Best Girl Grip
Episode 82: Mika Watkins, Screenwriter

Episode 82: Mika Watkins, Screenwriter

May 4, 2021

This week my guest is Mika Watkins, a screenwriter for television and film, whose career is already on a really exciting trajectory.

She’s been part of the writers rooms for Black Mirror and the Amazon series Hanna and has written episodes for Sky’s Lucky Man and BBC1 period drama Troy: Fall of a City. She also created, showran and executive produced the 10-part sci-fi Origin for Leftbank and YouTube Premium.  

Mika is currently writing a range of her own projects including Love Story, a Tokyo-set rom-com for Eleven Films, Joketsu, a series about a 16th century female samurai for Sister Pictures and Amazon and Yakuza for FX, which is being produced by Fargo & Legion’s Noah Hawley. 

Mika is also currently writing on Guillermo del Toro’s Netflix horror anthology series, 10 After Midnight, and has just wrapped directing a short film that she also wrote for Film4.

So there’s plenty to talk about! We go deep into Mika’s writing practice, how she generates ideas and at what stage she actually starts writing. We talk about her experience in writers rooms, as well as what it was like show-running Origin and why she recently turned her hand to directing, but why her heart we always be with writing.

Mika’s incredibly intelligent and eloquent and that definitely came across in our chat, it was a real treat to have her on the podcast and to be able to interrogate how and why she writes. 

Episode 81: Melanie Hoyes, Industry Inclusion Executive at the BFI

Episode 81: Melanie Hoyes, Industry Inclusion Executive at the BFI

April 20, 2021

My guest this week is Melanie Hoyes who is an Industry Inclusion Executive at the BFI, where she deputises for the Head of Inclusion to advocate for equity and access in the film industry. She joined the BFI in 2016 as a researcher, working on a project to acquire diversity data about gender and ethnicity for the BFI Filmography, telling stories about UK film history using data from the archive. Melanie continues to use data and research in order to monitor and inform improved policy and practice at the BFI and the UK film industry in general. 

We talk about a myriad of topics: her start in academia, her decision not to finish a PhD, her path to the BFI and the work that she’s doing to advocate for and instil inclusion, the value of emotional intelligence at work, why the concept of a career ladder is dangerous, how data can galvanise informed, targeted change and how she stays motivated to keeping working towards that change, 

I really enjoyed this conversation and found it very validating actually, so wherever you are and whatever time of day you are listening to it, I hope it gives you a little boost.

Episode 80: Kaila Hier, Publicist

Episode 80: Kaila Hier, Publicist

April 13, 2021

This week I spoke to film publicist Kaila Hier.

Kaila is a Montreal-born, formerly Berlin-based publicist and the founder of Exile PR. She has been working with film festivals for over a decade including Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, FrightFest London, Fantastic Fest in Austin, and The Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, among others. Films that she’s represented such as CAM, SEA FEAVER, RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE and THE BEACH HOUSE have screened at festivals around the globe. 

We talk about how she got into publicity, the experience of striking out on her own, what’s it’s like to work for herself and how she goes about creating that all important buzz.

This was a really fun chat and Kaila was incredibly transparent about her career this far, so I hope you enjoy listening.

 

PS. The Q&A that Kaila mentions at the end for Sabrina Mertens' film TIME OF MOULTING can be watched here.

Episode 79: Parisa Taghizadeh, Stills Photographer

Episode 79: Parisa Taghizadeh, Stills Photographer

March 30, 2021

My guest this week is Parisa Taghizadeh - who goes by the name Tag - and she is a stills photographer for film and television. 

This is a job that I was so curious to find out more about - because stills are often the very first glimpse we get of a film. We might hear whose been cast or that production is underway, but when that photograph is released it’s our first visual of what that film might look and be like and so it’s a really important role. 

Tag has an extensive and varied career working with directors such as Jane Campion, Sally Potter, Michael Winterbottom, Edgar Wright and Steve McQueen on both studio and independent productions such as Top of the Lake, Killing Eve, Slow West, the Small Axe anthology and upcoming films Last Night in Soho and Last Letter from Your Lover

We talk about Tag’s career from art school to getting her “big break” in inverted commas, as well as the mechanics of the role and how she’s able to get those shots and why being both discreet and pushy are key traits on set.

Episode 78: Lauren McCallum, Head of European Production at Scanline VFX

Episode 78: Lauren McCallum, Head of European Production at Scanline VFX

March 23, 2021

This week my guest is Lauren McCallum, who has worked in the VFX industry for over 15 years. And you might be thinking niche or not applicable to me, but I really urge to listen to this because Lauren’s advice and perspective on a whole array of topics is just phenomenal, frankly.

