Hear from our new Grierson DocLab trainees about how it feels to be selected

Ananya Sriram (23, Leeds)

To me, making documentaries has always been a pipe dream that I never thought would become a reality. I am constantly second-guessing myself, so being accepted onto the Grierson DocLab scheme has helped me affirm my confidence, my capabilities, and my ability to pursue a career in this field. I am driven by a need to explore and hope to use the medium of documentary to tell different kinds of stories from all over the world. Having recently completed a degree in French and International Relations at the University of Leeds, I always strive to look for the bigger picture, and I am interested in how small, local issues can often be linked to broader global trends.

Whilst at university I worked on two different documentaries that shone a light on two very different issues: the first being refugees’ lack of access to higher education in the UK, and the second being the experiences of female students of colour on the University of Leeds campus. Working on both films ignited a passion in me for discovering stories that are often underrepresented in the media, and pushed me to want to do more to amplify marginalised voices.

Being accepted onto the Grierson DocLab scheme is both a privilege and an opportunity, and I am excited to get stuck in!

Chandler Pierre (23, London).

"In documentaries, there’s a truth that unfolds unnaturally, and you get to chronicle it. In narratives, you have to create the situations so that the truth will come out" – Ava DuVernay.

I want to make documentaries that will socially impact our society. Revealing untold truths and teaching others about the world we live in but don’t truly know. As a young black female filmmaker, I want to tell stories influenced by my background and beyond. I don’t want to be subjected to the voice that I’m told I should have, only making marginalised documentaries and factual programmes. I am excited to be part of Grierson DocLab as they will give me a voice in the industry and teach me how to honour these values throughout my career.

I am elated to be selected for a scheme which champions inclusivity within the Film and Television industry. It’s an amazing opportunity which will educate and provide me with opportunities I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to experience.

I graduated from Norwich University of the Arts in 2018 with a BA in Film and Moving Image Production. During my final year I directed a documentary short on Grenfell Tower, which opened my interest into the world of documentary making. I wanted to give back to the community I grew up in. Throughout my career as a filmmaker I want to direct films about social injustice. DocLab will allow me to develop and establish myself as a professional in this industry and I am eager to get started.

Charley Leach (23, Northampton).

I’ve always loved documentaries, factual and reality TV, but I really knew I wanted a career in the industry after spending the year studying at the University of Missouri during my undergrad degree. There I was able to take classes in documentary and journalism and attend screenings of new films at the True/False Documentary Film Festival. My time in Missouri also opened my eyes to the many different ways that people see the world, and the deeply conflicted social and political ideas found in America - something that I’d love to explore in the future through documentary!

It was the year in America which led me to apply for an MA in Broadcast Journalism, which I’m currently finishing. As my final project I’m currently creating my own short documentary on how Northamptonshire County Council's bankruptcy has affected small, rural villages. Sadly, due to Covid-19, my TV training on the course was cut short and work experience cancelled, which is why I’m especially grateful for a place on the DocLab scheme this year.

I think that I have quite a unique perspective on race and class due to my life experiences so far. On one side, I’m mixed race and come from a low income, single parent household; but on the other, I attended a private school through financial aid, and I’ve grown up within a white family. These are all things I want to be able to examine through film, and I think that through the DocLab scheme I will gain the skills, confidence and support to do so in the future. I’m incredibly excited to get started, meet other documentary enthusiasts and I’m hopeful for what the future holds!

Daniel Cunningham (25, Glasgow).

It’s been amazing to be chosen for the scheme. Coming from a disadvantaged background, and without formal training, many of the conventional routes to the world of film and television don’t seem open to you. I completed my undergraduate degree in Theology last year, and wrote my final dissertation on documentary and its role in shaping our shared sense of history. I’ve worked full-time as a chef since, and worried that my chance of a career in documentary was slim. This is why the opportunity to learn from so many brilliant people is one that I’m still struggling to believe has been given to me.

