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

Alec Turner (21, Lincoln)

Alec Turner

The richness of the world and its people have always been sources of inspiration for me, and hence, I have always adored documentaries. The new insight, perspectives, and education they bring to everyone, everywhere, at any time is fascinating. To work on them would intensify all these elements for me ensure my awe of the world never ceases. However, I am most interested in educating others about marginalised groups in society. I specifically hope to work on documentaries that focus on disabled and LGBTQ groups to contribute to educating society and inspiring change.

Not only does the social purpose of documentaries motivate me to pursue a career in the industry, but the idea of communicating through a screen does too. Thinking about how images, shots, and sound can work together to create dynamic, engaging, articulated content; it is such techniques that characterise the screen as a portal into the worlds of others.

Being offered a place on Grierson DocLab fills me with confidence that I am right to stay determined in my desire to work on documentaries. I am excited about meeting people already in the industry, hearing their stories, and using their advice to propel my documentary journey. I hope to learn about the whole process from start to finish, the challenges production teams face, how to develop an idea and so much more!


Asena Oyzoyn (22, London).

Asena Oyzoyn

I am a Turkish Muslim filmmaker dealing with issues of identity, heritage, migration, and femininity. My heritage continues to inspire my storytelling, as my background is not currently reflected on screen or behind the scenes. My trilogy of short documentaries mapped out my family’s personal migration stories, as well as a look at my generation of young Muslims in multicultural London. I am drawn to the stories of women, especially those who have been left voiceless or rendered as invisible and I want to give them the ability to tell their stories and histories. I am eager to tackle stories of gender-based violence, especially the kind that relates to my heritage and racialised identity through a feminist approach.

As a recent graduate from the University of Westminster with a first-class degree in Film, I am eager to continue my training and practice of documentary filmmaking in an environment that will nurture and strength my voice. Alongside my practical work, I am currently studying a MA in Film Studies at King’s College London and focusing my discipline toward the resistance of the white gaze in world and diasporic cinema.

I am extremely grateful to be selected for the Grierson DocLab 2021 as they champion diversity both on and behind the screen. Being accepted on the programme is a significant step in my career and I am looking forward to making the most out of this opportunity.


Cal Freeman (24, Salford).

Cal Freeman

I am thrilled by my acceptance onto the Grierson DocLab scheme. With the help of Grierson DocLab, I am excited to gain greater insight, training and practical work experience in the world of factual programme-making and documentaries that will elevate my skillset and inform my next steps.

My Film Practice BA (Hons) degree focused on experimental films and documentary filmmaking projects, which began my passion for the format. In striving to create media that represents queer voices, my dissertation film, The Son You Raised, combined political and LGBTQIA+ autobiographical history to educate and inspire audiences of all ages and was selected for Leeds Queer Film Festival 2020.

My motivation to start a career in factual and documentary programme-making led me to pursue experiences in freelance roles like Junior Researcher, Runner, Camera Assistant, Assistant Director and Content Creator since graduating. This has helped me to diversify my practical skillsets across areas of production. I hope to pair this with the guidance of Grierson DocLab scheme to become industry ready, learn how best to tell authentic stories and perhaps even secure longer-term work. I look forward to getting to know and collaborating with the other participants too.


Ermias Asfaw (23, London).

Ermias Asfaw

I first became interested in factual programming after watching the documentary series Cosmos. The ability to present such an exciting story whilst simultaneously educating the viewer drew me to the medium. When I began researching documentaries and other visual content, I noticed the people behind most of my favourite shows, films, and documentaries did not resemble me or any of my friends. While this did not discourage me from pursuing creating my own content, it highlighted the barriers I would have to overcome. The Grierson DocLab scheme is an opportunity for young creatives from marginalised communities with a unique perspective to clear some of the institutional hurdles, offering a comprehensive training programme and support that continues as I progress in my career.

Being a part of Grierson DocLab will be a transformative experience, by opening doors to the industry, helping develop my practical skills, and enhancing my knowledge of the industry. I look forward to meeting filmmakers from different cultures, allowing me to have a more diverse perspective. Being exposed to these new perspectives will improve how I approach a topic in my projects while networking with other young creatives will also allow me to create relationships with future industry leaders.


Helena Greening (22, Northallerton).

Helena Greening

I am absolutely delighted to have been accepted onto Grierson DocLab 2021. I cannot wait to start learning new skills, growing ideas and pushing creative boundaries with a team of like-minded people and industry professionals.