Lauren is currently Head of European Production at Scanline VFX, who have worked on films like Black Widow, Joker, Stranger Things 3, Captain Marvel and Black Panther.

She also worked at MPC as Head of Production on films like The Jungle Book, Spectre, The Martian and Blade Runner 2049 and as Managing Director at Mill Film where she launched studios in Montreal and Adelaide. And before that she was a visual effects co-ordinator at Framestore, where she worked with closely with Alfonso Cuaron on Gravity.

This is an episode for anyone struggling to maintain work life balance. Lauren and I talk about burnout, setting boundaries, redefining success and overcoming imposter syndrome. 

Lauren is also a champion for diversity and inclusion within the industry and in 2019 was named on the UK’s OUTstanding LGBTQ+ Role Models List. We talk about the value of bringing your whole self to work, and how creative industries in particular can facilitate the kind of inclusion and acceptance that enables that. We talk about a transgender toolkit that Lauren worked on and disseminated whilst at Mill Film. 

We  also talk about what it takes to make original and extraordinary visual effects and the lasting influence of Jurassic Park

So it’s a wide-ranging, but hopefully inspiring chat. I know I got a lot from it.

Episode 77: Grace Bridger & Runyararo Mapfumo, Producer & Writer/Director

Episode 77: Grace Bridger & Runyararo Mapfumo, Producer & Writer/Director

March 16, 2021

I spoke to Grace Bridger and Runyararo Mapfumo who are a producer / director duo that work together under the banner DessyMak films and have made a number of short films through that company. They have their own careers separately and we talk about both of them, but that producer-director relationship is such a unique thing and so I was keen to ask them about how they formed that bond and what their journey together has been like!

Their short film MASTERPIECE premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in 2017 and was selected as a Vimeo Staff Pick. Grace then went on to develop and produce DAWN IN THE DARK, written and directed by Runyararo, which was supported by BBC Films and BFI NETWORK and which premiered at BFI London Film Festival 2019 and has also been selected for festivals such as Encounters Film Festival, Underwire Festival and the Norwich Film Festival. Grace then produced Runyararo's BBC and Google Arts commissioned short SENSATIONAL SIMMY which was released and broadcast on BBC and BBC iPlayer and then Grace developed and secured funding from Uncertain Kingdom for Runyararo's documentary WHAT'S IN A NAME? which was released as part of an anthology of films aiming to provide a portrait of contemporary UK.

Grace is originally from Perth in Australia, and has most recently worked on a number of films with producer Tracy O’Riordan at Moonspun Films; as a Production Secretary on Clio Barnard’s Ali & Ava, and then as a Producer’s Assistant and Assistant Producer, working in post-production on Hong Khaou’s Monsoon.

As well as continuing to work with Runyararo, Grace is also currently working with Producer Fiona Lamptey as Post Production Supervisor on four Sci-Fi short films supported by Film4.

Meanwhile Runyararo is currently developing her debut feature film and has recently finished directing block 2 of Netflix’s Sex Education, Season 3.

We talk about their respective career paths, setting up their own production company, the learning curves along the way and how they’ve supported each other, we also chat about making shorts, transitioning to bigger projects, making career pivots and asking stupid questions.

This is episode 77 of Best Girl Grip.

 

Episode 76: Eva Riley, Filmmaker

Episode 76: Eva Riley, Filmmaker

March 8, 2021

Welcome to Series 4 of Best Girl Grip!

My first guest of the series is the wonderful Eva Riley.

Eva is a Scottish director and screenwriter based in Brighton. She graduated from the National Film and Television School in 2015, whereupon her final year film Patriot premiered in competition at Cannes. In 2016, she was commissioned to write and direct Diagnosis by BBC Films and she was subsequently named a Screen International ‘Star of Tomorrow’.

Eva's first feature Perfect 10 was developed and produced through Creative England’s iFeatures programme and later premiered at LFF. It tells the story of a young gymnast, played by Frankie Box, whose already difficult life is disrupted by the appearance of a half-brother, played by Alfie Deegan, whose existence she was unaware of. It’s a dazzling debut, just really assured and sensitive filmmaking and performances and it’s rebellious, summery vibe is perfect for these cold winter months and you can currently watch it on BBC iPlayer.

I think Eva is a brilliant filmmaker, and she made for a wonderful interviewee. She didn’t sugarcoat any of her successes and I think she makes visible the hard work and effort it’s taken to arrive at this very well deserved moment. 

