14th October 2020
A place on a ScreenSkills-supported mentoring programme helped writer-director Nosa Eke enter the industry after obtaining a postgraduate degree. Some time later, a place on Make a Move, funded by the High-end TV Skills Fund, helped her progress even further.
Growing up in Croydon, Nosa often went to the cinema with her sister, Imwen. “She’s 17 years older so it was a way for us to bond,” she explains. “We both loved heightened genres like Harry Potter, ET and Bladerunner.”
At home Nosa made homemade trailers, joined a film club in Brixton, and started making short films. She studied at London College of Communication and then did a postgraduate degree in film and TV production at the National Film and Television school, where she completed her digital series The Grind, the tale of young London hustlers. It was created for YouTube and Instagram, and featured livestreamed, improvised performances where the audience could help shape the story in real-time. “It was all self-funded. I called in favours, but it was hard not having industry contacts,” she recalls.
The Grinds went on to screen at Underwire Festival and East End Film Festival, but Nosa still needed that next step up the ladder. Then in 2016 she was emailed a newsletter which mentioned B3 Media’s Talent Lab mentoring programme, supported by ScreenSkills. (The ScreenSkills Mentoring Network, supported by the BFI awarding National Lottery funds, runs its own matching programme for mentoring and also supports the mentoring work of partner organisations.) “It was an open call saying if you’ve got some sort of work you’re trying to make, send an application in.”
TalentLab is a bespoke talent development programme for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) 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.
As part of her application Nosa was invited to pitch a real-time, interactive Snapchat drama called This Young Moment about a group of friends over a summer, so TalentLab could match her up with senior figures in the industry to fit her style of work. “It’s really nice the way they personalise the scheme.”
Talent Lab arranged for her to be mentored by David Varela (who directed BBC’s Sherlock: The Network). “David’s a really cool guy who’s worked a lot in interactive and gaming and he really got where I was coming from and the stories I wanted to tell. We had very similar sensibilities.” After completing the mentoring programme she found people more keen to look at her work. “With TalentLab and B3 behind me, it was a sign someone was vouching for my talent and saying that I should be taken more seriously as a film maker. I felt less like an impostor,” she laughs. “After that, everything snowballed.”
The following year she was picked for the 2018 BFI Flare/BAFTA mentorship programme for emerging LGBTQ+ filmmakers, where she shadowed director Wayne Yip (Misfits, Preacher, Deadly Class) on the Christmas special of BBC’s Doctor Who and also wrote an episodic narrative on Amazon Alexa for the BBC.
She calls herself platform-agnostic. Her stories are just as likely to come to life in a video game on an app. “I want to be able to tell stories people can access,” she says. “And with the phone it really does put your work in someone’s back pocket, just waiting to be discovered because people are always scrolling and recommending things.” But she openly acknowledges her career wouldn’t have progressed without great mentors. “ScreenSkills has been a big part of my career because last year I also did their scheme Make a Move where they put middle-level creatives on a high-end TV drama. I shadowed director Destiny Ekaragha on Season 2 of End Of The F***ing World.”
Going on set taught her how scheduling runs on a major drama. “It was really inspiring watching Destiny calmly dealing with that, and we also had lots of good chats about being a person of colour in the industry. She gave me a lot of advice. Everyone loves her and it inspired me to see how I could be myself as a director, have fun and get the job done.”
The experience fed directly into Nosa’s own work including shooting her short film, Something in the Closet, which premiered at LFF and was also screened at BFI Flare fest 2020. Funded by the BFI and Film London, the film is inspired by early Spielberg together with Nosa’s own experiences. It centres around a young queer teenager, whose secret manifests itself as a monster in the closet. She says she doesn’t necessarily assign a sexuality to characters in her films. “It might be rooted in my experiences if that’s what the story is about – or if that’s what it calls for. I’m proud of who I am. But it’s more about having a character walking through the world.”
She loves to blend classic storytelling with cutting-edge tech. “I think the emotional aspects of stories are what keep people interested. You want to care about these characters and come back and keep watching.” Next up is her debut interactive AR feature film, The Young and The Dopeness, in development with the BFI. The story will be told through open source technology. “It’s set in the world of streetwear, exploring that subculture. It’s based around a masculine-presenting queer woman, who is trying to find her identity over a night. It’s something I’ve never seen on TV before,” she enthuses, “and it’s something I very much identify with.”
Make a Move encourages and promotes professional development. The aim is to enable those on the scheme to apply for work at the more senior grade they are targeting, by the end of their participation. All job roles on a production are currently eligible, but the scheme is not intended for entry-level positions.
Potential 'move ups' can include almost anything - location assistant to unit manager, make-up artist to make-up supervisor, production secretary to production coordinator. The roles supported by the scheme so far show the diverse range of possibilities: costume designers, art directors, assistant production accountants, script editors, location managers and production managers. Individuals can only participate in Make a Move after being put forward by their employer. The candidate can be a completely new person to the selected team and department or an individual that has already worked with the team.
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