Published on: 14 June 2016 in Longform

Being an Associate member

Reading time: 14 minutes and 8 seconds

Ahead of the first Associate members’ meeting, Lotus Hannon interviews four directors and asks them what they’ve gained through being an Associate member of Directors UK.

Lotus is the Associate Members’ Representative on the Directors UK Board, and she’s hosting a meeting on Thursday 30 June to discuss Associate membership, the issues affecting Associate members, and how members can make the most of being a part of Directors UK. Find out more and book your place. 

To find out more about Lotus and what the other Associate members had to say please read on.

Lotus Hannon’s first short Man of Me Dreams was selected and screened by the British Council, the Cinema Programme and various international film festivals. Lotus went on to be employed as an inserts director and assistant director primarily in TV comedy, working for Jonathan Ross, Mark Lamarr, Jack Dee and Peter Kay. She was the winner of the Script Factory Development Scheme with her first original feature screenplay, Render, and was selected for the Women in Film and Television Mentoring Scheme 2014 and the Creative England SW Talent Module 2015.

Lotus is currently developing Orion’s Belt, a thriller which she intends to be her directorial feature debut. |

<p>Lotus Hannon on set for <i>The Expiration</i></p>

Lotus Hannon on set for The Expiration

“I’m really excited to meet my fellow Associates and find out how Directors UK can further support them. It will be great to highlight the benefits available to us and how these can help develop careers and individual networks.

It’s also a chance for an informal get together to share views, raise any issues, ask questions and bring forward new ideas. If you’re an Associate Member and would like to join others for a drink and chat then book your place at our Meet the Rep event at Directors UK on Thursday 30 June at 7pm, your input and company would be most welcome!

If you’re thinking about becoming a member of Directors UK and have a credit for a short film, commercial, corporate video or video games, you’ve screened at a festival, or just starting out as a director in the TV industry, then becoming an Associate might just be the right choice for you.

I asked four of our current Associate members about their directing careers and the benefits they’ve gained from being a member of Directors UK. Read below what David Alexander, Audrey Aqualina, Abigail Dankwa and Aurora Fearnley had to say”.

David Alexander

<p>David Alexander</p>

Tell us about yourself and the work you do?
I’m a writer and director currently developing my first feature film, based in part on my short films Growing (winner of the 2007 Time Out Best Short Film Award, LSFF) and Promise (winner of a 46664 Nelson Mandela Foundation Award). Growing is shot in black and white and shows a day in the life of three teenage boys whose idle lifestyle of smoking, joking around and chasing girls results in tragedy. Promise is about a young father struggling to balance his life and keep his family together.

How did Directors UK first come into your horizon? And what prompted you to join?
I heard from friends who were members of Directors UK about the various screenings and events. I was coy to join at first, but once I met the team I signed up promptly. A lot of organisations in the film industry are completely orientated around the industry hierarchy, so if you’re new, less experienced, or even just an unfamiliar face you can feel like an outsider and less welcome. In contrast to this, once I signed up to Directors UK, I found that they represented the entire breadth of the working industry, but somehow managed to maintain an atmosphere of inclusion, community and comradery, which for a new filmmaker is exactly what you need.

How would you say being an Associate member of Directors UK has benefitted you?
I’ve learnt a huge amount from the Q&A sessions in particular. In the last year I’ve seen Christopher Nolan, Richard Linklater, Ridley Scott and Alejandro G. Iñárritu to name just a few. Iñárritu was particularly amazing and educational for me. I learnt that despite being such a technically accomplished filmmaker he values ‘depth and soul’ more than technical execution. He talked about understanding film as if it were music, which is something I’ve always felt and believed, and so it was great to hear him say he felt the same. Also he was incredibly open about his production process, giving us insights into his approach to rehearsing, storyboarding, casting etc. which he elegantly summed up with the anecdote: “For a time you are the God of your film, then you become the subject to it. It’s important to know when that shift occurs and to go with it”.

What one piece of advice would you give to yourself at the start of your career?
To paraphrase a piece of advice I heard early on from Gael García Bernal: “Listen to people, but stick to your guns”. I believe it’s really important to be confident about your ideas, but also open. You have to develop as an individual, so that when you come to the table you have a clear and defined voice, but it’s important to remember that collaboration is the key to really exceptional cinema.

Read David’s full interview with Hunger TV on his short Growing. You can see more of David’s work on his website.

Audrey Aqualina

Tell us about yourself and the work you do?
I’m a filmmaker working in documentary and drama. I’ve just been nominated for Best Director and Best Cinematography for my first feature documentary which has played in New York, all over Europe, Australia and is about to screen in Madrid. My first short drama was shown all over Europe and the UK. I’d previously produced and/or directed several short online or corporate pieces but these were different in terms of storytelling.

<p>Audrey Aqualina</p>

Audrey Aqualina

I produced and directed both of them, though thankfully I had a production team on the drama which had a cast and crew of 30-40 over five locations. My co-producer put up some funds and I drew on industry friends to get this made. For the documentary I pitched and produced it from concept to completion. It was accepted into the market at IDFA which was a huge learning opportunity for me since I’d never been involved with sales and distribution before.

My first TV jobs were production co-ordinator/manager for documentary for the BBC and Channel 4. I wanted to get onto location and in those days jobs were very clearly defined so I went to college and trained in technical editing and camerawork, and spent the next year as an Avid assistant in Soho. I really missed working with people and light so I kept working as a set photographer and gaffer on shorts and indie films. One of the crew got me a job at a camera facility and I spent the next ten years or so working my way up the camera ladder to DoP. I still shoot, and it was a huge surprise to be nominated for Best Cinematography because when I made my documentary my head was so caught up with other things that I really wasn’t thinking about camerawork.

