Where are they now, DocLab alumni
Have a look at what some of the earlier DocLab trainees are doing now.
DOCLAB 2015 participants:
Being a DocLab participant has opened more doors for me than I ever could have imagined when first putting together my application! I have been able to contact commissioners and producers of some of my favourite documentaries and they've given me priceless advice on how to get into the industry. The Grierson Trust provided me with a ticket to Sheffield Doc/Fest, where I saw some unbelievable new documentaries and could network with the directors. It really was one of the most exciting weekends I've ever had. Along with this help getting into documentary making, I also met some amazing peers who encouraged and inspired me to make the most of the opportunity.
The past year of my life has been unbelievably exciting and it is all because of DocLab. I graduated from university, was able to go straight in to my work experience placement and have been working in documentary TV since. Without DocLab this first step would have been so much more difficult and I wouldn't have known where to start.
Participating in the DocLab scheme has been the best thing I've done and it has provided me with an invaluable range of knowledge and experience. I am far more confident now in pursuing a career in documentary production. I can guarantee this will be a vital and unmissable step for any young person with an interest in pursuing a career in documentary.
I'm a workshop facilitator with Shake!, a social justice arts and activism collective, and our work is largely centered on arts, media, race and power. We use film and poetry to interrogate ideas from state violence to food systems, and I love it. I'm also a recent graduate, and I studied English Literature at the University of Sussex. Those two facts give a bit of insight into my interest in documentary: social justice and change-making, aesthetics, and art as politics. Being part of the Grierson Trust's DocLab, and our trip to Sheffield Doc/Fest, were incredible experiences. The chance to pitch to incredible people working in the film industry (and to be told that my pitch has a real chance of getting funded, which I am slowly working on); to go to a huge, diverse range of panels (from a panel on shooting your first documentary to a panel touching on coloniality within documentary, "Imperialism or Inquiry?"); and, to watch so, so many documentaries whilst being around a great group of people — it was all exciting. It was also really interesting to be in a group with other young people with a passion for documentary, and realise how diverse our actual interests within documentary are. Being part of the alumni network is great, too; the Grierson team aren't kidding when they say they'll be keeping in touch and checking in. I'm looking forward to really getting into making documentaries, and I know the Grierson team will be behind me when I do.
Throughout our time at Sheffield Doc/Fest we were given tasks. The most daunting was a live pitch. We had to think of an idea for a documentary that we would then pitch to a panel of The Grierson Trust board members: Christopher Hird (Dartmouth Films ) and Mandy Chang (ABC). No big deal then. Whilst sitting waiting to deliver my pitch I was so nervous that I was genuinely thinking up ways out getting out of it. However, fate would have that just as I created a master plan, my name was taken out of the hat. I delivered a pitch that Christopher Hird said, "is right up Channel 4's street and I can really see that being on television". Later on in the festival Christopher introduced me to Brian Woods of True Vision who asked about my idea and then asked to meet me for breakfast the next morning to discuss developing the idea with me! Since leaving Sheffield I have met with the Leeds office of True Vision and am in the early stages of development with my documentary. Although terrifying, it is incredibly exciting and without Grierson I would still be thinking that I don't have the confidence to put my ideas forward. For that I thank them.
Before Grierson I was a trainee teacher forcing teenagers to follow their dreams when I actually wasn't following my own. Grierson made those dreams a reality. Not only have I had the opportunity to develop my ideas for a documentary with major production companies, but I have been offered an internship with RDF to start in April. I have worked at both Century Films and Minnow Films learning from the best and building the skills and experience needed to be successful in this industry! All of this was made possible by The Grierson Trust DocLab. They changed my life!
Ben McGeorge Henderson
I grew up with the Discovery Channel and David Attenborough and I have always been fascinated by the world around us. Documentaries have been my window to some of the most interesting and sometimes bizarre things that planet Earth has to offer. Yet before I became part of the Grierson DocLab Scheme, I simply had no concept of what goes on behind the lens to actually make a documentary. From day one the scheme has opened my eyes to a career I never really thought possible. I have met an incredible group of like-minded young documentary fanatics, and realised that I’m not quite as well ‘watched’ as I originally thought. I have also been introduced to some incredible people who have already made a career in TV and film. Their advice and guidance have given me an entirely new framework with which to critically watch documentaries and encouraged me to go out and make my own films!
For me, the Grierson Trust Mentoring Scheme represented an opportunity to express ideas in a supportive setting. Anyone can think of an idea for a documentary but turning that idea into an asset (someone or something you have gained access to) requires a varied and ever-changing skillset. The scheme has pointed me in a direction that will hopefully lead to the acquisition of certain technical skills and taught me that, above all, a combination of motivation, confidence and patience is essential. It seems all three of these can be cultivated in an environment where likeminded individuals learn from experienced professionals. First at the DocLab where we were encouraged to ask questions and share opinions regardless of their reception. Then at Sheffield Doc/Fest where, building upon newfound knowledge, we met existing documentary filmmakers; all of whom were keen to share their experiences on what their initial foray into this industry had entailed. I am now working on a few ideas for short docs and have a placement lined up with the current affairs team at ITV, as I continue to work out the types of stories I want to tell.
