilitation of true and natural performances, creating a dynamic relationship between the camera and the actors, immersing the audience into the character world. Tommy’s most recent short, All the Trimmings, has just completed it’s festival run, selected for 15 different events, 3 of which were BAFTA qualifiers. Tommy also has vast experience as a film facilitator with young people, creating interesting and challenging content as a form of holistic development and skill training. In the past 10 years, he has worked with well over 1000 young people supporting the production of 100’s of films.

Lewis Faithfull - Producer

Lewis is an up and coming creative producer based in Manchester. Since graduating he has produced a number of award winning shorts including Powerless (dir. Nicole Pott) and has 2 exciting queer shorts currently in post, almost ready for their festival runs! He’s also got a number of other projects in various stages of development and production. His interest lies in telling quirky stories from underrepresented groups and giving voices to those who might sometimes get overlooked. Since founding his production company Faithfull Films in 2020 one of his key goals is also to give opportunities to the people working behind the camera, allowing great collaborations with young diverse crews of super talented creatives.

Amy Harris - Writer-Director

Amy is a writer from Bristol with experience working behind the scenes on HETV productions. She is creating content with MTV exploring themes of sustainable futures, and developing a comedy television series in partnership with Global Action Plan. Drawing from personal experience, she focuses on the expression of mental illness, the experience of hospitalisation and recovery.

Natasha Hawthornthwaite - Director

Natasha was raised on a council estate in a small mill town in Lancashire. Ever since she picked up a camera she’s always been interested in working class stories and unconventional characters. Her career began when she set up Northern Heart Films in 2016 with her long time collaborator, Scott Bradley. Since then she has made shorts for the likes of the BBC, Random Acts North, The Guardian and The Mirror. Natasha struggled for many years with her sexuality, and now as a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, she has become fascinated by stories evolving around themes of identity, belonging and self-discovery. In 2020 she was awarded funds for her latest short Finding ‘Appiness. The film tells the story of a flamboyant 76-year-old fashionista who goes on a journey of self discovery. Natasha is keen to work towards her debut feature in the next few years.

Elsa Hunter-Weston - Writer-Director

Elsa Hunter-Weston is an emerging writer-director from the Wirral. Her latest film, Please Introduce Yourself was nominated for Best Experimental Short at the BFI Future Film Festival and was screened on BBC iPlayer. Her previous work was selected to be shown on Channel 4’s website and at festivals including the BAFTA qualifying Belfast Film Festival, alongside being nominated for a RTS NI Student Award. Since graduating from Queen’s University Belfast, Elsa has been working in documentary production with some of the UK’s most talented documentary-makers. Elsa’s own experience has spanned across documentary, animation, drama and experimental work. She is currently working on new script ideas, and is so looking forward to making more films in the post-lockdown world. 

Rico Johnson-Sinclair - Writer-Producer

After working with Flatpack Festival in Birmingham, Rico Johnson-Sinclair went on to build CineQ (Birmingham's Queer Film Festival that prioritises Queer and Trans People of Colour) which is now in it's 4th Year. Outside of programming and exhibition, Rico consults with organisations around events that focus on Inclusion and Diversity. He is currently the Festival Manager of SHOUT Festival, Birmingham's Queer arts and Culture festival offering a mix of dance. music, theatre, live art, visual arts and film and has previously worked for organisations such as Coventry City of Culture and Film Hub Midlands. He recently produced the BFI NETWORK-backed film Sweet Mother, written and directed by Zena Igbe, which explores the themes of race and sexuality through the lens of cultural ostracisation. 

Charlene Jones - Writer-Director

Charlene’s a writer/director based in Manchester who draws heavily from personal experiences to create stories, focusing on themes of grief, mental health and adolescence. She created Henceforth, a documentary which opens up a raw discussion between three siblings about the loss of their parents. It won awards at BFI Future Film and Aesthetica Film Festival. Recently, she’s been commissioned by New Creatives North for her next project Before I Fall Asleep, an insight into when your mind settles into the darkness of the night.

Jakub Konaszczuk - Writer-Director

Jakub Konaszczuk is a writer/director from Wolverhampton. While studying a filmmaking course at college, Jakub has made numerous projects that showcased his creativity and artistic ability within film. In particular, his college short film project titled 'In My Skin' was well received at Film Birmingham's 'ShortFuse' event in July 2019. His mini-short film called ‘Async’ was made for the Depict short film competition and screened at Culture Central’s ‘Democratising Creativity and Culture’ festival in September 2020. As a filmmaker, Jakub is passionate about telling human dramas that are told through a poetic and contemplative style influenced by his own interest in arthouse and world cinema. Currently, Jakub is working on an experimental drama which portrays a relationship before, during and after COVID-19 lockdown. Also, Jakub is writing a film titled ‘Bracia’ which is about two Polish brothers facing injustice in Wolverhampton.

Monet Morgan - Writer-Director

Born and raised in North West London. I used to write fictional stories and post them online  at school, which other pupils loved. This was the beginning of my love for telling stories. When I attended Uxbridge College studying Media and Production, I was awarded the most outstanding student as well as finishing with the highest grades out of all students in the course. This is where I knew I wanted to be a film director. I studied Film Production at Southampton Solent University and graduated with a First Class Honours Degree. I premiered my graduate short film CO-D, at London’s Ritzy Cinema, where it sold out. CO-D was awarded Best Directing and nominated for Best Film at the SOFIA Awards in 2017. My recent short film Wooly Hair got selected at the BAFTA-qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival. I crave to tell compelling stories to a mass audience, and branch out internationally from short films into feature films and television.

