Newly-backed Grierson DocLab announces sixteen 2020 trainees

Newly-backed Grierson DocLab announces sixteen 2020 trainees

The DocLab scheme, supported by Netflix, The Rank Foundation, The Rumi Foundation and seven UK independent production companies, underlines that “diversity is at its heart.”


The Grierson Trust announced July 16 the sixteen trainees (see list below) for its 2020 edition, emphasising that:

  • 75% come from outside of London, including 15% from Wales and 10% from Scotland
  • 44% come from areas described as ‘economically deprived’
  • 69% are female, 19% male and 12% non-binary
  • 44% are BAME (Black, Asian or minority ethnic)
  • 50% were in full-time education at the time of applying, 6% are NEET (not in education, employment or training)

Lorraine Heggessey, Chair of The Grierson Trust said: “DocLab is about opening up industry doors and effecting change from the bottom up by bringing young people into the industry who wouldn’t normally have access or a way in. This is a vital element of The Trust’s work in supporting broadcasters and the independent production sector in developing our off-screen talent of the future. Together, we’re laying the groundwork for the future of the industry, increasing the diversity of our teams whether in class, race, geography or gender. We’re determined to help young talent forge their way in the industry, no matter the new challenges that the pandemic throws at us.”


Now in its 8th year, Grierson DocLab has a strong track record in training and helping aspiring young filmmakers get their first break into the documentary industry. Notable successes include: Poppy Goodheart (2013) who is currently producing a Storyville project and has been selected for C4’s prestigious First Cut scheme for first time directors; Ben McGeorge Henderson (2015) was part of the Raw TV 2019 Grierson Award winning team that won best Best Natural History Documentary for Drowning in Plastics; Cherish Oteka (2016) made her directorial debut with the BBC One documentary Too Gay for God?; and Michael Jenkins (2012) was one of the directors of the series of C4 shorts commissioned in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. The Shadow of Slavery, shows Western Europe’s first black mayor and protestors from Bristol discussing the impact of the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue.


In a press release dated July 16, The Grierson Trust expressed its gratitude to new sponsors Netflix, The Rank Foundation and many of the UK’s leading independent factual production companies. Blast! Films, Dragonfly TV, Lightbox, Minnow Films, Plimsoll Productions, Renegade Pictures and Wise Owl Films/All3 Media have all committed their assistance for 2020, with additional support from The Rumi Foundation.


Explaining why indies get behind the scheme, Academy Award winner and Lightbox co-founder, Simon Chinn said: “Lightbox is delighted to be able to support Grierson DocLab for another year at a time when diversity and inclusion in our industry has never felt more urgent or more important. The opportunity to support someone who might not otherwise be able to break into the industry is a real privilege and something that everyone in a position of leadership in the documentary community and beyond should be doing. “


Christine Owen from Bristol-based Plimsoll Productions added: “We’re excited to be involved in DocLab and to have the opportunity to offer young people from a range of backgrounds the chance to get started in the industry.”


The Grierson press statement further states how, like many organisations, The Grierson Trust is currently reimagining how it works, so several changes have been made to DocLab. The scheme will kick off next month with a week-long programme of online training sessions led by Carol Nahra, complete with additional contributions from “the great and good of the industry, including the opportunity to pick the brains of doc-stars from on screen and off.”


Trainees also have full festival passes for all Sheffield Doc/Fest events before attending November’s Grierson Awards, completing their shoot/edit training and undertaking work placements into 2021.


DocLabbers 2020


Ananya Sriram (23, Leeds), recent graduate in French and International Relations from the University of Leeds. “Being accepted on the Grierson DocLab scheme has helped me affirm by confidence, my capabilities and my ability to pursue a career in this field.”


Chandler Pierre (23, London), graduate from Norwich University of the Arts with a BA in Film and Moving Image Production. “As a young black female filmmaker, I want to tell stories influenced by my background and beyond. I am excited to be part of Grierson DocLab as it will give me a voice in the industry.”


Charley Leach (23, Northampton), spent a year in Missouri studying documentary and journalism followed by MA in Broadcast Journalism. “Due to Covid-19, my TV training on the course was cut short and work experience cancelled, which is why I’m especially grateful for a place on the DocLab scheme this year.”


Erin Joan (22, Glasgow), recent graduate from the University of Glasgow with a MA in Film and TV. “Whilst working at the RCS as a Special Support Tutor, I started to understand the impact that lack of representation can have on people. Documentary gives a space for everyone’s stories to be heard.”  


Fatima Ali (22, Birmingham), English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. “I am passionate about telling stories of black Muslim women specifically… also determined to shed the false notion that it is a homogenous experience as opposed to the richly diverse and varying experiences that I know fall under the umbrella of Black British.”


Jacob Wood (22, Milford Haven), graduate in Human Geography from Cardiff University. “The Grierson Trust is doing an amazing job of providing people from a similar socio-economic background to myself the opportunity to break the mould and pursue their career ambitions within factual TV and documentary.”


Jess Gell (25, London), graduate in Film and Television from UAL. “I think as filmmakers we have an important responsibility of using this pervasive platform to amplify the voices of those who might not always be heard, to challenge perceptions and present ideas in a way that is accessible to all.”


Joe Malamed (25, Manchester) “My love of videography came from the realisation that it can change the world… by pointing a camera in the right place, by shining a light on the unknown and getting different perspectives, you can bring the world together, reveal social issues that lacked attention and can genuinely change the world.”


Kiernan Abbott (22, Aberteifi), graduate from the University of Bristol studying Film and Television “I’m a proud Welshman from a working-class background and I hope that more opportunities such as DocLab help level the playing field in an industry that needs a shift towards equality. I truly believe that factual filmmaking can make a positive change on the world.”


Leonie Rousham (23, London). “My interest in documentary has stemmed from my involvement in activism and community. I first started to understand filmmaking as a tool of political resistance during 2011: documenting the student protests in a monthly photo column for my local newspaper. Having the opportunity to finally turn my interest and self-taught knowledge into something tangible and developed through DocLab is an amazing feeling.”


Lisa Doran (22, Cardiff), graduate from Cardiff School of Journalism. “I’m thrilled to be part of the industry during this challenging time and I can’t wait to see how the making of documentaries changes and adapts to current affairs. It feels like a very exciting time ahead.”


Montaz Marché (24, Chigwell), recent Masters’ graduate from UCL, researching and uncovering black British women in the 18th century. “Documentary film has always held an important place in my life, as a space of not only personal expression but illumination about worlds beyond my own.”


Poppy Brown (22, Norfolk), filmmaking graduate from the Northern Film School. “It is both satisfying and encouraging that there is something like Grierson DocLab to cater to people who would not usually get the chance to break into the industry.”


Ramla Dirie (22, Leicester), graduate in English Language and Media and Masters in Investigative Journalism. “Being from the Midlands, there aren’t many opportunities to do work experience in TV which is why I’m grateful to have been selected as part of this year’s cohort of Grierson DocLab trainees.”


Rhianna Bibby (18, Warrington), “Studying creative and digital media in sixth form and taking part in various film programmes has allowed me to realise my goals and interests in this industry. I hope to one day create content that shares stories of humanity and educates people of the world’s uniqueness and inequalities.”


Toni Lee (25, Huddersfield), a Visual Anthropology graduate, “Factual programming is something which has the power to move and connect with huge and varied audiences, so learning about that process through the mentorship and guidance of the scheme is both humbling and thrilling.”