How did Directors UK first come into your horizon? And what prompted you to join? 
While I was in production on my documentary I felt really challenged. Working alone a lot was tough and there were many things I had to learn. I applied for WFTV’s mentoring scheme and it really made a difference to have the support. Nicola Lees, who runs the scheme, was great at quietly encouraging our confidence. I’d heard of Directors UK but until I completed the film I didn’t feel qualified to join.

How would you say being an Associate member of Directors UK has benefitted you? 
It sounds obvious but Directors UK has given me access to talks and events about directing, as a director. Though I’ve worked with hundreds of directors over the years, conversations are defined by your role and it isn’t often appropriate to have the kind of conversations with a director on a job that you might like to - for reasons of professional boundaries and responsibility. So hearing the experiences shared at these events has helped me compare my professional view. I’ve grown used to seeing myself as a director, which wasn’t the case when I joined.

What one piece of advice would you give to yourself at the start of your career?
Looking back, I would tell myself a million things, but maybe to be more careful to take credit for things I’ve done and be more confident about taking my place in circles which can seem daunting to break into.

Under The Skin Of Design trailer on Vimeo.

Abigail Dankwa

Tell us about yourself and the work you do?
I’m a multi-camera director, who has worked on entertainment fixed rig (Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother), OB (VIP arrivals for this year’s UEFA Champions League Final in Milan) and will have worked on documentary fixed rig (24 Hours in A&E) by the time this comes out.

<p>Abigail Dankwa</p>

Abigail Dankwa

How did Directors UK first come into your horizon? And what prompted you to join?
I found about Directors UK when I was at NFTS. I wanted to join as a graduate but wasn’t allowed because you could only join as a student in your final year or had to have credits which I obviously didn’t at that stage! Then last year after Celebrity Big Brother, I met three Directors UK members who all, independently of each other, suggested I join and also apply for the new Multi-Camera Directing Skills for TV training course, which I was lucky to get on earlier this year.

How would you say being an Associate member of Directors UK has benefitted you?
At the moment the biggest benefit was finding out about the Multi-Camera Directing course which I’m sure - as well as floor managing on the last two Champions League finals in Lisbon and Berlin - helped me secure this year’s final in Milan as an OB director. It was an amazingly intense two weeks and I met and worked with some fantastic people.

What one piece of advice would you give to yourself at the start of your career?
Ask me in five or ten years’ time - I’ve only been doing it for a year! If pushed, it would be stay grateful and enjoy every moment (even the, ahem, underemployed ones...).

About me: Abigail Dankwa.

Aurora Fearnley

Tell us about yourself and the work you do?
When I graduated from the Northern Film School in 2005 I was determined to make music videos. Within a few short years I was signed to Academy Films with two fellow directors under the collective name Left Eye Blind. It was hard and at times gruelling work, with fast turnarounds and continually shrinking budgets. Eventually I left the collective and set up my own production company Little Northern Light to refocus on producing drama. Since then I’ve been working as a freelance editor and writer/director. I’m currently finishing my fifth short film Pulsar, a 30K sci-fi short starring David Gyasi (Interstellar) and Jessie Buckley (War and Peace), made possible by winning the budget through The Pitch at Pinewood. Coming off the back of a great festival run with my psychological short film Murmur, I have two feature film projects now in development.

<p>Aurora Fearnley and David Gyasi for Pulsar</p>

Aurora Fearnley and David Gyasi for Pulsar

How did Directors UK first come into your horizon? And what prompted you to join?
I first heard about Directors UK while on a mentoring scheme with Women in Film and Television. I hadn’t considered joining as I made music videos, commercials and short films and so felt I couldn’t apply as I was yet to direct a feature film or TV. Then I learnt I could join as an Associate member.

How would you say being an Associate member of Directors UK has benefitted you?
In the past year I’ve benefitted from legal advice on contacts, private screenings with director Q&As, bespoke industry events, jobs/training opportunities, and from the community as a whole. I’ve had discounts to attend film festivals and conferences, and I’ve made contacts that have become mentors and film champions.

I’ve learned so much just from listening and being present at these events. It’s given me tremendous confidence to follow my instincts with my own films, tips and ideas for better communication, and new depths to my technical knowledge.

Directors UK invited me to write an article on the experience of shooting Pulsar, which gave me the chance to share my experience of integrating VFX and CGI into my practice. In a single year I’ve been delighted to see how they promote new talent and encourage young directors.

In practical terms I’ve been able to explore my own interests in storytelling too. Last year I took part in the Challenge ALEXA competition run by Directors UK with professional industry support from ARRI. After pitching my idea to Directors UK I was given a full shooting package with an ALEXA XT and Anamorphic lens set with a two-day shoot limit and a three-week turnaround.

The resulting short film, Murmur, surprised me by playing a dozen festivals shortly after release, picking up an award for Best Breakthrough Filmmaker and awards for the lead actors. This opportunity to create new work through the Challenge has reinvigorated my directing process and strengthened my relationships with crew.

What one piece of advice would you give to yourself at the start of your career?
My advice would be to take all that pressure of myself. It was incredibly competitive when starting out in music videos, but film careers are about sustainability and resilience. Oh, and make friendships not contacts - it’s a long game.

Join us

Do you have a director credit on a publicly screened or commercially exploited audio-visual work? Then join us as either an Associate or Full member. Find out more about Directors UK membership.

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