My love for factual programmes and documentaries stems from my curiosity about our world, the people who live in it and how we can connect and understand one another through visual storytelling and creativity. Whilst completing my Fine Art degree at The University of Oxford, I began making vlogs and films as an Access Officer to help with Oxford and diversification outreach. I quickly realised that although I enjoyed the creativity and individual expression of art, something that continues to be important to me, videography opened up a whole new medium that felt truly accessible to all and could be used directly to create social change. Ever since, I have been developing ideas and working on short films that aim to question systemic structures, prompt deep thought about our actions and beliefs and make us feel inspired and connected through sharing life experiences. Educated and growing up between North Yorkshire and Teesside, I am also invested in creating content that positively reflects and amplifies northern/regional voices and champions female filmmakers.

Learning from peers, experienced film-makers and production companies, this scheme will be an invaluable experience in factual programme making and I am ready to get hands on and soak up all the knowledge I can! I am very thankful for this opportunity.


Jacob Wood (22, Milford Haven).

Jacob Wood

It is safe to say I am absolutely over the moon to be given a place on Grierson DocLab. To the embarrassment of everyone around me I jumped joyfully in the air as if Wales had just scored a Grand Slam winning try when I received the email from The Grierson Trust letting me know that I had been successful.

It means so much to be given a place on DocLab and I hope it will propel me into a career within documentary film. I am really excited to dive headfirst into the industry with the array of shiny new experience, skills, and knowledge that I have gained during my MA in Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester.

As someone from a working-class background I sometimes doubted my dream of working in documentary film because the stereotype of someone in the industry is very much unlike me. I consider myself very lucky to have a mum who shielded my siblings and I from the reality of our situation to instil confidence and drive into all of us. However, times are changing, barriers are being broken down, and The Grierson Trust are doing an amazing job of providing people from a similar socio-economic background to myself the opportunity to break the mould and pursue their career ambitious within factual TV and documentary.

Having finished my degree in Human Geography from Cardiff University and started my MA at Manchester during in the midst of a global pandemic, I was filled with worry and anxiety about the prospect of pursuing a career in documentary film. Nevertheless, securing a place on DocLab has alleviated these concerns and I am now really excited to begin this amazing journey. Diolch yn fawr The Grierson Trust.

Jaqueline Darkwa (25, London).

Jaqueline Darkwa

As a child, I took the phrase ‘knowledge is power’ to heart. That is to say, I believed that if I learned everything in the universe that I would one day wake up with superpowers. Unfortunately, I do not possess the power of flight (believe me, I tried), but I was instead gifted with an insatiable curiosity for the world. Ultimately, I think this is at the core my passion for documentary filmmaking. It is one of the most accessible ways to learn about things that happened on the other side of the world or 40 years in the past.

With a BSc in Biomedical Science, I knew that I did my best work when I got to match my creative and analytical brain, so in 2020 I (virtually) graduated from Imperial College with an MSc in Science Communication. I have spent most of lockdown seizing on the opportunity to learn videography, video editing and colour grading in the mindset that if I wanted to be a filmmaker, I would have to go out there and just do it.

I have been shaped and inspired by documentaries for as long as I can remember – it is my hope to do the same for someone else someday. I want to make documentaries that could make anyone sit up and pay attention, even if it doesn’t align with their interests or political views. I know that this opportunity with Grierson DocLab will provide the direction, expertise and confidence I need to make documentaries that reflect all the complexities and intersectionalities that have been underrepresented in the past. I can’t wait to get started.


Joanna Suchomska (25, Brighton).

Joanna Suchomska

Having recently graduated with an MA in Media Practice for Development and Social Change, issues of media representation have always been an area I was deeply invested in. My own experience coming from a migration background has led me to discover stories and perspectives that often go unheard. My passion for documentary filmmaking stems from wanting to tell these stories, connecting with and learning from the people they belong to.

Focussing on short documentary production during my degree helped me develop practical skills as a documentary filmmaker. I worked on a doc discussing Britain’s housing crisis from the perspective of a local no-fixed-abode community and later produced a short featuring a young migrant’s perspective on the changing immigration policies. I feel very lucky to have met people who trusted me with their stories — I'm currently working on a documentary about women’s reproductive rights in my home country, Poland, and I've assisted on several features. I find myself gravitating towards themes of taboo and controversy, sensitive stories that need to be handled with care. I'm eager to continue building my experience, and to know that I’ll now get to do that as a Grierson DocLab trainee is an amazing feeling!

As someone who's used to having multiple jobs to support myself and save up for my education, a career in factual programme-making often seemed unattainable to me. Being invited to join the Grierson DocLab scheme is an opportunity I never imagined would be given to me. I feel incredibly thankful and excited to have been selected, and I'm looking forward to making new connections in the industry and learning in practice how the factual programmes I so much admire are made.

Joanna Hughes (22, Liverpool/Llanbedr).

Joanna Hughes

I first became interested in documentaries after watching Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Blackfish and Louie Psihoyos’ The Cove. Having visited dolphinariums as a child, I was utterly shocked by the cruelty these documentaries revealed and I made the decision to never support any business involved with these practices again. Blackfish in particular had such a significant impact on Seaworld’s business as well as legislation surrounding cetacean captivity. Witnessing the “Blackfish effect” opened my eyes to the power of documentary.

