Graduates of Netflix’s first ever Documentary Talent Fund have launched their short films.
Ten U.K.-based filmmakers were chosen to receive £40,000 ($54,000) as well as mentorship and access to production workshops covering legal, creative, HR, production and finance in order to create a short film with the brief of “Britain’s Not Boring And Here’s a Story.”
The ten films received their premieres in London on Tuesday evening and will be livestreamed on Netflix’s 21.9 million strong TikTok page at 7pm GMT on Feb. 18. They will also be available to view on Netflix’s YouTube channel, Still Watching, from Feb. 20 at 2pm GMT.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with these talented filmmakers and to watch each teams’ nucleus of an idea blossom into these fully formed documentaries that we’re launching today,” said Jonny Taylor, director of original documentaries at Netflix.
“These films have been made in a year when extra challenges and pressures were added due to Covid and we are immensely proud of the tenacity, grit and creativity demonstrated to get these films made and presented to this final standard of excellence. These films are a testament to everyone’s hard work and an exciting glimpse into the future talent of UK documentarians.”
To celebrate the films’ launch, Variety spoke to the filmmakers behind three of the documentaries – Jakob Lancaster and Sorcha Bacon (“Seal and the City”), Ngaio Anyia and Aodh Breathnach (“Tegan”) and Dhivya Kate Chetty (“The Bee Whisperer”) – to find out about their experiences.
How did you decide on the subject of your documentary?
Lancaster: I had the Netflix brief in mind, which was “Britain is Not Boring and Here’s a Story.” And so I was fishing around for interesting aspects of British life, and when I was in an oyster bar in Essex over Christmas, I got talking to some fishmongers who were very friendly. They told me the story of Billingsgate Market, the fact that it was being sold, and the possibility that a seal, called Sammy, who’d been visiting the market for 20 years, might prevent the sale. I was just completely hooked, and started going down to the market trying to find the seal. It really went from there.
Anyia: I met Tegan in Black Girl Convention in 2016 (the largest convention for Black women in the South West) and I was struck by how great she was: she was so funny, so sassy, so interesting. She was talking about horseriding, and I used to horseride myself when I was living in Wales, but stopped when I moved to Bristol. I’ve kind of kept a non-creepy eye on her ever since. Her TED talk in 2018 and that was incredible – she’s so young (she was 18 when she did that TED talk). She just walked out on stage and immediately said that people will have had preconceptions about her, she really outlined to people their own judgements – “don’t put your judgements on me; here’s who I really am”. From my background coming from inclusion and diversity, that really touched me, but also the way she spoke about horseriding. For me it was something fun, for her it makes her whole world make sense. This is someone who’s really driven, who’s got so far already but could use a bit more support. I knew it would be enjoyable and that I would learn loads from her. The world needs more people like T in the spotlight.
Chetty: I met Barry a few years previously when he came to rescue a swarm of bees from my hedge and found him instantly engaging and remarkable in the sense that he doesn’t wear any protective clothing. I wanted to create an intimate portrait of a sectegenrian rastafarian but whilst also exploring the themes of migration and empire.
How did the Netflix Documentary Talent Fund help you?
Anyia: It helped me see what it takes to make a whole documentary from start to finish. I had worked on films from a supporting angle, but this showed me how the whole thing was made, you know, getting that whole arc. I knew it would take up a lot of time and a lot of my brain, but it was like jumping into the deep end, but the support from the Talent Fund meant I knew I was never going to drown.
Breathnach: We were also able to create our company, Small Flame Films, with the support of the Netflix Documentary Talent Fund. We have had to do lots of things as independent creatives, like designing our own posters for example, so it’s really turned us into an independent company. Most of all, it has given us the freedom to experiment and have fun; and has prepared us well for making more films and TV.
Chetty: In addition to being supportive with legal, financial and administrative matters, the Fund enabled me to make my first piece of TV and film work after becoming a mum. They gave me complete creative freedom and editorial support.
What are you working on/do you want to work on next?
Bacon: I am currently working on a three part series for a new online platform, which is all about Gen Z, and their love lives, which is fun. I’m also working on a slate of feature films with partners, like Film 4, BBC, Bureau, amongst others. I’m balancing my love of fiction and documentary together and building a slate of those two types of things.
Breathnach: I’m working on a documentary about young people from South London pursuing careers in pro football for Sky Documentaries; and I’m also making a BBC 3 film later in the year. I want to make more documentaries about people that inspire me too – I’m interested in psychology and want to make films that reflect that, that help us to understand dreams and goals of their contributors and also what they’re lacking. Something with an element of healing/cathartic process.
Chetty: I am post-production with my first narrative short film with Film 4 and BFI Network called “The Barber.” I am working on new documentary ideas in development with various production companies.
Check out the full list of recipients and their projects below:
“Seal And The City” by Jakob Lancaster & Sorcha Bacon
Logline: As London’s oldest fish market faces closure, its only hope is a seal called Sammy who has been visiting the market for 20 years.
“Tegan” by Ngaio Anyia & Aodh Breathnach
Logline: A young black woman with cerebral palsy is how the world categorises Tegan Vincent Cook – what we discover is her talent and drive as an equestrian, matched with unbridled dedication to reach the 2024 Paralympics.
“The Bee Whisperer” by Dhivya Kate Chetty
Logline: A film about community, belonging and migration through one man and his bees.
“Women Of The Market” by Tavie Tiffany Agama
Logline: Introducing the markets of London and the entrepreneurial women that operate within them; trading, chattering, flattering and most importantly earning. These are the Women of the Market.
“The Detective & The Dog Thief” by Beya Kabelu
Logline: Every four hours a pet in Britain is stolen, we’ll follow the hunt for the missing pets; from the former homicide detective tasked with finding them and the owners left distraught to the thief making six figures a year.
“Twinkleberry” by Daisy Ifama & Grace Shutti
Logline: A lighthearted documentary about my super gay school year that had over 30 queer students in one year group… during 2005 to 2012… in a small town on the border of the West Midlands and the West Country.
“Love Languages” by Jason Osborne & Precious Mahaga
Logline: In an Afro-Caribbean barbershop, six Black British men share their personal experiences of love, loss and masculinity.
“HYFIN” by Sean Mullan & Michael Barwise
Logline: Jordan-Lee Brady-James aka HYFIN, a young Derry-Londonderry man in-between places, is told that a Northern Irish accent can’t rap
“Peach Paradise” by Shiva Raichandani & Chi Thai
Logline: Non-binary Japanese-Irish drag artist storms U.K.’s cabaret scene with a gender-diverse, Pan-Asian collective of bitten peaches, to dismantle racial stereotypes with love and glitter!
“ÓWÀMBÈ” by Tobi Kyeremateng
Logline: Cultures live on through traditions, and in community halls across Britain, Nigerians created a spirit of celebration. Welcome to Ówàmbè – the life and soul of Nigerian party culture, and the foundation of a community.