Published on: 1 October 2020 in Case Studies

Directors UK Inspire: Celine Cotran on the online mentoring experience

As part of our Directors UK Inspire programme, Directors UK member Celine Cotran started up a mentoring partnership with fellow member Andy De Emmony – and during the coronavirus pandemic, this has meant attending mentoring sessions online.

Below, Celine tells us how she was able to get the most out of the Inspire programme, and provides her advice for potential Inspire applicants.

How did you first approach your mentor?

I met Andy De Emmony in 2016, when I had the opportunity of shadowing him for a couple of days on the set of his BBC series Quacks. Back then, I was in pre-production on one of my early shorts and the experience I gained in those two days was immeasurable. I have a great personal affinity for his directorial approach and, given his wealth of experience directing scripted Comedy and Drama, I knew he’d be the best fit as a mentor to me. When I saw the Inspire Scheme was open, I jumped at the chance to learn more from him.

What has it been like mentoring online? What were you able to get help with?

Mentoring online has been more than fine: since Andy and I knew each other already, we found talking to each other via Zoom relatively easy and straightforward. I found it particularly useful when I was asked to direct Indefinitely, an online short film for Blackbox Multimedia right in the middle of lockdown. The project was a comedy drama about a particularly uncomfortable Zoom call, and I was conscious that the normal tools I’d have to tell a story would be completely stripped back to basics. I had performance and dialogue to work with, and knowing that comedy timing would be key, having Andy as a mentor was invaluable to the process. In the run-up to rehearsals, we discussed all things practical from working with actors to get the best performances (3/5 of whom I’d only met through a screen) to the technical elements of best recording software and picture quality. After rehearsals, which we had recorded, I was even able to make a quick edit, and send it to Andy for feedback, which we could then dissect together before the shoot. By the time I arrived at the real thing, it flew by, and moving into the edit was relatively painless because I already knew exactly what worked and where the problem areas might be.

(Pictured above: A still from Celine Cotran’s lockdown comedy short, "Indefintely". c.) Blackbox Multimedia, 2020)

How does mentoring online work practically – did you set regular dates? What apps or programmes did you use?

We don’t set regular dates, but between emails and Zoom, it’s really easy to keep in touch as and when needed. Despite his busy schedule, Andy is really great at responding, and will often send me articles or links he thinks I might find useful. He’s also been kind enough to advise me on pitching, applications, and he’s currently reading my first feature script - what more could I ask from a mentor, really?

What advice would you give to people taking part in Directors UK Inspire to make sure they get the most out of it?

The best advice I could give is to be in regular contact with your mentor, if only just to check in and update them. Keeping a continuing dialogue with Andy means he’s always in a position to offer advice or guidance if he can.

Would you recommend Directors UK Inspire – and an online mentoring partnership – to other members?

Absolutely! I feel really privileged as an emerging director to have an experienced director like Andy in my corner. Receiving his mentorship and having him as a sounding board has given me much needed clarity on my career trajectory, and it’s been a real source of support.

What projects are you working on next?

I’m currently completing development on my first feature, Layla In Dreamland. I was fortunate enough to receive BFI Early Development Funding for it and my producer’s support at the Berlin and Edinburgh Talent Labs. We will be taking part in Film London's Production Finance Market (New Talent Strand) this month.

I’m also writing a pilot and Series Bible for a couple of spec series and have my most recent short, The Edge Of Home, premiering at Austin Film Festival next month. If all goes well, I’ll hopefully still be able to shadow Andy during the lifecycle of The Larkins, which I’m really excited about!

Directors UK Inspire is currently open for applications. Find out more here.

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