Being Welsh and Malaysian, I am strongly motivated to share stories from the East and Southeast Asian communities here in the UK. During my Media Production degree at Liverpool John Moores, I created an interactive documentary about the Chinese merchant sailors who were forcibly repatriated in the 1940’s and their British wives and children who thought they had been abandoned. In my opinion, sharing these stories has become so much more important as racism towards Asian diasporic communities has significantly increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a society I feel we are currently confronting and reflecting upon such a variety of difficult social issues and I hope I can be involved in creating works that positively inform these conversations, particularly in an age where so much disinformation is being shared online.

When I first heard about the Grierson DocLab scheme, I was immediately excited by it as I was eager to learn more about documentary and to meet other people with similar passions. However, to now have actually been offered a place on the scheme I feel incredibly privileged, motivated and like my goals might actually be achievable. I can’t wait to meet the other trainees and to get started on this exciting journey!

Kate Briggs-Price (23, Newark).

Kate Briggs-Price

For me, the appeal of documentary is its power to influence the way the viewer relates to and understands a subject. Documentary as a medium is most suited to creating positive long term change, so being accepted onto the Grierson DocLab scheme is the start of my journey in highlighting important issues that may have previously been overshadowed. I am incredibly excited to have the opportunity to learn from industry leaders, and am keen to throw myself into every learning opportunity the scheme offers.

My passion is changing the narrative around Gypsy and Traveller communities within the UK mainstream media. Being one of the smallest ethnic groups in the UK they are often misrepresented, overlooked and misunderstood. Having recently completed my MA in Global Media Management, I want to champion globalisation and avoid the narrowing pitfalls of only showing a singular perspective within documentary and factual content. By bringing a global understanding of ‘gypsies’, I want to create contrast to what that means within the context of the UK, and the context of individual travelling communities.

Since the start of the pandemic, I have founded my own video production company - Keep Busy Productions - through which I have been working with brands across the UK. Alongside this, I also work as a Production Assistant at Global Media & Entertainment - which has allowed me to understand more about the power of digital media and the status and leverage it holds over its audiences in 2021. One of the most important things to me is to learn as much as possible from every situation I am in, and make sure that I am fully present, in order to most effectively grow both personally and professionally.

Milly Houdley (21, Farnham).

Milly Houdley

Something I have learnt from my family, who all work in schools, is that ‘everyone is a teacher.’ Every interaction you have with someone has the possibility of teaching you something new. In the same respect, documentaries have the power to shed light on different perspectives and issues that people may have not experienced.

I am currently in my final year of my Film Production BA at the University for the Creative Arts, working on my final project The Women of Guru Nanak F.C. The documentary follows the inspiring stories and charismatic characters in a women’s football team located in Gravesend. Coming from a degree which primarily focuses on creating fictional work, I was pleasantly surprised by this project as it enabled me to discover a new found love for making documentaries. I found it very rewarding working with Guru Nanak F.C and I have been able to develop a strong relationship with the team through this journey. I hope to bond with many more people like I have with the team throughout my career.

I am extremely grateful to have been given this chance to join the Grierson DocLab scheme so I can learn more about documentary development and production. I’m very thankful for the irreplaceable experience and for the potential opportunities that this scheme will provide in factual programming.

Nali Raouf (22, London).

Nali Raouf

As a young Kurdish filmmaker, my passion for storytelling came from a young age and traces back to my cultural roots. I have been inspired massively by Kurdish cinema; an industry that faces so many internal and external difficulties and yet continues to produce films in the name of resistance. Being exposed to so many challenging films has driven me to the world of documentary where I want to follow in the footsteps of my idols and push boundaries within the diaspora. I am interested in exploring themes of social identity, female emancipation, foreign policy and the human experience under a decolonial lens. These issues are close to me and have been influenced not only by my heritage but my own experiences living as a first-generation.

Having recently graduated in Digital Film Production, I am now excited to specialise my practice at an industry standard level with leading professionals. I am currently working as a Programming Assistant at the London Kurdish Film festival, where as a member of the programming department I am responsible for the curation of this year’s online edition for LKFF’s first-ever global festival. Working with LKFF has boosted my hunger to reclaim and amplify the important untold stories not just of Kurds, but for all stateless people, marginalised groups and other ethnic minorities.

I see DocLab as a great opportunity and a positive step in my career, one in which I am keen to learn new skills and improve myself as a creative. I am grateful to be accepted into the scheme with an organisation that work hard and pride themselves on diversity.

Rebecca Hamill (21, Airdrie).

