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Cohort announced for BFI Flare x BAFTA professional development programme

Mar 15, 2024

BAFTA and BFI announce the cohort of the 2024 BFI Flare x BAFTA professional development programme, run in partnership with BFI Network, six emerging LGBTQIA+ creatives working towards their debuts in film and television have been selected for the prestigious talent initiative, now in its 10th year.

BFI Flare x BAFTA, made possible thanks to National Lottery funding from BFI Network, supports emerging talent to develop their LGBTQIA+ stories for the screen in the UK and internationally. Participants benefit from industry mentorship, bespoke events and workshops at BAFTA and BFI, networking opportunities during BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival (13-24 March), wellbeing and career coaching, and access to BAFTA Connect, the academy’s membership programme for emerging and mid-level talent.

This year saw a record number of applicants with an increase of 40% on last year. This year’s cohort was selected based on the quality of their existing work and the potential of the exciting, challenging and original work they are developing.  The 2024 cohort comprises: Travis Alabanza, Isabella Bassett, Zak Ghazi-Torbati, Cherish Oteka, Miles Sloman and Charlie Tidmas.

BFI and BAFTA have been working together for close to a decade and counting to champion talented LGBTQIA+ creatives, many of whom have gone on to establish successful careers in the film and television industries.

Writer/director Amrou Al-Kadhi and producer Savannah James-Bayly of Layla, BFI Flare 2024’s Opening Night Gala film (on 13 March) met on the programme in 2017, while the film also features two other BFI Flare x BAFTA alumni in actor Matthew Jacobs Morgan and associate producer Emily Everdee.

Savannah James-Bayly, 2017 alumna and producer of Layla, said: “The BFI Flare x BAFTA mentorship had a profound impact on my career and, honestly, my life! The scheme and continued relationship to the festival has birthed innumerous friendships, a business venture, and was where I first met writer/director Amrou Al-Kadhi, forming a longstanding collaboration that led to our debut feature Layla, which we’re delighted to bring home to open this year’s festival. The BFI Flare x BAFTA mentorship was the perfect incubator to hatch that relationship. Over the course of the programme we watched the latest queer cinema had to offer and realised we had similar tastes and ambitions for our own work; in between industry meetings we discussed the change we wanted to see and be in the industry; and on the dance floor we cemented a friendship which has become the backbone of our partnership. I could not recommend the experience more highly.”

Other alumni include Dionne Edwards, writer/director of Pretty Red Dress (2022); Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor, producer of Blue Story (2019) and Champion (2023); Kayleigh Llewellyn, BAFTA-winning writer of In My Skin (2018-2021); Aleem Khan, BAFTA-nominated director and writer of After Love (2020); Georgia Oakley, BAFTA-nominated director of Blue Jean (2022); Georgi Banks-Davies, BAFTA-nominated director of I Hate Suzie (2020); Rosanagh Griffiths, post-production supervisor on Big Boys (2023) and I May Destroy You (2020); Paris Zarcilla, director of Raging Grace (2023).

BFI Flare x BAFTA has also received valued support from a host of senior industry figures including filmmaker Andrew Haigh (All of Us Strangers); screenwriter and television producer Russell T Davies (It’s a Sin); television creator, showrunner, director and writer Joey Soloway (Transparent); director Kate Herron (Loki), filmmaker Ben Wheatley (Free Fire); film director and producer Luca Guadagnino (Bones and All); installation artist and filmmaker Sir Isaac Julien CBE RA (Young Soul Rebels);playwright and screenwriter Abi Morgan (The Split); film and television producer Iain Canning (The Power of the Dog); and film producer Andrew Macdonald (Ex Machina).

Cassandra Neal, new talent and industry manager at BAFTA, said: “Congratulations to the six creatives selected for this year’s programme, we’re truly delighted to be supporting them in partnership with BFI Flare and BFI NETWORK, offering a year-round programme of support to help build their professional networks as they work towards their debuts in film and television. Once again, this year’s group brings a wealth of exciting experience in theatre, radio, short film and short form. We invite the industry to take note of and work with these talented creatives and the future stories they will tell.”

Alice Cabañas, head of BFI Network, said: “With 210 applications, we are seeing the level of interest increase year on year, and I think much of that is down to the career trajectory of our alumni speaking to the value of the programme. Bringing together BAFTA and BFI Flare creates a very powerful offer to help support and nurture the filmmakers selected to take part. With another fantastic cohort for 2024, with a solid track record and demonstrating they have potential to shift gears and move forward in their filmmaking careers, I am really excited to see what they do next.”