Robbie O’Neill - Writer

The eldest of three boys raised by a single mother, Robbie was born in Liverpool. He left school at 16 and, after flirting with the idea of becoming an actor, decided against it and found himself rotating between working on building sites and in call centres from his late teens to mid twenties. Made redundant following the financial crash, he decided to train as an actor, earning a place at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Since graduating, he has worked mainly in television. Eager to be as useful as possible, he wrote and produced ‘Seconds Out’, an award-winning short film which explores mental health issues in working-class men. He wants to make films by and for working-class people and readdress how working-class roles and stories are both written and cast in our industry, with a commitment to work driven by collaboration and social conscience.

Samona Olanipekun - Writer-Director

Born and bred in Coventry, Samona is a London based British-Nigerian writer-director, and currently writing his debut feature along with an episodic Sci-Fi project.  Samona's interests lie in exploring themes of identity and belonging alongside the everyday absurdities of day to day existence.

Calum Perrin - Writer-Director

Calum Perrin works across film, radio, theatre and sound art, exploring themes of disability, sensoriality and domesticity. They have created work for organisations including BBC Radio 4, Arts Council Wales, Bodleian Libraries, the Prague Quadrennial, Filmpro and HearSay International Audio Arts Festival. Calum is a co-founder of Good Behaviour, an autistic-led theatre and arts company, and campaigns for the rights of artists as an active member of Artists’ Union England and Equity.

Louise Powell - Writer

Louise Powell is a playwright, filmmaker and director from Middlesbrough. She is a BBC New Creative, with an audio drama The Pitmen Flappers awaiting broadcast. Her theatre work has been performed at the Tristan Bates, Durham Assembly Rooms, Chapel Playhouse and Bolton Octagon Theatres. She was commissioned by Durham Book Festival for ‘This Place is Going to the Dogs’ (2019), a short documentary which examines flapping (greyhound racing at unlicensed tracks) in County Durham. The film is based off Louise’s memoir, which was published in the critically acclaimed anthology Common People. Louise is currently participating in Portopia Productions’ Writers Development Scheme for screenwriting, and is developing a short mockumentary film, Flappers, with Adam Bouabda and Maxy Bianco. She is working on a novel, for which she received Arts Council Funding, and will shortly co-write and direct ‘Counter Culture’, a National Lottery Project Grant funded spoken word film about being working-class.

Shaun Rakesh Rhodes - Producer

After graduating Westminster’s BA in Film and Television Production, Shaun went on to produce a number of shorts. The shorts were featured in a number of festivals such as Aesthetica FF; and winning multiple awards at Iris Prize FF. His most recent short Close Shave was greatly received by outlets including The A.V Club, ComicBook and ScreenRant. During that time Shaun worked at a boutique commercials company producing a number of commercials for brands like PlayStation VR and Studio Canal. After that he went on to produce music videos for chart topping artists. Shaun Is currently in pre-production on two short films, Bystander (A charged short about racial tensions towards East Asians) and ‘Baisti’ (A South-East Asian family reunion gone south). Both will look to be shot this year. Additionally Shaun is currently developing a TV series and Documentary, sourcing finance for a Feature Film.

Emma Roxburgh - Director

Emma is currently working as producer/director on BBC3’s Laugh Lessons with North East Comedy Hothouse and Storymade. She is passionate about championing new and authentic voices. Emma was a theatre director who worked in new writing, this underpins her screen development skills and performance led approach to directing. She directed 8 Sparks for Channel 4 and is currently in development with her first BFI short. Emma attended the ‘film school of life’ working her way through the AD ranks. Much of her theatre work has been with and for young people and emerging talent. Notable stage credits include running the young company at Northern Stage, developing ‘Rashida’ with the incredible talents of Sabrina Mahfouz and Tamara Lawrance at The Young Vic and taking double fringe first winner Paul Charlton’s ‘Moving Family’ to the Edinburgh festival. Loves a transformative actor, honest writing, and a Tarantino/Waititi/Arnold anything. 

Laoisa Sexton - Writer-Director

Laoisa is an actress & works in theatre, TV & film. She wrote, directed & performed in her debut short film- I didn’t I wasn’t I amn’t . It has screened in over 16 festivals worldwide & won several awards & was nominated for a ZeBBie Award by the Writers Guild of Ireland. Her new short The Lucky Man has just started a festival run. She also co-directed & adapted the script for The Ulysses Project, a 90min experimental film based on Ulysses made entirely in lockdown for charity. Laoisa recently optioned her first feature film The Pigeon in The Taj Mahal based on her play of the same name (that she wrote & performed in) produced OFF Broadway, New York City. Her other plays For Love and The Last Days of Cleopatra also received OFF Broadway productions in NYC & toured Ireland & Canada. Laoisa is currently fundraising to make her next short film & writing a TV comedy drama series.

Soph Webberley - Writer-Director

A Writer Director from the West Midlands. My most recent film was funded by BBC Arts and Arts Council England, Raised by Queenz. I am a Development Assistant for the Sheffield based production company, Warp Films. Actively writing and developing my own projects on the side.