Best Girl Grip
#89: Mandy Chang, Head of BBC Storyville

#89: Mandy Chang, Head of BBC Storyville

June 22, 2021

So this is the final episode of Season Four - which I started back in March and honestly I have no idea where that time has gone. There will be a couple of bonus episodes coming out to coincide with some film releases, but apart from that I’ll be on hiatus for a couple of months figuring out and planning for Season Five.

But I feel like I’m going out with a bang!! This season has been a real treat - I’ve spoken to some amazing women and had some really fun but also important conversations and that trend is definitely continuing with this episode in which I spoke to Mandy Chang, who is currently the Commissioning Editor at the BBC’s feature documentary strand Storyville. 

Mandy has been on my radar for several years, I’ve seen her speak at Sheffield Doc/Fest and have watched many of the films she’s commissioned and executive produced and I was incredibly excited when she said yes to being interviewed. I knew it would be one of those interviews where an hour / hour and a half is simply not enough time to ask all the right questions and I’m sure there are plenty of other paths that we could’ve gone down but what you’re about to hear is the conversation that we did have and I found it to be as thoughtful and illuminating as I had hoped.

Mandy started out as a freelance filmmaker, producing and directing docs for TV. Her credits include The Mona Lisa Curse, an Emmy and Grierson award-winning polemic that traces the pernicious rise of the art market and The Camera That Changed The World, a portrait of the first portable cameras and the impact they had on filmmaking and filmmakers. 

Mandy was later Head of Arts at ABC TV, a broadcaster in Australia before joining Storyville in 2017. During her time there she has shepherded many incredible documentaries to our screen, among them are: UNDER THE WIRE, ONE CHILD NATION, COLD CASE HAMMARSKJÖLD, INTO THE STORM, I AM GRETA and the upcoming MISHA AND THE WOLVES. 

And she has just been announced as the new Global Head of Documentaries at Fremantle where she will spearhead the producer-distributor’s growth in high-end factual production. 

We talked about her filmmaking career and how she sustained that for two decades, as well as how those experiences have informed her approach to commissioning. We discuss how she built on Storyville’s legacy whilst also pushing it in new and bold directions, why caretaking is a central part of her commissioning philosophy and what that means and what excites her about the future of documentary.

I think Mandy was really generous with her answers and I certainly got a lot from hearing about her career journey, so I hope you do as well.

#88: T A P E collective (Angie Moneke, Isra Al Kassi & Nellie Alston)

#88: T A P E collective (Angie Moneke, Isra Al Kassi & Nellie Alston)

June 15, 2021

This week I’ve got a very exciting line-up of guests. Yes you heard that plural correctly, I spoke to not one, not two, but three brilliant women working in the film industry and the reason for that is they formed the T A P E collective together.

My guests are Angie Moneke, Isra Al Kassi and Nellie Alston, who founded T A P E in 2015 as a response to the lack of representation both on screen. 

Their mission is to bring exciting screenings to new audiences, championing the forgotten could-be cult films of the festival circuit and programmes of women of colour both behind and in front of the camera. Over the years T A P E have curated a number of well-rounded screenings bringing together film, art, music, talks and more into one space and events with a focus on representation, identity and heritage. T A P E has also produced two zine issues: the first one called They Thought We Were Token, and the second issue, Moon Sisters, released six months later. Since launching in a community café nearly five years ago, T A P E has expanded to include content writing, talks, consultation, curation, cross-arts events and an online streaming platform called Good Wickedry. 

We spoke about how they became interested in programming as individuals and where the idea for the collective came from and how they’ve retained the identity of the collective, as well as the passion for doing it, as it’s expanded.  

We also spend some time talking about their month-long season coming up at the BFI Southbank in July called But Where Are You Really From, which explores the nuances of being mixed heritage and will centre around three themes: mother tongue, the significance of names, and the ‘good immigrant’ trope.

Special guests confirmed to take part in the season and the week-long online takeover include director Ngozi Onwurah, whose film WELCOME II THE TERRORDOME (1995) was the first feature directed by a Black British woman to receive a UK theatrical release and Nikesh Shukla, who co-wrote the short film TWO DOSAS (Sarmad Masud, 2014) and edited the essay anthology The Good Immigrant. The season will culminate on 30 July with the short film programme CULTURE SHOCK, which were selected from submissions responding to the theme of ‘But Where Are You Really From?’ presented by T A P E and UNDR LNDN.

#87: Lisa Scoppa, Set Decorator

#87: Lisa Scoppa, Set Decorator

June 8, 2021

This week I am delighted to welcome set decorator Lisa Scoppa to the podcast. I came across her name and work after watching Barry Jenkins’ THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, and a) just wanting to know who worked on that series because it is phenomenal and b) I thought the production design and the sets were just incredibly evocative - at times harrowing, at times transcendent and that is how I found Lisa’s name. And then I was overjoyed to discover she’s also worked on shows like THE DEUCE and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, as well assisting on films like THE IRISHMAN and THE GREATEST SHOWMAN.