Documentaries have taught me so much of what I know about the world. As much as the subjects, I love the mechanics of the doc itself and all the different ways a story can be told. I want to share the places and people I’ve come across in my life in Glasgow, and continue to use documentary as a personal way of exploring the world beyond my own boundaries. I can’t wait to begin the residential, and meet people who are as excited about the field as I am.

Erin Joan Michael (22, Glasgow).

I am 22 and fresh out of the University of Glasgow with a MA(Hons) in Film and TV. For the last four years, I have been able to find my love for creating a variety of content. I started out in front of the camera before trading my passion for acting for producing my own content. Confronted by my university’s theory-based film course, I wanted to learn more about how to actually create something. Through searching for these opportunities to learn I joined Glasgow University Student Television where I was able to put some of my ideas into action. Whilst working at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland as a Special Support Tutor I started to understand the impact of the lack representation can have of people. Documentary gives a space for everyone's stories to be heard.

Last year I made my first doc about the fears university students have about employment after university, mainly as an outlet for my own concerns. My own concerns about employment during an unsure time drove me to seek out opportunities that will help build my network and create a space for creative opportunities - which is where I came across Grierson DocLab.

It is a complete privilege to be a part of the 2020 cohort of the Grierson DocLab scheme this year. I am looking forward to meeting people with a similar goal and to start creating more stories.

Fatima Ali Omar (22, Birmingham).

I graduated from the University of Warwick in 2019 with a degree in English Literature. It was during my final year, when I took a module in screenwriting, that my love for film began. Getting to explore the wealth of film and variety in both narrative and factual filmmaking sparked the seed of interest and has subsequently led to me writing reviews, compiling my own edits and penning my own screenplays.

Since then, I’ve been training as a producer with Birmingham-based arts company Beetfreaks to bring digital campaigns to life as well as build my knowledge of production. This opportunity has also allowed me to learn about the different skills and experiences that encompass the role of producer. At this point in my career, I feel ready and eager to start getting experience in the practical side of filmmaking and the challenge and excitement that comes with the factual programming world. I am passionate about telling stories centred on Black Muslim women specifically and more widely about Black life in Britain. I am also determined to shed the false notion that it is a homogenous experience as opposed to the richly diverse and varying experiences that I know fall under the umbrella of Black British.

Being accepted onto Grierson Doclab 2020 is therefore an exciting opportunity for me as I feel I will be able to put the skills I have been honing over the past couple of years to good use. I hope to gain more insight into the industry at large and more specifically how to develop as a filmmaker in my own right alongside like-minded people.

Jess Gell (25, London).

I am really honoured to have been selected for Grierson DocLab 2020 and can’t wait to further my passion for documentary with a great team of like-minded young creatives as well as learning from professionals in the industry. Being 25, this was my last chance to get onto the scheme so I am really pleased to have been chosen.

I graduated in 2017 with a first-class honours degree in Film and Television at UAL with a keen interest in documentary. My dissertation focused on the representation of people with dementia in film and I am very interested in memory, identity and personal histories. Since graduating I have been trying to develop my career in factual television, more recently honing my pursuits towards research and development. This period of lockdown has particularly reconnected me to the importance of creativity and I have been actively seeking freelance documentary roles so that I am prepared for the road ahead. This scheme could not have come at a better time.

I love ideas and the pattern making of creativity as well as learning about people’s stories. I am currently working on my first short documentary since university called The Day Frank Died in which I have interviewed my dad and his siblings about their experiences of growing up without their father. Alongside balancing my own creative work, the realities of making a wage became more of a priority post-uni: working in cafés to becoming a receptionist and eventually moving into marketing. I felt myself getting further away from the creativity of my degree. However, I do not devalue these experiences as I’ve met some great people along the way and working in fast-paced office environments has definitely set me up for future jobs.

I think that particularly as young creatives it can be easy to lose our voices and value in the competitive sea of ‘the industry’ but I am hopeful that this scheme will be able to provide us with the confidence and practical skills to truly find and value our voices and share them proudly with the world. I think as filmmakers we have an important responsibility of using this pervasive platform to amplify the voices of those who might not always be heard, to challenge perceptions and present ideas in a way that is accessible to all.