For me being a Grierson Trust trainee has been an invaluable experience to not only gain insight into the world of documentaries, but to also meet like minded people who share my love of the genre. The support I have received from the Trust has given me the confidence to explore in more depth the stories that I want to tell. Alongside this having the opportunity to attend Sheffield Doc/Fest and benefitting from an intensive training course, has given me a better understanding of what broadcasters are looking for and the television landscape as a whole. Soon to be graduating from the University of Brighton I have just completed two weeks work experience in a television development department, and I am currently looking for my next opportunity in television. I know that with the continual support of the Grierson Trust that this is just around the corner.
Participating in the DocLab gave me masses of knowledge about all things documentary; the opportunity to practice shaping my ideas into something more concrete, and a safe space to discuss my thoughts with like-minded people. More so than anything I can do justice with any brief words; the support, guidance and experiences that I have been provided with has built a self-confidence in my ability to forge a career in the film-making world, and pushed me to get on with doing it. Now to figure out a way to sneak myself onto next years’ lab so I get to do it all again!
I learnt loads - how to develop my ideas into pitches and how to pitch, how to write for different audiences and channels. It introduced me to some amazing people - other 'DocLabbers' and industry professionals. Being at DocLab really boosted my confidence and helped me get the job I am in now, developing factual series and one offs. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to work in the industry.
Yutsil Hoyo Diaz Martinez
When I applied to Grierson Trust DocLab 2015, I wanted to improve my filmmaking skills, meet industry professionals, make new contacts and meet like minded people who then eventually became friends. Luckily DocLab lived up to my expectations and I had an amazing experience. I learnt better ways of telling people's stories through different styles of making a documentary and everything that it takes to get that story across to a pitching panel or an audience.
The Grierson Trust offers great opportunities and gave me the chance to rekindle my love for documentaries. Since the course finished and after going to Sheffield all I've done is recommend my friends who fit the age range that if the course runs next year they should apply.
I got the chance to meet up with people I met at Sheffield in Edinburgh during the film festival here, I've been asked to do Cinematography for a fictional short film, and got offered my first proper Camera Traineeship on a low to mid budget feature, as well as helping someone from the course out color grading a promo they've made. So after the course I feel more confident and I feel ready to move on further in my career as a cameraman. I thank Grierson Trust for that.
Grierson was a fantastic opportunity for me and other participants. I got a great experience from chats with industry professionals and making contacts through it. I personally enjoyed the whole process, I've learnt a lot from it, I have me the confidence to go out there and look for more opportunities and rekindled my love for documentary filmmaking. Giving me an insight into the grand world that the factual world is and the impact it has on British Film and TV Industries. Overall I will keep recommending it highly to others so they can apply the following years.
Laura Ayesha Northover
I really couldn't be more grateful to the Grierson Trust for the opportunity to be part of the DocLab and attend Sheffield Documentary Festival. Having the opportunity to meet so many fantastic industry people, learn from the best and be provided with such fantastic support - that really doesn't come along too often for young documentary makers! My time with Grierson really meant that the process of how to be the very best in the industry was completely demystified by the close proximity we constantly had to leading figures in the documentary world. Numerous coffee mornings, dinners, events and talks are organised by the lovely Grierson Team (Jane and Yen), which allowed us all to ply industry bods with questions and make fantastic contacts. I also have to mention how lovely it was having the opportunity to socialise with other Grierson Trainees and to make long and lasting friendships. Since I returned from Sheffield Doc Fest I have been working as a Production Assistant for Pretzel Films and the last documentary I Directed/Produced is currently in Post. So thanks Grierson!
Getting a place on The Grierson Trust DocLab, for me, was pretty much life changing. Not only did I meet some incredible people, whom I still keep in touch with today, I also gained fantastic knowledge of the documentary industry, relayed to me by some of the top people in the industry. The experience of going to Sheffield Doc/Fest was eye opening and not only did I develop skills in researching and presenting pitches to industry professionals, I also received invaluable feedback that will assist me in my future career. Sheffield Doc/Fest opened my mind to the great variety of worldwide talent in the factual genre and the plethora of stories there is to be found and told. Doc/Fest and the DocLab were inspirational and certainly added fuel to the fire in my belly for documentary, compelling me to start making a documentary of my own.
