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Bafta Breakthrough: ‘Someone requested a meeting with Brad Pitt and they made it happen’

Meet the new generation of creative talent – Nell Barlow, Joanna Boateng, Jack Rooke, Paul Sng and Marley Morrison on being part of the Bafta Breakthrough 2022 cohort

For young and up-and-coming creatives in the UK film, television and gaming industries, being named on the annual Bafta Breakthrough list is a huge deal. The scheme helps the new generation of creative talent develop their skills further – with this year’s group following in the footsteps of Florence Pugh, Jessie Buckley, Letitia Wright, Tom Holland and Daisy May Cooper.

The scheme offers support in developing talent and a wealth of networking opportunities – with Bafta helping to set up meetings between the up-and-coming creatives and established names who can offer inspiration, advice and mentoring.

At The Big Issue, we believe very strongly in supporting future generations. So we spoke to five of this year’s cohort about what Bafta Breakthrough means to them – and which big names they might like to meet as they embark on the next stage of their careers…

Paul Sng – film director

Paul Sng is a documentary maker whose films include Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché, Year of the Dog and Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle.

Professionally, being recognised by an organisation with such a brilliant reputation as Bafta is massive for any filmmaker. This feels like a massive leap to kind of have arrived and feel recognised.

The support you get from peers, the networking opportunities, the people you get to meet – those things don’t really happen unless you have those intros facilitated for you. I’m really looking forward to meeting filmmakers I’ve learned from and been following for a long time. People like Asif Kapadia, Lynn Ramsay, Andrea Arnold. I think someone in the past requested a meeting with Brad Pitt and they made it happen!

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I think my films all have something in common – they are made with or about people who challenge the status quo in some ways.

My next film, which is in the edit, is about a photographer from the North East, called Tish Murtha. She was one of 10 children growing up in the 60s and 70s and used her camera to document inequality, working class life and the effects of deindustrialisation.

The other film I’m working on is called I Am Irvine Welsh. And it basically does what it says on the tin. It follows him for a year in his life when he’s busier than ever – doing the Trainspotting musical, he’s had a book come out, he started a record label, he’s DJing, he’s got three TV series in development, he got married. It’s quite an intimate look at him.

My Big Issue: Like a lot of people, it’s the amount that energy is costing this winter. It really concerns me. It could be our generation’s poll tax in terms of protests. It’s affecting people on lower incomes more, but it’s going to affect middle class people and homeowners. So across the board, this could be the one that might bring down the government… he says hopefully.

Nell Barlow – actor, Sweetheart 

Nell Barlow, whose starring role in the beautiful queer romance film Sweetheart announced her as an actor with a big future.

It’s a wonderful feeling be among people whose work I know and love. And it’s a brilliant way to help you construct or carve a future – because being a freelancer in this business can feel a bit chaotic. So being around people you can talk to that can help you understand this world is so important.

They said the sky’s the limit – so top of my list is Andrea Arnold, Jodie Comer and Paul Thomas Anderson!

As a young person in the industry, it would be nice to meet someone like Jodie Comer who makes amazing work and is such a talent. I’d like to ask about what it took to get there, what she did in moments of quiet and moments of busy, you know? But if I met Andrea Arnold, I would just be like ‘have you got any films coming out with parts for someone with long brown hair? Let me know!’ I just her work so much.

I think Sweetheartresonated because it was really endearing and funny and honest. And because it was rooted in such gorgeous truth, it just translated to other people. Once you get a lovely role like that it raises the bar. It makes me want to play parts that really speak to people.

Once you get a lovely role like that it raises the bar. It makes me want to play parts that really speak to people.

Well, they said the sky’s the limit. So the top of my list I’ve got Andrea Arnold. And Paul Thompson Anderson. Aim high!

My Big Issue: Probably, Matt Hancock going on I’m a Celebrity – like, that is ridiculous. So that’s my Big Issue of today.

Joanna Boateng – documentary producer

Joanna Boateng has been working in TV documentary and as part of Steve McQueen‘s award-winning team behind Uprising – which told the story of the New Cross fire in 1981 and its aftermath – she reached a new level in the past year.

It feels amazing. It’s a bit overwhelming. Professionally, being part of Bafta Breakthrough means getting to speak to producers and directors and documentary makers that I otherwise would never have been able to even be in the same room as – to get guidance and help from people whose careers I’ve always wanted mine to kind of emulate.