We talk about working with young actors, what her filmmaking instincts are, giving less fucks about asking for what she wants, the physical demands of directing, the realities of pre-production and what she learnt from making her first feature.

Episode 75: Emily Morgan, Producer

Episode 75: Emily Morgan, Producer

December 22, 2020

My guest this week is none other than Emily Morgan, a BAFTA-winning film producer whom I admire greatly. 

Emily started out in distribution and as a production freelancer for various companies before setting up her own production outfit Quiddity Films which is supported by a BFI Vision Award. In 2018, she won the aforementioned BAFTA for Outstanding Debut Producer for Rungano Nyoni's I Am Not A Witch, which premiered at Cannes, screened at the Toronto Film Festival and Sundance, was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and won three BIFAs. 

Emily has since produced Claire Oakley's feature debut Make Up which is currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

She also produced Harry Macqueen’s second feature Supernova, which premiered at LFF in October and is due for release on the 5 March next year, as it currently stands. The film stars Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth as long-term partners grappling with a diagnosis of early on-set dementia. 

Emily is a graduate of the NFTS, a member of ACE Producers. She was featured as a Screen Star of Tomorrow in 2015 and most recently, Quiddity Films was selected as one of the UK’s top emerging production companies in Screen Daily’s Brit 50 list.

So I hope that provides some context as to why I was so thrilled to speak with Emily. We spoke about her experiences at NFTS, how she worked her way towards producing features, how the BFI Vision award impacted her company and its future, what she looks for in collaborators and material and what’s she learnt about producing in her prestigious career thus far.

As always I hope you find it useful and insightful. 

Episode 74: Louisa Maycock, Founder & CEO of Girls on Tops

Episode 74: Louisa Maycock, Founder & CEO of Girls on Tops

December 18, 2020

My guest this week is Louisa Maycock - the creator, owner and mastermind of the hugely brilliant brand Girls on Tops.

If you don’t know them, I’m sure you’ll have seen one of their t-shirts out and about, particularly if you used to frequent film festivals. Louisa prints and sells white t-shirts that feature the names of celebrated and trailblazing women in the film industry including Tilda Swinton, Claire Denis, Lulu Wang, Greta Gerwig and Ava DuVernay. This year they released editions with Miranda July and Sofia Coppola and I myself own t-shirts emblazoned with Agnes Varda and Celine Sciamma. And I feel très chic when I wear them.

And not content to make us all just look very cool, Louisa has also set up an editorial platform called READ ME, which commissions female-led writing and along with Ella Kemp she edits and features really thoughtful and interrogative pieces on both contemporary and historical cinematic culture through an intersectionally feminist lens, and I think it’s very much unlike the kinds of the things you’ll read elsewhere. And I consider myself very lucky to have been published by them a few times. 

Louisa and I talk about the origin story for Girls on Tops, how the brand has grown over the past couple of years and how Louisa stays on top of it all - as a one-woman CEO and t-shirt folding machine. I’m so thrilled that we got this time to chat and I really was coming at it from the perspective of a fan, because I think it’s just immensely impressive that in the space of a few years Louisa has created something that - certainly in film-going circles - feels incredibly pervasive. I can’t imagine a time when they didn’t exist.

Episode 73: Anna Bogutskaya, Programmer, Broadcaster, Writer & Creative Producer

Episode 73: Anna Bogutskaya, Programmer, Broadcaster, Writer & Creative Producer

December 11, 2020

My guest this week is Anna Bogutskaya. Anna used to work at the BFI around the same time I was there and I believe I’m right in thinking she was the youngest programmer at the BFI Southbank - at the time, not of all time - although that might also be true. Anyway all this to say I always admired Anna from afar, she seemed incredibly ambitious and accomplished and I thought what she was doing both within the BFI - and outside of it - was refreshing and almost revolutionary in that she was often putting woman-directed cinema and indie filmmaking front and centre. 

Anna is currently a freelance film programmer, broadcaster, writer and creative producer. She is also the co-founder of the horror film collective The Final Girls and Festival Director of Underwire Festival where Best Girl Grip had it’s first live outing.

As mentioned she was previously the Film and Events Programmer at the British Film Institute, where she curated many seasons and also created the Woman With A Movie Camera Summit which we talk about in-depth.

We also go deep into the principles and considerations that uphold Anna’s programming ethos and all the aspects that go into designing a film season. We talk about her decision to go freelance, the other avenues its allowed her to pursue and how she manages her schedule. And fittingly we also wax lyrical about podcasts.

I’m hugely grateful to Anna for coming on the podcast and sharing her wisdom - of which there is a lot - so do tuck in.

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