Published on: 03 August 2017 in Training

Directors UK Inspire: Participants Announced

Reading time: 13 minutes and 58 seconds

In April, Directors UK launched Directors UK Inspire – a new, year-round mentoring programme for Full and Associate members. We are now thrilled to announce the first group of participants for the scheme, as well as the mentors they’ll be working with. 

Directors UK Inspire encourages directors to seek structured mentoring support that will enhance their skills and expose them to new career opportunities. We know that mentoring often takes place informally between creative professionals and freelancers, and that many directors already have more than one mentor who has supported them for several years. There are mutual benefits for both mentors in sharing their knowledge and experience, and mentees in receiving that knowledge. As such, Directors UK is keen to accommodate and support this important area of professional development.

Directors UK Inspire is a year-round programme, and is still open for applications from members who would like to participate. We’d also like to hear from directors who are interested in becoming a mentor. The next deadline for applications is Friday 1 September 2017. Find out more and apply.

Read on and find out more about the first group of Directors UK Inspire participants and their partnerships:


Nick Norman-Butler 

Mentor: Mat Whitecross

Nick Norman-Butler is an experienced documentary director with more than fifteen years in the industry, making films for broadcasters in the US and UK. His interests are crime, current affairs, adventure and unusual character-led stories. 

In 2017 he was selected for the BFI Network x BAFTA Crew career development programme.

Nick’s most recent project was an epic, six-part, investigative documentary series for National Geographic called Lawless Oceans in which maritime P.I. Karsten von Hoesslin solves a notorious murder case on the high seas.

In 2016 he made his first step into narrative fiction as a writer/director with the Japanese-inspired short film Tomoko which has played at film festivals in London, Singapore and Tokyo. It was also selected to screen on the trend-setting Nowness website.

Nick says:As I expand from documentary into directing drama, I’m extremely excited to have Mat Whitecross as my mentor. Mat has worked with great success across both genres so he is the ideal person for me to learn from! I look forward to shadowing Mat later this year, getting a look at his production process and hopefully visiting the set to gain valuable experience and improve my skillset.

Jo Southwell

Mentor: Jon East

Jo Southwell was born in Northampton and holds a PGCE in Secondary Education, a BA (Hons) in Theology and Media and a Postgraduate Diploma in Screen Acting.

As a film director/writer, Jo made her debut in 2012 with a short entitled Holding On. A moving drama starring Gordon Kennedy about a man’s struggle to hold on to the present as Alzheimer’s takes hold. This short film has had international recognition in festivals (Nominated for Best Director at the Thurrock Film Festival and for Best Short Film at the St.Albans Film Festival). Holding On also made the Shorts Inernational Festival 2015 list of the top 10 films to watch in Europe.

Since then, Jo has directed several award-winning shorts including Deirdre, a proof of concept short for her first feature Deirdre of the Sorrows, which has Tara Fitzgerald attached.

Jo is currently developing a crime thriller for TV from a book adaptation. She is represented by Pauline Asper management.

Jo says: Jon East has offered me the opportunity to really develop my skills and creativity specifically to advance my ability to direct high end TV drama and enhance my own film projects. Our action plan was devised to really work on areas of weakness and also to add to areas of strength. This one-to-one mentoring opportunity is preparing me for the next stage of my career. I feel very privileged to be mentored by Jon and value the knowledge, time and input that he has offered this scheme.”

Ruth Carney

Mentor: Rebecca Gatward

Ruth Carney is a professional freelance TV and theatre director. Ruth has an MA in Theatre Directing from The Russian Theatre Academy Moscow, and Middlesex University. She gained her BA (Hons) from The University of Sheffield and was a participant on the National Theatre’s Emerging Directors Course. After many years working in theatre, in 2016 Ruth was accepted onto the BBC New Directors Scheme which has led to her directing numerous blocks of Doctors, and she is about to start prep for her fifth block this month. She has just completed directing her first short film Funtimes, written by Samantha Robinson.

Ruth continues to work in theatre, recently directing Amnesia at 53Two in Manchester and The House Behind The Lines national tour for Buglight Theatre. Ruth was associate director to the Old Vic Artistic Director Matthew Warchus on Ghost the Musical, The Lord of the Rings at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and the national tour of Our House.

As associate director at Sheffield Theatres in the inaugural season after reopening, Ruth directed the highly acclaimed verbatim play Sisters by Stephanie Street. She also directed Confessions of a City by Richard Hurford, a promenade piece using the entire Crucible Theatre building, which was billed by the Sheffield Telegraph as the “cultural event of the decade”. She produced the Forge Festival, which saw the theatre come alive with new writing and saw the first outing of the hit play Bull by Mike Bartlett.

Ruth’s other directing credits include the UK professional premiere of The Laramie Project at Sound Theatre, London starring Russell Tovey and Andrew Garfield and the world premiere of The Lemon Princess by Rachael McGill, from Ruth’s own original idea, at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds.

Ruth says: I am extremely excited to be accepted onto the Inspire Programme as it feels like the natural next step in my TV directing career. To be able to be mentored by the fantastic Rebecca Gatward and to get the opportunity to spend time with her on one of the high-end dramas she is directing is invaluable experience for me.

Kate Cheeseman

Mentor: Roger Michell

Kate Cheeseman is an award-winning director working in film and television drama. She started her career in film editing before moving on to direct documentary and then drama. She was awarded a BAFTA and the Prix Danube Jury Prize for the TV film One Whole Heart and serial Pig Heart Boy. She has also won an RTS Award and a BMA Medal for previous drama productions.