Joe Malamed (25, Manchester).

My interest in videography came from the accessibility it gives to anyone to express themselves, no matter the background. But my love for videography came from the realisation that it can change the world. By making videos about civil rights groups and climate activists like extinction rebellion and black lives matter, this realisation hit home. By pointing a camera in the right place, by shining a light on the unknown and getting different perspectives, you can bring people together, reveal social issues that lacked attention and can genuinely change the world.

Being accepted to Grierson DocLab is a game changer for me. I was quite uninspired as a child and a teenager and I didn't know what I wanted to do until after my education. As a self-taught videographer in my mid-twenties I was expecting a slow climb to where I wanted to get to, however, I feel that The Grierson Trust giving me this opportunity is a second chance for me to find my purpose. I'm incredibly excited to have a community of like-minded people to bounce ideas off and to have a platform to express my ideas and alongside my peers, hopefully influence society.

Kiernan Abbott (22, Aberteifi, Wales).

Having recently finished my time at the University of Bristol studying Film & Television, Grierson DocLab seemed like the best step forward in my career in documentary film. Having always been captivated by real stories from a young age, documentary filmmaking was an inevitable pathway that I’d take upon beginning my studies. I truly believe that factual filmmaking can make a positive change on the world, and therefore want to learn from the best through the aid of The Grierson Trust and amongst my fellow trainees.

I first dipped my toe into the world of documentary filmmaking by creating a short on an environmentally conscious ceramicist in my hometown. I have since worked along similar lines, more recently completing a film on climate anxiety, exploring a harsh reality that is more present than ever. Outside of filmmaking I spend much of my time exploring and understanding culture through reading or through music, so more often than not my camera lens follows these external interests. I’m currently working on a film covering the Welsh electronic music scene during the 1980/1990’s, and I know that the experience from the scheme will ensure that this film and others to come will reach their highest potential.

Applying to Grierson DocLab was a no brainer when it came to wanting to implement my ideas when I first applied, and to be chosen is an honour that will stick with me throughout my career. I’m a proud Welshman from a working-class background and I hope that more opportunities such as DocLab help level the playing field in an industry that needs a shift towards equality.

Leonie Rousham (23, London).

I am so excited to be a part of Grierson DocLab 2020. My interest in documentary has stemmed from my involvement in activism and community. I first started to understand filmmaking as a tool of political resistance during 2011: documenting the student protests in a monthly photo column for my local newspaper. Since then I have always tried to respond to the direct politics of my surroundings, which are not widely reflected on-screen.

I am dyslexic and have found traditional education difficult, thus I have tried to teach myself through alternative outlets, such as being involved with Resonance FM and organising free practical learning through Anti-university. Both of these things helped to shape my interests in factual content and alternative approaches and platforms to broadcast from.

I am ready to take on the challenges that Grierson Doclab will offer, finally learning how to bring my ideas and interests into compelling stories that can be shared! I am keen to learn more about documentary grammar and am particularly excited to learn from the shoot/edit weekend and be part of a community of filmmakers that I can have ongoing conversations with.

Having the opportunity to finally turn my interests and self-taught knowledge into something tangible and developed through Doclab is an amazing feeling. I cannot wait to meet the other trainees and to be able to be able to share our ideas together.

Lisa Doran (25, Cardiff).

I am a journalism graduate with a Bachelor’s (BA Journalism, Media and Culture) from Cardiff University’s School of Journalism. Alongside my academic studies I took part in numerous media-related societies in which I developed skills in production, camera operation and design.

I am delighted to be accepted onto this year’s Grierson DocLab scheme. I turned twenty-five this year so this application was my first and last shot at getting selected. I am looking forward to learning from industry professionals and my DocLab attendees. I cannot wait to utilize the support and mentoring that the course offers.

