Applications open today for aspiring film makers to be part of the next cohort of the BBC’s New Documentary Directors’ Initiative.

The Intiative finds and supports the next generation of documentary film makers, giving four participants the opportunity to produce and direct their first long form documentary for BBC Three and iPlayer.

Alumni of the scheme have directed award-winning films including Defending Digga D, which won director Marian Mohamed the BAFTA for Emerging Factual Talent, Ziyaad Desai’s Bad Influencer, and Manchester Bomb: Our Story by Lizzie Kempton.

Many alumni from the initiative have moved on to direct on BBC documentary series like Parole, Ambulance, House of Maxwell and The Elon Musk Show and on powerful one-off films like Hunting the Essex Lorry Killers and The Case of Sally Challen.

The new directors receive a series of masterclasses from experienced industry talent and are housed in production companies who will support them to make their first film. Each director is partnered with an executive producer who acts as a mentor throughout the process. In the past they have included Charlie Russell and Dov Freedman at Curious Films, Emma Wakefield at Lambent and Colin Barr at Expectation.

Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, says: I’m thrilled that the New Directors’ Initiative is opening its doors once again for aspiring film makers. We want to provide opportunities for directing talent to grow their careers and tell the stories that really matter to the audience. The diverse range of new voices breaking through on this initiative have not only cut through on iPlayer, they have punched well above their weight.”

Beejal-Maya Patel, Commissioning Editor, Documentaries says: “Getting that first break is so important and I’m delighted that we are once again opening up applications. The initiative offers an incredible opportunity to access masterclasses and mentoring from some of the leading names in the industry, giving the new directors the support they need. Their final film will give them a fantastic calling card to help build their careers.

Case studies of previous participants
Lindsay Konieczny

Prior to the initiative, Lindsay was a producer on the Grierson Award winning Stephen: A Murder That Changed A Nation (BBC One) and Channel 4’s docudrama series, The Trial: A Murder In The Family. Her directorial debut Sudden Death: My Sister’s Silent Killer (BBC Three) received a Grierson Award nomination. She was also nominated for Best Director at the New Voice Awards.

Since the scheme, she has continued to direct across multiple projects, including Parole from Raw TV which she filmed across a year with exclusive access to parole hearings, prisoners, their victims and families.

“As a female Producer, it was a challenge to get the opportunity; I was only ever seen as a Producer, so the ideas that I’d develop would often be handed to experienced directors. The BBC New Directors’ Initiative gave me the support, training and trust to not only make a single film, but to create something that reflected the intimate style of filmmaking that defines and excites me.”

Ziyaad Desai

Ziyaad has produced and directed films including Mother Theresa: For the Love of God (Sky Docs), Bad Influencer (BBC Three) and Being Muslim (BBC One). Since the New Directors Initiative, Ziyaad has gone on to work on international series and feature docs for Amazon and Netflix. His work has been nominated for RTS and Edinburgh awards. Ziyaad recently joined the Sky Docs team as an Assistant Commissioner.

“For me, the New Directors Initiative was the single most formative experience of a ten year career in docs. With support from the BBC and Minnow Films, I made a documentary that was watched by millions and opened up an incredible world of new filmmaking opportunities.”

Danielle Spears

Danielle Spears made Bad Love: Why Did Fri Kill Kyle (BBC Three) as part of the BBC New Directors’ Initiative, a story which she pitched and developed to commission.

Since making Bad Love Danielle has been directing a presenter-led observational series at Minnow Films for BBC Three and is working as a Producer/Director on a new three part BBC Two series.

“The mentoring I received from my Commissioner Beejal Patel, my Execs Colin Barr and Ruth Kelly at Expectation and in working with the brilliant editor James Gold, really gave me the skills and the confidence to tell this complex and nuanced story about domestic abuse and culpability in a young relationship in an objective and compelling way.”

Niamh Kennedy

In 2017 Niamh won a place on the BBC’s New Directors’ Initiative. When entering the industry 11 years previously, she’d always wanted to direct but struggled to get a break. In the five years since the initiative, she has made four 60’ single films for the BBC including Joey Essex: Grief and Me (BBC Three) and Hunting the Essex Lorry Killers (BBC Two). She is in production on a feature documentary – Family 23 – for BBC Two, and is directing a three part series with Raw TV.

“The initiative was a hugely positive experience for me. The most rewarding aspect was being given the freedom to experiment with my own creative vision for the film, but also having dedicated support and guidance from the commissioners and the production company (Century Films). It gave me an opportunity to develop my voice as a director, and to develop a strong relationship with the BBC, creating work that closely aligned with my values and storytelling sensibilities.”


Applications can be made here.

Picture shows Left to right:  Lindsay Konieczny, Niamh Kennedy and Ziyaad Desai

Pippa Considine

Share this story

Share Televisual stories within your social media posts.
Be inclusive: is open access without the need to register.
Anyone and everyone can access this post with minimum fuss.