How mentoring support helped producer Lorine Plagnol

Producer Lorine Plagnol found the support she needed to advance her career internationally thanks to a mentoring programme backed by ScreenSkills.

She had worked on a range of TV series including Hollyoaks, The White Princess and The Great British Bake Off and co-founded her own production company, but she knew she needed to expand her international contacts book if she wanted to take the next step up and produce her own films.

Oskar Pimlott, the co-founder of her production company Sungazer introduced her to the BFI Network, which helps emerging producers and directors, and through that she discovered the B3 Media Talent Lab mentoring programme which is supported by ScreenSkills and helped her break through.

“I looked into it and realised it was exactly what I was looking for,” she says.

TalentLab is a bespoke talent development programme for black, Asian and minority ethnic creatives working in film and across multiple platforms (digital storytelling, photography, theatre, spoken word and music).  The idea is to help creatives improve their skills and give them the confidence and contacts to push their projects to the next level. 

Mentored by B3 Media’s Marc Boothe, Lorine developed her first feature, The Omen, which was selected for the 2019 Rotterdam Producers Lab,  a five-day training programme to give emerging producers the opportunity to develop their international market experience and knowledge via  panel discussions and round table sessions. It involved 69 producers from more than 30 countries.

“Marc and I agreed it would be a great step forward for me to take part. And he made it happen.  It took me up to another level.  I developed valuable relationships with international distributors and contributors. After the Lab, I spent from 2019 until the lockdown taking part in other festivals including the Berlin Film Festival. It gave me a bigger network to meet the right people.” 

She had come across the ScreenSkills logo before. “But I didn’t realise the range of their activities. It’s just so impressive. They’re everywhere. They’re helping everyone.”

Lorine knew she wanted to work in TV and films from an early age. “But I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there. I fell in love with cinema through Charlie Chaplin. When I was four years old, my mum put me in front of his film, The Kid, to see if I could watch it through until the end, and I was obsessed. Over the next six years I watched all his films.”

Lorine’s mother is Spanish, her father is from Rwanda. She grew up in the South West of France and did a master’s degree in documentary production at the University of Poitiers. She worked as a runner on French film sets for a couple of years, then moved to the UK in 2016, age 24. 

“I wanted a chance to step up. but in France if you work outside Paris, it’s really hard. Also, I had watched a lot of English TV, series like Broadchurch which are more daring. It made me hungry to work on stories with some meaning and message, where you try to take someone on a journey. With French TV you had the same kind of stories and I ended up being quite disappointed and bored - though it’s getting better in France now.”

Arriving in the UK, she headed for Bolton where a friend, a French AD, was working on Hollyoaks. Lorine became a floor runner on the show. “It was great experience because TV in France and the UK work really differently.”

She then became a base runner on the historical drama, The White Princess in Bristol. “I had never worked on such a huge scale before. It was crazy but I learned a lot.” Then came a stint on The Great British Bake Off. She was working across different departments, from art departments to sound. “I eventually ended up in production and because I’d worked in different departments, I was very aware of what everyone needed on set. So I felt comfortable there.”

Climbing the ladder from assistant to unit production manager, she worked on the bilingual Sky Production Das Boot (2018). That same year Lorine moved to London and co-founded Stargazer. “Having a business partner for young producers is so important,” she says. The company produced music videos and short films together, including one for Channel 4, but Lorine still felt like she had been thrown in the deep end which was why the mentoring programme proved so important.

Today she splits her time between commercial work and her own projects. Most recently she location managed Rocky Palladino’s new UK feature, the Orpheus-inspired Phea, co-produced by Wendy Griffin of Selkie Productions with support from the BFI’s Covid-19 Continuation Fund. 

The film follows Phea, played by singer-songwriter Sherika Sherard, on a journey to find her lover over the course of one tumultuous day and night in London. “It was an intense five-week shoot because we had a pretty small crew and were one of the first to shoot after the end of lockdown so we were learning to handle that new reality.”

A self-confessed workaholic, she is also prepping a short film with BFI and the BBC.

And this year Lorine was selected for the BFI’s Network Insight training programme as one of 12 emerging producers who are yet to make their first feature.  “I think B3 was crucial to where I am currently.”

As a woman of colour in the industry, it can be hard to find role models, she says. “Especially in the BAME Save (black, Asian and minority ethnic) community if you don’t come from a particularly wealthy family. You need people to believe in you before you believe in yourself. I was lucky to have a mother who really encouraged me, but having mentorships in the industry, meeting people who say.  ‘Well, I did it,’ is such a vital push to keep going and evolving.”

B3’s Marc Boothe remains a mentor she can call on. “And he knows I am happy to help out in terms of inspiring other BAME producers and directors.”

One day she hopes to produce a film worthy of Chaplin: “There is something magical about his cinema that I would like to emulate. His films are clever and entertaining. And I admire his willingness to be accessible to the widest branch of society. His work can be quite dramatic and melancholic but somehow you always leave the film with a lighter heart and feel included as part of humankind.”

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