Hear from 2020 DocLabber, Jess Gell, on her mentorship match

Hear from 2020 DocLabber, Jess Gell, on her mentorship match
Jess Gell with mentor, Maureen Murray.

I recently completed six mentorship sessions with Maureen Murray, Emmy-Award winning producer of Foxtrot films, who has produced fantastic arts documentaries such as War Art with Eddie Redmayne.

I am so grateful that The Grierson Trust were able to provide me with this mentorship, particularly given my passion for arts documentaries it was incredibly thoughtful of them to pair me with Maureen.

Having recently completed work as a Development Researcher on feature length documentary, Hostile, with Galeforce Films, I decided that I wanted to also develop my skills in coming up with ideas for television, particularly surrounding arts documentaries.

Over the sessions, I worked to develop a number of ideas, learning more about what each different channel commissioner is looking for in a programme. I particularly learnt more about the importance of a presenter and what tone, content, and audience they can bring to a programme. 

Maureen also helped me to build up my confidence in the way that I presented my ideas by helping me to question my intentions with what the aim of each programme. Mentorship is geared towards asking yourself the questions, rather than simply asking your mentor for all the answers. This could often be challenging, as I had to question myself to find the answers to be able to express my intentions. However, through this process I feel that I was able to truly develop confidence and clarity in my ideas.

An aspect I have particularly noticed when watching arts programmes is that they can often be fairly geared towards an ‘intellectual’ audience, which can often result in an out-dated, non-inclusive tone. When coming up with my own ideas, I wanted to be as inclusive and representative as possible, incorporating universal themes and diverse artists and presenters. It’s very important that the arts and media are as inclusive and welcoming as possible, so that everyone feels they have a place to express themselves, no matter what their background. Maureen was greatly supportive of this and helped me to ensure that I was able to get this across in my pitches.

It was also important to me that I gained a greater understanding of how I can balance my own work as a filmmaker and artist alongside working in the film/television industry - valuing my own creative voice and my interests too. Having regular mentor sessions with Maureen setting thought-provoking ‘homework’ gave me set goals to work towards. Setting these clear objectives for myself is definitely a practise I will be continuing to implement in my future work.

For our last session, Maureen and I met at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and had a great day exploring and discussing the exhibitions on show. I have built up some exciting ideas as a result and hope to be pitching them very soon.

A big thank you to Maureen Murray and the team at Grierson DocLab!


You can view Jess’s work/ get in touch via her website at www.jessgell.com and via Instagram @gell.docs


Applications for 2022 Grierson DocLab are now open! Find out more and apply by Friday, 11 February 2022.

Published: 13 December 2021

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