What Does Resilience Look Like in 2020?

With a chaotic and hugely challenging year drawing to a close, we spoke with some filmmakers who have persevered

15 December 2020

Nosa Eke

Nosa Eke is a platform agnostic filmmaker. Her short film Something in the Closet has played extensively across the UK festival circuit, and she’s just directed her first TV episode. 

Tell us what you’ve been up to as a creator this year? 

This year I’ve mostly been working on getting the script down for my debut Augmented Reality (AR) feature film - The Young And The Dopeness - which is in development with the BFI, and devising an interactive film/game based on your emotions set to film next year. I’ve also had a TV show and a podcast optioned that have been on my shelf for a hot minute, which I’ll be able to announce next year. A big professional positive for me though, has been directing my first TV episode, which is a major career goal for me and didn’t seem like it would happen at all due to Miss Rona. Thankfully it still went ahead when filming guidelines were introduced!

How have you checked in with yourself?

I’ve had to learn to find some tools to check-in with myself, which is something that I wasn’t particularly great at pr-pandemic. I’ve learned that paying attention to how your body and mind are feeling is so necessary; ignoring that you might not be feeling so great cripples everything, from your well-being to your work. I’m using the Headspace app everyday - even if only for 15mins - just to be able to have some time to chill out and reflect.

What is something that you’ve learned about yourself this year?

My instincts are quite on point ha! When I don’t listen to them, I always end up wishing I had, professionally and personally. I just have to get better at not doubting that weird voice in the back of my head.

What do you think that the film industry has learned from this year?

That there are so many ways to bring content to people that don’t involve just watching a screen. I think that with everyone being indoors now more than ever and not always wanting to be passive viewers - sitting on a sofa, etc. - there has been the scope to make so many different types of films and experiences. I’m seeing a shift in what is being commissioned and I for one welcome the way the tide is going!

 

Ellie Rogers

Ellie Rogers is a Children BAFTA-winning director. Her directorial credits include They Found Her in a Field and Sparkler

Tell us what you’ve been up to as a creator this year?

I feel really fortunate to have directed a short for BBC’s Sparks series on iPlayer. Sparklers is about a teenage girl’s journey of coming to terms with her sexuality. It’s a really positive story that resonated with me when I read it, so I’m glad to have been a part of bringing it to life.

I also released my short film They Found Her in a Field after its festival run last year. It’s lovely to finally get it out into the world. A final highlight would have to be being accepted onto BFI NETWORK x BAFTA Crew 2021. It’s good to have something to look forward to next year considering what a strange one this has been! 

How have you checked in with yourself?

I’ve found it really hard staying focused on one writing project, so after a while I decided to just follow any random creative impulses I had. This led to writing some very weird things, but opened me up to different genres like horror and sci-fi. I watched some classic films that I had always intended to see (Stand By Me is now firmly in my top ten) and of course I revisited some old favourites. I also started watching old and new teen series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Warrior Nun, which was actually really nostalgic and enjoyable. And of course, I’ve been checking in with family and friends which has been really important.

What is something that you’ve learned about yourself this year, professionally or otherwise?

I always thought that I did my best writing when I shut myself in a room for a long time and let my mind wonder, so a nationwide lockdown seemed like the perfect recipe to write. But it turns out that doing this indefinitely for months on end is not so healthy! Routine is great, but I’ve learnt that I need to break it up every now and then. Different walking routes or a small exchange with a stranger really helped to blow off the cobwebs. 

What do you think that the film industry has learned from this year?

What is a film without an audience? You have to move to what the audience wants. The big shift to Video on Demand is happening faster than predicted because of the pandemic. Supporting cinemas over the next year is going to be really important, especially independent venues. From conversations that I’ve had with fellow filmmakers, we all miss the communal aspect of watching films on a big screen in a dark space, but people have been really inventive this year with watch parties, tweet-a-longs and film clubs. Film festivals such as London Film Festival have been brilliant in responding to the pandemic, programming films online as well as screenings in-person, and I think this flexibility is important to audiences now. Adaptation and innovation has been key.

Watch Ellie’s short film They Found Her in a Field here.

Laura Kirwan-Ashman

Laura is a writer-director who has her debut feature film currently in development. Her Audible series Sour Hall will be released on 26th January.

Tell us what you’ve been up to as a creator this year? 

Towards the beginning of lockdown I came up with a queer, women of colour, enemies-to-lovers, mythological fantasy series which I'm super excited about. I wrote a 40-page series bible and an hour long pilot for it, which is something that I'd never done before. It's been getting me meetings with dream companies and studios that I didn't think that I'd get close to for years. 

I also got my first series commission! I adapted a short story into a six-episode series for Audible Originals, and they let me direct it as well! It was my first time doing an adaptation and writing in horror and audio spaces, and it was my first time writing a full series start to finish.

How have you checked in with yourself?

Financially, I would have been literally penniless without that Audible job and probably would have had to move out of London to live with my parents, so that was a blessing. I live alone, and was already pretty much a hermit pre-lockdown, so I'm used to spending most of my time by myself and have probably coped better than more extroverted people. I've held onto my sanity with the help of my best friend who luckily lives five minutes away, and by getting lost in my obsessions – mostly being a massive Star Wars nerd. The Mandalorian is honestly keeping me going right now and I've got back into writing up deep-dive meta analysis twitter threads on all of the show’s themes and mythical symbolism, which is something I did a lot last year when I was first getting into Star Wars properly. It's like a workout for my brain and feeds back into my own work. My fantasy series wouldn't exist without it!

What is something that you’ve learned about yourself this year, professionally or otherwise?

My fantasy series and the Audible project was my first foray into the kind of genre storytelling that I love so much, so it was great to prove to myself that I could create something in that space. Similarly with directing – it was my first time directing actors. It's been a year of a lot of firsts and, and while it’s been challenging, I've felt my confidence soar in areas that I was very insecure and anxious about due to lack of experience. This miserable, dystopian year has also really lit a fire under me that makes me determined to only create work that is, at its heart, rooted in hope, joy, love, and empathy. I came across the term Hopepunk in an article which sums this up.

What do you think that the film industry has learned from this year?

With the majority of physical productions shutting down, I would imagine the industry has focused more on development this year, and I hope this results in a greater appreciation of writers and how important they are. People have spent more time than ever consuming onscreen stories this year, and yet the people who first come up with those stories are so often treated as the least important. It shows itself in ways both big, the recent WGA disputes in the States for example, and small, like how writers are hardly ever mentioned in headlines or even standfirsts. 

Also, I think that everyone has generally realised just how fragile the entire system is; so many of us in this industry don't have a salary or regular source of income, and are only ever one or two pay cheques away from financial disaster. I just hope that we all come away from this year with a greater capacity for empathy, kindness, and consideration.