She’s also worked on two of my favourite American indie films which are SHERRYBABY starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and DOWN TO THE BONE starring Vera Farmiga.

We talk about her path into set decoration, why she actually doesn’t love being on set, how she goes about sourcing ‘the stuff’ and what her experiences were like on some of the aforementioned shows.

If you’ve always been keen to know why a particular chair has been selected, or what happens to all of the furniture afterwards, or how they created 1970s Times Square in The Deuce, this conversation is for you.

There are some occasional background noises such as a dog barking and as ever these are recorded on zoom. 

This is episode 87 of Best Girl Grip. 

#86: Rachael Tate, Dialogue & ADR Editor

#86: Rachael Tate, Dialogue & ADR Editor

June 1, 2021

This week my guest is Rachael Tate, a BAFTA award-winning Dialogue & ADR supervisor slash editor whose credits include 1917 (for which she won the BAFTA), upcoming Bond film No Time to Die, The Rhythm Section, All the Money in the World and The Martian

We talk about how Rachael got into this line of work, what exactly ADR is and how she works with actors to try and recreate their performance in the studio, why she perceives her job to be more of a craft than a technical role and how she achieves authenticity so that every word or breath you hear in a film, feels like it belongs.

 

#85: Kat Buckle, Talent Agent

#85: Kat Buckle, Talent Agent

May 25, 2021

This week my guest is Kat Buckle, an agent at Curtis Brown in their Film & TV department where she represents a range of talent such as director Stella Corradi, writer and actor Emma Sidi, presenter, podcast & writer Tolani Shoneye, comedian & writer Jack Rooke and many, many more.

We talk about her route into the world of talent agenting, how she built her own roster and what she looks for in potential clients, how she manages client expectations and sets boundaries, how she deals with both the competitive nature of the business as well as when clients might want to move on and her proudest moments as an agent. 

It was a real treat to chat with Kat, she was really open and generous and I think gave lots of valuable insights into what it means to be an agent, as well as perhaps what to expect if and when you are looking for representation, so I’m very grateful for her time. 

#84: Tara Judah, Critic & curator

#84: Tara Judah, Critic & curator

May 18, 2021

So cinemas are open which is hugely exciting! What are people going to see? And where? Lots of things that have had releases are back on big screens like Nomadland and Sound of Metal and Ammonite, which is cool because I think they’re all films that will benefit from that sense of surroundedness that you can only get from the cinema. 

And so it feels fitting that my guest this week has worked in cinemas and is an advocate for the kind of tangible film-going experience and that person is Tara Judah.

Tara is a cultural critic, film programmer and curator and occasional video essayist. She was Watershed's Cinema Producer for two years, having freelanced in programming and editorial for the Watershed's archive, classic and repertory film festival, Cinema Rediscovered, which launched in 2016.

Tara was also Co-Director at 20th Century Flicks video shop and programmed films for Australia's iconic single screen repertory theatre, The Astor, and for Melbourne's annual feminist film event, Girls on Film Festival. 

And she is currently Editor of Critics Reviews at MUBI and writes a bi-weekly column for an online journal called Ubiquarian that focuses on experimental cinema alongside documentaries and shorts and champions the forms or mediums that surprise us.

We talk about being a mature student, redefining experimental cinema, criticism and film-festival going in the time of a pandemic, increasing transparency around freelance rates and fees and producing work that is unique to you.

I’m not going to lie, I had high expectations for this chat, because Tara is such a thoughtful and critical thinker and writer, and it did not disappoint, Tara contends with lots of thorny and important issues in the industry and raises lots of salient points, so I do hope you enjoy listening.

 

Show notes:

 

 

 

#83: Mariayah Kaderbhai, Head of Programmes at BAFTA

#83: Mariayah Kaderbhai, Head of Programmes at BAFTA

May 11, 2021

This week my guest is Mariayah Kaderbhai who is Head of Programmes at BAFTA, where she represents them as the lead film industry voice and moderates most of their panels and Q&As. She’s interviewed filmmaking talent such as Spike Lee, Jacques Audiard and Stephen Frears, as well as this year’s Best Director winner Chloé Zhao. 

We talk about how Mariayah took a roundabout way to studying cinema at university before getting an internship at the BFI, working at Al Jazeera as a journalist and then developing the membership and events programme at BAFTA. As well as how she prepares for Q&As and how she has adapted to interviewing talent through the medium of Zoom.

Speaking of which, all these podcast interviews are recorded on Zoom meaning the audio quality can vary and this is one of the times where I hope you’ll bear with…

#82: Mika Watkins, Screenwriter

#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. 

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

#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.

#80: Kaila Hier, Publicist

#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.

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