Announcing the 2020 DocLab trainees

At a time when filmmaking is in precarious straits and finding a way into the TV industry becomes tougher post-COVID, Grierson DocLab is back – bigger and better – with its unique training scheme offering 16 aspiring doc-makers the opportunity and skills to kick off their careers.

Lorraine Heggessey, Chair of The Grierson Trust said: “DocLab is about opening up industry doors and effecting change from the bottom up by bringing young people into the industry who wouldn't normally have access or a way in. This is a vital element of The Trust's work in supporting broadcasters and the independent production sector in developing our off-screen talent of the future. Together, we're laying the groundwork for the future of the industry, increasing the diversity of our teams whether in class, race, geography or gender. We’re determined to help young talent forge their way in the industry, no matter the new challenges that the pandemic throws at us."

The 2020 cohort in stats:

  • 75% come from outside of London including 15% from Wales and 10% from Scotland
  • 44% come from areas described as 'economically deprived'
  • 69% are female, 19% male and 12% non-binary
  • 44% are BAME
  • 50% were in full-time education at the time of applying, 6% are NEET
  • 6% have a disability with 6% preferring not to say
  • Now in its 8th year, Grierson DocLab has an increasingly strong track record in training and helping aspiring young filmmakers get their first break into the documentary industry. Notable successes include: Poppy Goodheart (2013) who is currently producing a Storyville project and has been selected for Channel 4’s prestigious First Cut scheme for first time directors; Ben McGeorge Henderson (2015), was part of the Raw TV 2019 Grierson Award-winning team that won best Best Natural History Documentary for Drowning in Plastic; Cherish Oteka (2016) made her directorial debut with the BBC One documentary Too Gay for God?; and, Michael Jenkins (2012) was one of the directors of the series of Channel 4 shorts commissioned in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, a co-pro with his company, Blak-Wave and Milk and Honey Productions. The film, The Shadow of Slavery, shows Western Europe's first black mayor and protestors from Bristol, discussing the impact of the toppling of Edward Colston's statue.


    The Grierson Trust is enormously grateful for the support it receives, particularly from new sponsors Netflix, The Rank Foundation and many of the UK's leading independent factual production companies. Blast! Films, Dragonfly TV, Lightbox, Minnow Films, Plimsoll Productions, Renegade Pictures, The Garden and Wise Owl Films/All3 Media have all committed their assistance for 2020 with additional support from The Rumi Foundation.

    Explaining why indies get behind the scheme, Academy Award winner and Lightbox co-founder, Simon Chinn says: "Lightbox is delighted to be able to support the Grierson’s DocLab for another year at a time when diversity and inclusion in our industry has never felt more urgent or more important. The opportunity to support someone who might not otherwise be able to break into the industry is a real privilege and something that everyone in a position of leadership in the documentary community and beyond should be doing. It’s only through training schemes like this - and those who support them - that our industry can correct the historic and systemic imbalance that sadly exists today and that we can ensure that the content we create in future will be made, and commissioned, by those who truly represent the broadest diversity of creative voices in the UK today."

    Christine Owen from Bristol-based Plimsoll Productions adds: “We’re excited to be involved in DocLab and to have the opportunity to offer young people from a range of backgrounds the chance to get started in the industry.”

    Summing up, Mark Robinson, Creative Director of Wise Owl Films states: “Wise Owl Films were delighted to take part in the Grierson DocLab scheme in 2019 – and we’re equally pleased to be on the list of participants again this year. It’s a win/win situation – we get to work with a promising trainee looking to make it in the TV industry – and they have the chance to find out just what it takes to run a production company in 2020.”


    Like many organisations, The Grierson Trust is currently reimagining how it works so several changes have been made to DocLab. The scheme will kick off next month with a week-long programme of online training sessions lead by Carol Nahra, complete with additional contributions from the great and good of the industry including the opportunity to pick the brains of doc-stars from on screen and off.

    Trainees also have full festival passes for all Sheffield Doc/Fest events before attending November's Grierson Awards, completing their shoot/edit training and undertaking work placements into 2021.

    Meet the trainees.

    Published: 16 July 2020

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