After having a child, Kate had to take a step sideways but decided it was a good opportunity to concentrate on developing her own film projects as well as working in the theatre – taking a play to the Edinburgh Theatre Festival. She took part in the Arista Script Development Programme, won a scholarship to the Script Factory’s course and recently went on the BFI Feature development programme with her own script. She also directed a series of short films and began developing a number of longer projects including Never Say Rabbit in a Boat with Met Films. Her two recent shorts, one a biopic about Caitlin Thomas and the other a comedy horror with Phil Davis, have screened around the world including BAFTA-qualifying Aesthetica and Carmarthen Bay Film Festival. They have also won a number of awards including Best Director, Best Dramatic Short, Best Performance, a Remi, a Silver Medal in LA and an Excellence in Film Making Award.

Kate is just about to start shooting a further short with Fancy French Productions and is working on a romantic comedy feature set on a double-decker bus with Imagicom Productions and due to shoot next year. She also has a further comedy and psychodrama in production.

Kate says:Having heard him talk on several occasions, I have always admired Roger Michell both for his work and his reputation with actors. I also know people who have worked with him and equally admire him. As a woman directing, I have always felt very alone and dont think I have ever had anyone help me, so I am hugely excited to have a mentor for the first time and even more excited that Roger has agreed to be that person. There is a lot I undoubtedly need to learn about directing a big feature and I want to prepare for that as much as possible.

Drew Marke

Mentor: Owen Harris

Drew Marke has been selected for the BBC’s New Talent Hotlist 2017, won a Film London Borough Award for a short film she wrote and directed, had her work selected for BFI Network’s Best of 2016 list, taken part in the prestigious Channel 4 Screenwriting Course (in which twelve writers were commissioned to write an original TV pilot and bible), been shortlisted for the Hollyoaks New Directors scheme, been shortlisted for Cascade Pictures’ Writers’ Couch initiative, and also taken part in the BBC Doctors New Writers scheme.

In production, Drew worked for IMG and MTV as well as various independent production companies, before she went on to become a freelance video producer creating videos for clients such as Transport for London, the British Equestrian Federation and the charity Lantra. Drew also created, directed and produced seven episodes of an online cooking show, a project that was partnered by The Big Lunch and gained an online audience in the UK, Europe and USA. She has recently completed a sci-fi short called Love Robot. Drew is currently in pre-production on her next two projects, Corpuria, a sci-fi short about the interrogation of an alien undercover agent, and Dwellings, a four-part drama web series.

Drew is represented by agent The Artists Partnership in the UK and management company Elevate Entertainment in Los Angeles.

Drew says: “Participating in Directors UK Inspire will help me to set and focus on my goals, and hopefully provide me with insight into the industry and role of a director that I wouldn’t be able to gain without an experienced mentor like Owen Harris, who has already walked this path!”

Rebecca Kenyon

Mentor: Lindsey Dryden

Rebecca Kenyon is a self-shooting director and editor with a small company focused on social documentaries: Mote of Dust Films. She originally trained and worked as an actor, and it was a natural process to transfer her skills and approach storytelling from another angle. Her first feature documentary, aiming to break down misconceptions around homelessness, was multi-award winning and had over 100 festival and community screenings. Other topics covered by her work include life on a vintage fairground, guide dog training, and a retiring boatbuilder working on his last boat. Her current feature documentary is about the emerging role of the end of life ‘doula’.

Rebecca says: This is a key time in my current documentary project and career. I look forward to being supported by the Directors UK Inspire mentorship scheme, working towards achieving certain goals whilst remaining authentic. Having the opportunity to be mentored by a more experienced director/producer like Lindsey Dryden will be instrumental to building that momentum, working more efficiently, and driving me to make the bold creative choices which honour the enormity and intimacy of the contributors’ stories.”

Anke Lueddecke

Mentor: to be confirmed

Anke Lueddecke is a mid-career factual producer/director, with TV credits in history, culture and current affairs. 

Several films Anke made for the public sector over the past three years have involved covering live events with multiple crews. She loved the challenge of preparing and directing these shoots, and in 2015 she participated in a week of Directors UK/ITV/Creative Skillset multi-camera drama training. This gave Anke a chance to direct in a studio setting, and to reflect on which application of multi-camera directing would best fit her experience and passions.

Anke says: “I still love documentaries, but I also love the theatre, teamwork, live broadcasting and multi-camera work. The attraction for me in moving into this new area of work is to apply the visual language of film to the world of theatre, and to communicate – hopefully even enhance – the theatre director’s vision of the play. I relish the intellectual challenge of serving a production as well as the technical and team challenge of making the recording or live broadcast a success.”

Rubika Shah

Mentor: to be confirmed

Rubika Shah is a writer-director whose work has screened at a number of international film festivals  such as Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, Hot Docs, Sheffield Doc/Fest and BFI London  and has been broadcast on the BBC and ABC TV. She is currently touring the festival circuit with the BFI-backed documentary short, White Riot: London.

Rubika is a rare female filmmaker working in the arts and music documentary space. Her documentary-short about David Bowie was covered by Indiewire, Rolling Stone, MOJO and The Guardian, amongst others. She was recently awarded Creative England production funding for her debut feature documentary about punk, politics and fanzine culture in the late 1970s.

Rubika says: “I am thrilled to be selected by Directors UK for this unique opportunity. I am on the cusp of directing my debut feature documentary – and the Inspire programme will help me secure a mentor who can guide me through this exciting and challenging time.”


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