BFI Flare x BAFTA Mentoring 2024 Participants (in alphabetical order):

Travis Alabanza, writer (they/them)
Travis Alabanza is a writer and performer. For theatre their show Burgerz won the total theatre award at Edinburgh Fringe, their play Overflow was shortlisted for the George Divine Award, and their most recent play Sound of the Underground at the Royal Court received an acclaimed run. In 2022 they released their first book None of the Above, winning the Jhalak Literary prize. For TV and screen, they have an original comedy drama in development with Lookout Point, as well as a crime thriller in development with See-Saw.

Isabella Bassett, producer (they/she)
Isabella Bassett is an emerging creative producer based in Glasgow. After cutting their teeth as a theatre producer – including for new-writing company, A Play, a Pie and a Pint where they worked on over 90 World premieres – Isabella began working in film and television. As Development Coordinator for BBC Studios continuing drama, River City, Isabella successfully secured first-time commissions for 20 new writers. Isabella has produced four award-winning short films which have screened at a host of UK and international film festivals.

In 2023, Isabella set up Scottish-based production company Compatible Film & TV. Compatible’s mission is telling unheard and exciting stories with diverse talent. Isabella is currently producing their first short documentary, Seeking (directed by Ciara Flint) for the Scottish Documentary Institute’s ‘Bridging the Gap’ Scheme and is in development on a new, diverse TV drama, The Bowling Green.  

Zak Ghazi-Torbati, writer (he/him)
Zak is an Iranian/Welsh writer, actor and single pringle. He co-wrote and performed the award-winning comedy musical Hot Gay Time Machine alongside Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. It went on to sold-out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, the Trafalgar Studios, and Soho Theatre. Zak is now developing HGTM into a musical TV series with Left Bank Pictures. In 2021, Zak was runner-up for the David Nobbs New Comedy Writing Competition and was shortlisted for the World Productions’ Writers’ Award. He wrote sketches for the BBC One Wales comedy series Age of Outrage, which he also starred in. He was commissioned to write for the HappenedHere podcast, performed by Joanna Lumley and Stephen Fry. His comedy pilot – The Other Half – co-written with Kate Reid, was a finalist in the TCN/UKTV WriterSlam. With Reid, he is developing a new comedy series with Baby Cow called The Ick Factor, about the highs and hideous lows of modern dating – something he knows a lot about.

Cherish Oteka, writer, producer, director (they/them)
Cherish is a BAFTA award-winning filmmaker with a passion for telling nuanced human-interest stories with a cinematic flair.  In 2022, Cherish won a BAFTA in the British Short Film category for their docu-drama The Black Cop. In 2024, Cherish was awarded the Short Documentary Fellowship by The Arts Foundation and named as a Breakthrough Creator by Vimeo in 2023 as well as winning UKTV’s Rising Star Award and the Best Documentary Award at the Movie Screen and Video Awards. Cherish is currently directing and producing their first cinematic feature documentary, about the Gay Games. 

Miles Sloman, writer (he/him)
Miles is a Cornish writer and actor represented by Jenn Morgan at Curtis Brown. He is currently writing an episode for a returning BBC series and has developed several original TV projects for screen – his latest being a project with Sid Gentle Films. Miles has been part of various writers’ rooms, and recently ran his own rooms for two original projects for the BFI’s Young Audiences Content Fund, before completing script & show bible commissions. Previously, he’s been selected for talent schemes with BBC Writers, Channel 4 and BFI Network @LFF, and his commissioned works include a radio play for BBC Radio 3 and his BBC short film Anoraks which was selected for LOCO Festival at the BFI and LFF For Free. Miles is currently developing his first short film as a writer/director. As an actor, Miles’ screen credits include Manhunt and Doc Martin.

Charlie Tidmas, writer, director (he/him)
Charlie is a screenwriter and director who has received short film commissions from BFI NETWORK and Channel 4’s Random Acts. He has a feature project in early development with BFI NETWORK, is currently in production co-directing a Doc Society short film, and recently sat on a panel for emerging screenwriting talent at BFI London Film Festival. His debut play ran at the Hope Mill Theatre. Charlie is a BAFTA Connect member and has previously been a BAFTA Mentee. He works as a script reader for the BBC and BFI. He also works freelance as a script editor for film and television. Charlie studied MA Screenwriting at Met Film School in London and achieved the first Distinction in the school’s history. His graduation script placed in a range of international competitions including the Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

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