Rebecca Hamill

I am thrilled to be part of Grierson DocLab 2021! Although I have always loved documentaries, pursuing a career making them seemed like wishful thinking until very recently. Being from a small village in central Scotland, with no connections to the media industry, getting started was an almost impossible task - so this is an unbelievable opportunity for me.

I am about to graduate with an MA(Hons) in History. I was lucky to have been offered a class on the history of documentary film in my third year which I found fascinating; I even got the chance to make a film on the community role of the local lifeboat station. I was also due to make a documentary on the relationship between folk music and national identities for my dissertation, but this was unfortunately cancelled due to the pandemic. These experiences made me realise how much I wanted to make factual programmes as a career as I was able to get a taste of the creativity and teamwork that goes into them and learn about their capacity to make positive change in the world.

I am interested in the lives and experiences of ordinary people (something which unites my interests in documentaries and history). I want to make content that challenges people to think beyond their own experiences, empathise with others, and better understand their place in the world, while also being entertaining. One of my favourite things about documentaries and factual TV is their ability to combine entertainment and education, and I am excited to learn to negotiate these aspects for myself. I am also a keen musician, and I would love to explore music as both a topic in and a creative element of factual TV.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to learn from fantastic industry professionals in the DocLab programme. To be part of a scheme promoting diversity in the industry is a particular privilege and I am excited to meet and work with my fellow trainees. I am looking forward to getting to know everyone and starting our careers together. I can’t wait to get started!

Sam Cull (22, Sheffield/Lincoln).

Sam Cull

Being accepted onto Grierson DocLab is an amazing opportunity, that I feel privileged to have. I am currently in the final year of my history degree at the University of Sheffield.

At the start of the first national lockdown in March 2020, I wanted to make the most of a bad situation by undertaking an online video-editing course. My new skills would give me the confidence to begin creating my own short-form documentaries. This culminated with me setting up my own YouTube Channel: Football Folklore, where I explore forgotten scandals about misbehaving footballers.

From growing up in rural Lincolnshire, Grierson DocLab is an incredible opportunity that I would never find in my local area. The chance to combine my two passions of history and film into a potential working career is something I have always dreamt of.

Meeting and collaborating with like-minded people, who share my love for documentaries is an exciting prospect. I am eager to develop and share my own creative ideas with the group.

The opportunity to be mentored by professionals and learn more about the factual television industry will be an unbelievable experience. I can’t wait to get stuck in!

Sameen Ahmad (19, Luton).

Sameen Ahmad

As a visibly Muslim woman of colour, gaining experience within the media - particularly factual TV - isn't easy. It's an industry which relies heavily on networking and pre-existing relationships, which many people from my background don’t immediately have.

Despite these challenges, I am passionate about and determined to work in factual and that is why I feel so grateful to have been invited to join the Grierson DocLab scheme. The programme will help change the course of my life in many ways, enabling me to take a step towards breaking the glass ceiling which too often holds back those from backgrounds like my own.

I have produced several short films and spent time working as a producer for a national radio station but documentaries and factual TV is where my heart lies.

Getting the chance to work alongside and learn from established industry professionals, whilst also aiming to contribute my own thoughts, ideas and visions, drawing upon my lived experience as someone from an underrepresented group, is a really exciting prospect.

It's so very encouraging to know that there is a trainee scheme like Grierson DocLab to help provide opportunities to individuals such as myself who would not usually get a chance to break into this fast paced, demanding and constantly evolving industry.


Thaswina Ramsaha (20, Colchester).

Thaswina Ramsaha

I’m incredibly honoured to be selected for the Grierson DocLab 2021 scheme and excited to collaborate with other young creatives in this field while being led by the amazing Grierson team. I love documentary because while watching them you get an insight into a new world, culture, or an individual’s emotive journey. I love creating documentaries because you immerse yourself in this new perspective while empowering voices that previously could be unheard. As filmmakers we have the power to create change, and this is something I hope to do throughout my career not just through my stories but also through the diverse crew behind making them and cast within them.

Over the course of three years on my Film and Moving Image Production course at Norwich University of the Arts, my experience led me to want to become a documentary filmmaker. After working on a number of films, one of the main things I loved across genres was the collaboration towards a collective creative vision and working through the obstacles we’d face together. My first documentary explored racism within the online gay dating community and identity through a portrait documentary called Dan. My second documentary S.O.S. Bus is a thoughtful exploration of Voluntary Norfolk’s amazing service protecting vulnerable people on the streets of Norwich at night. The spontaneity and working in different roles in new environments while also supporting the work of an important charity organisation made me realise this was something I would love to do as a career.

I can’t wait to develop and explore my path as a filmmaker and build the solid skills I need to start my career. DocLab will give me the opportunity to explore other parts of the industry I haven’t been able to before and it’s a genuine dream come true!




Published: 8 April 2021

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