Emerging unscripted directors have been given a major career boost through an initiative launched by BBC Scotland and Screen Scotland.

Under a new scheme which pairs emerging directors based in Scotland with seasoned production companies, behind the scenes talent are getting the chance to step up with their first TV director’s credit.

The BBC Scotland/Screen Scotland Emerging Directors scheme is part of the ongoing drive from BBC Scotland and Screen Scotland to support emerging talent pipelines in Scotland, plugging new directors into major new documentary commissions.

The new directors will work on a range of programmes for BBC Scotland, including a three-part series on junior doctors, a three-part series presented by author Graeme Armstrong on street gang culture in Scotland, and three one-off documentaries; TikTok star Nathan Evans who went viral with his sea shanty ‘Wellerman’, former Love Island star Anton Danyluk on the crisis in confidence when it comes to boys and their bodies, and a wife’s perspective of her husband’s cage-fighting career, as he readies himself to fight for $1 Million.

As part of the BBC Scotland/Screen Scotland Emerging Directors initiative, the production companies involved have provided training, guidance and support to the new directors, while the BBC has supported the development and production of each documentary, as well co-ordinating ‘masterclasses’ with leading industry experts.

Tony Nellany, BBC Scotland Channel Manager and Commissioning Executive, says: “BBC Scotland has a strong track record in supporting and developing talent in front and behind the scenes. Working with Screen Scotland, we are delighted with the talent and the commissioned projects which have come through in the first year of this new initiative. Documentary filmmaking has always been a strength of the TV sector here in Scotland, but in the wake of the pandemic, it was possibly more difficult for aspiring directors to make connections. But it is a sector that thrives on new thinking, new ideas and people from a range of backgrounds and this initiative is very much about creating an opportunity to showcase these talents.”

Head of Unscripted at Screen Scotland and Executive Producer Dani Carlaw says: “Screen Scotland takes pride in pioneering initiatives such as the Emerging Directors Initiative alongside BBC Scotland. We see this as a great opportunity for emerging talent based here in Scotland to build strong directing careers.”

The three-part series on gang culture picks up themes in author Graeme Armstrong’s acclaimed book The Young Team. As a former gang member, Graeme is aiming to get under the skin of this subculture, presenting the documentary series, to find out what drives violence and mob mentality, how social media is contributing, and what can be done to stop it. It is being produced by Tern TV, whose series with social commentator Darren McGarvey for BBC Scotland recently won a BAFTA for Best Documentary series. At the helm as Series Producer is seasoned operative Pete Stanton, but two of the three episodes will be directed by the Emerging Directors Jo Pagan and Alistair Ferguson.

An award-winning Editor, Alistair has ‘seen the light’ and traded small dark cutting rooms to focus on production, with this series providing his first credit as director. An established TV producer juggling family commitments with young children, Jo Pagan branched out with her own company to produce corporate films. Now through the Emerging Directors Initiative, she has been given the opportunity to direct her first high profile documentary.

Says Jo Pagan: “I chose to leave TV after many years as a Producer. I found family life and TV didn’t mix, so I started my own company filming corporates, charity films and weddings to fit in around young children. I had always thought about directing but didn’t have the experience. Working for my own company, making corporate shorts, I realised that I enjoyed the directing side of the job. But I had then been away from television for a few years and only had a background in producing, so this scheme has been an amazing opportunity to get me back in the door and allow me to direct my first serious documentary.”

As part of the ED scheme, Tern TV are also producing a three-part series about junior doctors. Based at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, this new series will feature a range of doctors with different specialisms. The Emerging Director on one of the episodes will be Dr Isa Rao, who has a Phd in Cognitive Neuroscience. Isa’s TV career started as a researcher on Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, but she has since moved onto documentary production, and this will be her first foray into mainstream directing.

Two of the stand-alone documentaries are co-productions by Storyboard Studios and Specky Productions, led respectively by esteemed film-makers Natalie Humphreys and Anne-Claire Pilley.

One focusing on Airdrie-born TikTok sea shanty sensation Nathan Evans, who having been offered a three-album deal with an international record label, attempts to make a name for himself as a singer song-writer and escape ‘the one hit wonder’ tag to become Scotland’s next big star. Directing this 45-minute film is Neil Sargent, who comes from a background in journalism and creative writing, and has previously developed a career as a producer and archive producer.

The other is told through the eyes of Natalie Ray. It follows her husband Stevie ‘Braveheart’ Ray’s attempt to become Scotland’s first Mixed Martial Arts world champion, as he enters the ring in Madison Square Gardens, New York, for the chance to win $1 Million. This 30-minute film is being directed by Christine Johnston, who is moving into directing after building a solid career as a producer and short-form director, following an early stint as a researcher and Assistant Producer.

Another documentary coming through the ED scheme sees former Love Island star Anton Danyluk look at the issue of male body image insecurities fuelled in part of by images of ‘ripped’ male body types on reality TV. It is being made by Firecrest TV, with renowned documentary maker Mick McAvoy as Executive Producer. Directing is Libby Penman, who has a background in short filmmaking on outdoor and wildlife subjects.

Pippa Considine

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