DocLab was a fantastic opportunity to immerse myself in film-making. It's the first serious amount of time I've ever had to solely focus on my own documentary career. Sheffield was similarly amazing. It gave me a sense of the size of the industry and was also just enormously fun. It genuinely made me want to go again every year. I met some interesting people along the way and learnt a lot from the talks. Since those two events I've been busy organising my work/film balance. My aim is to be an independent documentarian for the next year, funding myself with other part-time work. I hope to build up my shooting and directing skills, with the aim of developing a portfolio I can use to sell myself as a reliable shooter for bigger projects. This second I'm working on a short film about opticians which should be finished shooting by late September.
The impact of being a Grierson Alumni is that I now can call myself a documentary maker. It may sound silly, but the direction and confidence the programme gave me allowed me to take the step from being someone dreaming about making docs to actually having the courage to do it. That came from excellent advice, useful knowledge on how to make it happen, and incredible opportunities that opened doors for me. It's still early days but I feel like I'm on the right career path.
Since the Grierson Doc Lab, Syriah has traveled across the USA and Canada thanks to a generous fellowship grant from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. Syriah tutored on and led filmmaking 101 sessions for LGBTQ youth in cities like Seattle and Los Angeles and in 2014, joined the Jury at Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, judging the best and most innovative shorts.
Prior to this, Syriah launched Queerhouse Radio; a monthly LGBTQ youth led show broadcast on Roundhouse Radio and helped produce Puffball; a circus and performance project. Puffball engaged with over 80 LGBTQ youth for the devising process, then went on to tour Doncaster, London and Manchester in 2014. Syriah spoke on panels and documented the two year journey through film, audio, blogging and photography.
This year, Syriah was appointed as an Artistic and Quality Assessor for Arts Council England and published a fellowship report (http://www.wcmt.org.uk/fellows/reports/engaging-lgbtq-youth-projects-enhance-development-and-wellbeing). In 2016, Syriah will be moving to Toronto to continue working with LGBTQ youth on creative and leadership projects.
After the DocLab I worked for about a year as a Development Researcher for BBC Documentaries in Bristol. The role was a fantastic chance to develop new ideas and proved to be a valuable introduction to the industry. I’ve since had the opportunity to work on several projects within the department including ‘Comic Relief 2015: Operation Health’. This was a documentary about the refurbishment of a health centre in rural Uganda. It was amazing to have the chance to work on location on such an engaging and challenging project. Currently I'm just finishing work on a new BBC programme about Aston Martin, which has proved to be another great opportunity to develop new skills in documentary film making.
I came to the Grierson DocLab as a lost graduate and unsure of what steps I needed to take to break into television. With a photography degree and a passion for documentary I felt I had some of the skills required - but needed to learn more about the television and film industries, and the various roles. Two years on and I’m working in the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol, which certainly wouldn’t have happened without the support and expertise I gained from this scheme. I never expected to land here and the Lab gave me the confidence to start applying for the jobs I really wanted. In addition it helped me see that the television industry is wider than just London and that all types of experience are valuable, even if at first they seem unrelated! I’m ever grateful for the opportunity and all the doors it opened.
Since the DocLab I’ve had my first two pieces of directing work for the community arts company I've worked for since 2012. Both projects went really well and I learnt a lot. I’m currently working with the same company to raise funds for another film that I will direct.
I’ve worked with Dershe [Samaria], who I met through the DocLab, on a couple of collaborative projects, most recently a short documentary for Channel 4 News, which was my first broadcast credit.
I’m currently doing pre-production work on my first personal, fully-animated short since 2012, which I’m really excited about - I’m working with a producer to fundraise for it.
Since the Lab I’ve also set up Cardiff Animation Nights, a free entry screening of award-winning independent animation, which I run every two months. I’m currently working towards setting up a Cardiff Animation Festival.
What I learnt through the DocLab has helped me with everything I’m doing at the moment - in particular with networking. I used to avoid networking, but thanks to the Lab I’ve embraced it - and it’s been essential to me recently in finding collaborators and running events.
Mei Leng Yew
Being a Grierson alumni has brought me into contact with so many encouraging and inspiring people and this has had a huge impact on me. I’m currently working at IMG as the media supervisor and my team look after the UEFA Champion’s League Magazine Show, the Europa League Preview Show and the Road To France series. I’m also the edit assistant so I’ve been cutting additional footage and match reviews. I hope to build up my craft editing experience more over the new season.
Outside work, I’ve been developing my first feature-length fiction script under the mentorship of Alexandra Arlango who runs The Brit List. I’m also in pre-production with a really exciting 7 minute animated documentary about a Kurdish refugee living in London. In addition, I’ve co-founded a production company and we are making corporate videos and music videos in order to build up our experience and skills.
Before the Grierson DocLab, I wouldn’t have had the confidence or know-how to do any of the above. Meeting people who gave me their advice and support at each stage has been really beneficial to me.
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