My passion for documentaries stems from the importance of representation in film and exploring cultures and ideals different to our own. I am particularly interested in travelling and I would love to explore these concepts all over the world.

I am thrilled to be a part of the industry during this challenging time and I can’t wait to see how the making of documentaries changes and adapts to current affairs. It feels like a very exciting time ahead.

I am eager to pursue a career in factual programme-making and ready to put my skills to work for a company I admire. This scheme is a dream opportunity and I can’t wait to get involved.

Poppy Brown (22, Norfolk).

I feel incredibly thankful and privileged to have been invited to join the Grierson DocLab scheme; to be immersed and learn about the world of factual TV and documentary is for me beyond exciting.

My love for film led me to study filmmaking at The Northern Film School. Alongside learning more about filmmaking, it reaffirmed my curiosity in humanity and people. This curiosity was often satisfied when watching documentaries and is what subsequently made me realise that I had a hunger to make documentaries myself. I love films that pick up attributes of personalities through an observational camera or show what it is like to be human through storytelling.

To be a part of a yearlong training programme, where I get to be involved with companies and people that produce content I have watched and felt captivated by, is astonishing. I cannot stress enough how excited and grateful I am to have been chosen, especially when at times my aspirations seemed unattainable. It is both satisfying and encouraging that there is something like Grierson DocLab to cater to people who would not usually get the chance to break into the industry.

Ramla Dirie (22, Leicester).

Growing up I was always interested in the real issues in life and the taboos in society. I wanted to understand the world outside of my own home comforts. From my first proper job working at a Youth Hostel to studying English Language and Media in undergrad. My interest has always been with people, what connects us and our stories.

I have always considered a career in TV but was worried that I lacked the experience to really make it. However, now that I'm completing my Masters’ degree in Investigative Journalism in September, I'm now more determined than ever to succeed in the industry.

Being from the Midlands, there aren't many opportunities to do work experience in TV. This is why I'm grateful to have been selected to be part of this years’ cohort of Grierson Doclab trainees. I hope the scheme can elevate my understanding of factual filmmaking and enhance my skills to prepare myself for a career in the TV industry.

Rhianna Bibby (18, Warrington).

I’m really excited to have gained a place on the Grierson DocLab scheme as I think it will be an invaluable experience to mix with new, like-minded people who offer fresh inspiration and perspectives while also getting the chance to learn from the insight of experienced professionals. Studying creative and digital media in sixth form and taking part in various film programmes has allowed me to realise my goals and interests in this industry, while also enabling me to develop my understanding of film and grow in confidence.

I am inspired and moved by filmmakers whose content is productive in both education and entertainment and I hope to one day create content that shares stories of humanity and educates people of the worlds’ uniqueness and inequalities. Therefore, I’m looking forward to learning about developing and creating factual content, to equip me with the knowledge and skills I need to progress into the industry and create some of my own portfolio pieces along the way. I feel extremely lucky to of gotten on the scheme and can’t wait to get started!

Toni Lee (25, Huddersfield).

As a Visual Anthropology student, I have loved exploring how film can build more meaningful relationships with the people I meet, and pushes my creative boundaries in storytelling. Beyond my education film has been a thread of exploration between my experiences with my community, and with people and places anew.

I feel honoured to be selected for the Grierson DocLab scheme, and can’t wait to encounter a shifted documentary landscape, influenced by our virtual and real experiences together.

I take most delight in knowing that documentaries are founded in reverence to the quotidian, and I hope that taking part in the DocLab scheme will help to sharpen the attention I pay to the everyday. Factual programming is something which has the power to move and connect with huge and varied audiences, so learning about that process through the mentorship and guidance of the scheme is both humbling and thrilling.

Joining the DocLab cohort is truly a privilege, and I look forward to meeting fellow trainees and working together creatively. The opportunities which lay ahead will be shaped by what we have learned through physically distanced lockdown, and I am incredibly grateful to brave the tide with my fellow DocLab trainees.

Published: 16 July 2020

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