It also means being able to make friends with other TV and film people who are at the same level as me. I’ve been really excited to make connections with other people in the industry.

The possibility of being able to be connected with anyone at all who works in the industry is huge. I loved Three Identical Strangers by Tim Wardle. And I’d love to meet Questlove – he directed Summer Of Soul and it would mean a lot to me to be able to have a conversation with him.

Working with Steve McQueen on Uprising was incredible – he was so empathetic. We knew we were going to cover a deeply traumatic subject – and the people at the heart of it hadn’t been listened to for four decades. With every move we made, editorially, we had that at the front of our minds.

I want to continue telling stories that deal with issues that are close to me personally. So things to do with race, things to do class, things to do with queerness. Because working on Uprising really solidified for me that it’s the emotional closeness to the topic that really helps me work in the best way I can.

My Big Issue: The gutting of public services. The slow eroding of resources that have always been available for working class people – seeing how that has accelerated over the past decade and a bit has really enraged me. We’re seeing the effects of it now, but it’s been going on for a really long time and has been normalised. As someone who grew up working class and really relied on that, it really amazes me.

Jack Rooke, comedy writer, Big Boys (Channel 4)

Jack Rooke is a comedian and writer and actor whose overnight success with Channel 4’s Big Boys was hard won and took many years.

I found out about Bafta Breakthrough just as I started writing series two of Big Boys. When series one has gone down so well, I very much feel the pressure not to cock it up. So it is lovely to get a bit of a pat on the back from Bafta that it’s all going in the right direction.

I straddle lots of different. I write, but I also act and perform. But writing is the most solitary  and you can feel really like lonely, especially when you’re writing something like Big Boys, which is so autobiographical. So I’m hoping that with Bafta Breakthrough to meet more people within film and TV.

I would love to direct one day. So I want to learn that side of things.

But in terms of who I’d love to meet through Bafta Breakthrough, the first person I said was Elton John!

It would be really fun to meet a fellow gay creative from Watford – because he’s a Watford boy like me. And also, he’s made a movie, he’s made stuff, he’s been doing bits and bobs. I don’t know how available Elton is but hey, I might go for Elton, who knows?

My Big Issue: I am going to celebrate the 40th Birthday of Channel Four later and I’m hoping they get to 50 without too much more interference. I’ve been a vocal supporter of the We Own It campaign, which is campaigning for institutions to remain in the public’s ownership. Channel Four should completely and utterly remain in our ownership, because it has shows that help society understand where we are, in a really alternative, fun way.

Marley Morrison – writer-director, Sweetheart (film)

Marley Morrison made a huge breakthrough this year as writer-director of hit indie film Sweetheart.

With my films, I try and make something that feels honest and truthful to me and hope that it resonates with other people. Because when you grow up, you feel like you’re sort of the only one that thinks the way you do or looks the way you do. So doing this film made me feel less alone. Because I had lots of young girls reaching out to me saying they really related to the film and saw themselves in the film. That’s really what it’s all about for me.

When you’re writing, it’s a very solo pursuit. So to be able to get out and network and be with your peers is great. So I’m super grateful to Bafta Breakthrough. It’s a way we can meet and collaborate and make connections for the future.

I would love to speak to Ruben Östlund. His movies are amazing. I have sort of studied them my whole filmmaking career. And I love the work of Greta Gerwig but there’s so many people I would love to have 10 minutes trying to ask them as many questions as possible. I love to speak to filmmakers that have been through the journey and are making incredible films…

My Big Issue: There’s so many things. What’s making me furious? Gosh, how women are treated in the media – I guess that’s a big thing that irritates me a lot.

Watch Sweetheart on iPlayer

The full Bafta Breakthrough 2022 list includes former Big Issue cover stars, actor and Strictly Come Dancing winner Rose Ayling Ellis and Ralph and Katie actor Leon Harrop, This Is Going To Hurt star Ambika Mod, Mood writer and star Nicôle Lecky, documentary director Alex Thomas, Dying To Divorce director Chloe Fairweather, Heartstopper cinematographer Diana Olifirova, games designer Emily Brown, composer Jamal Green, game artist Morag Taylor, Sex Education director Runyararo Mapfuno, Look Away director Sophie Cunningham, Deeper Than Drill filmmaker Theo Williams and Zachary Soares and Laciana Nascimento from Moonglow Bay games.

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