Dionne Edwards & Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor Join BFI LGBT Filmmakers’ Mentorship

bfi_lgbtBack in January, the BFI opened submissions for the second edition of the BFI Flare LGBT Filmmakers’ Mentorship, delivered in 2016 with BAFTA and supported by Creative Skillset. After a very successful pilot last year, the programme will again provide the selected emerging LGBT filmmakers the opportunity to be mentored by a senior figure from the film industry, to develop industry knowledge, professional connections, their passion for cinema and an overview of LGBT features entering the marketplace.

This year’s mentees – one producer, one writer, one documentary director-producer, and three writer-directors – represent a diverse group with cinematic interests across a wide spectrum. Enhanced by a great mentor group, which includes Iain Canning (Oscar-winning producer, The King’s Speech, 2010), Abi Morgan (BAFTA and Emmy-winning writer, Suffragette, 2015, The Iron Lady, 2011), Ben Roberts (Director, BFI Lottery Film Fund, who has supported films such as Pride, 2014, Under the Skin, 2013, High Rise, 2015, and The Duke of Burgundy, 2014) and Beadie Finzi (Foundation Director of BRITDOCS, and documentary producer of Unknown White Male, 2005, and The Possibilities Are Endless, 2014, and director of Only When I Dance), who will provide invaluable guidance to the filmmakers.

Dionne Edwards

Dionne Edwards

Dionne Edwards, writer-director – is a screenwriter and director. After studying film and TV production at the University of Westminster, she spent a year at Working Title Films on their esteemed Action Internship. She went on to assist agents at Linda Seifert Management, working with some of the UK’s best writers and directors. Dionne left in 2011 and formed Teng Teng Films with producer Georgia Goggin. They have made four shorts together, including ‘Got Got’, which was a finalist in Shooting People’s Film of the Month competition. Dionne’s 2014 short ‘Hi, Miss!’ has been invited to festivals worldwide, including BAFTA-qualifiers LSFF and Aesthetica, and it won the Audience Award at the East End Film Festival 2015. Her next short ‘We Love Moses’ is in pre-production and has been awarded funding by Film London, as part of their London Calling Plus scheme 2016.


Dionne on challenges for LGBT film and filmmakers – In my opinion, the biggest challenge an LGBT filmmaker can face is the pressure of depicting a community that is frequently misrepresented in the media. I face these challenges as a black queer woman and as a critical thinker. I sometimes worry about misrepresenting a character of colour, or a female character, or an LGBT character. You could argue that many straight white male storytellers, for example, have the freedom to depict a whole spectrum of characters, even the most despicable anti-heroes and make them three dimensional and memorable without the same kind of baggage. Queer filmmakers and minority filmmakers do not necessarily have that same freedom without worrying about how the characters will be received. Telling an honest, distinct and engaging story is difficult enough, and whilst it’s crucial for LGBT and minority filmmakers to move beyond stereotypes, we should aim to write engaging characters and narratives honestly and freely.

Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor

Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor

Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor – is an award-winning producer, with experience in producing, production co-ordinating and line producing. Joy’s work reflects her cultural background, having grown up in Nigeria, Brunei and the UK. She seeks to tell socially conscious stories that allow people to think, exploring other alternatives where possible. She has produced a series of short films, including ‘In My Eyes’, with over 10 million YouTube views, and ‘Beyond Plain Sight’, which last year was nominated for the Best Short Film award at Raindajnce, and two indie feature films, ‘M.L.E’ and ‘White Colour Black’. Aside from producing, Joy holds an MA in creative writing in film, TV and plays, and has been awarded two grants for the arts from the Arts Council in order to develop plays in partnership with theatres such as Theatre Royal Stratford East. She closed Africa Writes Festival at The British Library in 2014 with her play ‘Sunday’, and will be closing it again in 2016 with her play ‘The Immigrant’.

Joy on challenges for LGBT film and filmmakers – Telling a compelling human story that doesn’t stereotype or pigeonhole what it means to be LGBT. I think that people get so caught up in sexuality that they forget to look at the story happening, and at times, as LGBT filmmakers, we don’t help the cause. We sometimes cater to the stereotypes as opposed to showcasing a story first, in which two people happen to be gay. I think this is one of the reasons why ‘Carol’ is so beautiful – it’s a film about two people who unexpectedly fall in love, and they just happen to be women. As an LGBT filmmaker, I was once told that I shouldn’t focus on LGBT stories – to be accepted I need to expand and tell other stories. For me, I tell stories that I love and have experienced regardless of my sexuality, but what I find is that as LGBT filmmakers we must leave our identity at the door in order to be accepted. If I say I’m gay there is an expectation of the type of work I make or should make; as a black woman who is gay, that expectation is doubled. There needs to be more diversity in LGBT films. As a young black Nigerian woman, I have spent most of my life watching lesbian films that have nothing to do with me. By that I mean films that do not understand my culture, nor my blackness, and therefore do not portray what it means to be a black lesbian woman living in London.

See the full list of filmmakers: http://www.bfi.org.uk/flare/bfi-flare-mentorship-meet-filmmakers


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