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Fertile Ground

This year’s Guiding Lights mentoring programme produced more than just films, as Sarah Cooper discovered at the wrap party.

Up and coming British film-makers rubbed shoulders with mentors Mike Newell, Roger Michell, Sandra Hebron and Iain Smith at a special champagne reception held at BAFTA Tuesday night to celebrate the wrap of this year’s Guiding Lights programme.

Run by Lighthouse and funded by Skillset, the scheme (now in its fourth year) paired 25 talented young writers, directors, producers and cinematographers with high profile mentors who also included Sam Mendes, Barbara Broccoli, Kevin Macdonald, Iain Smith and Christopher Hampton.

I got chatting to one of this year’s participants, former Screen Star of Tomorrow and upcoming director Emma Sullivan, who has just come back from Georgia [the American one] where she spent a week shadowing The Road director John Hillcoat on the set of his new film The Wettest County In The World.

The film features an all-star cast including Shia LaBeouf and Mia Wasikowska (great chemistry apparently!) together with Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce and Jessica Chastain, and according to Emma, who read the script, watched the rushes and hung out on set, the film is looking fantastic.

Currently in talks with Film4 on her debut feature Tread Softly (she is writing the second draft as we speak), did Emma pick up any tips from the master?

“I think one of the most important things I learned from John is confirmation that you don’t have to subscribe to the control freak school of directing. There is a dangerous mythology that you have to be manipulative to get good performances and be in control of the crews every move in an OCD way — it’s rubbish. John is a great collaborator who’s admired and liked by his team.”

Back to Guiding Lights, and as a mark of the programme’s success, this year’s crop has produced 14 features since the scheme launched last year including Ian Clark’s debut feature, an intelligent horror called Guinea Pigs, which is being backed by Vertigo Films.

They’ve also been, ahem, working hard in their spare time, with six of the mentees having babies during the programme.  

As “hands on” as the mentors were, Guiding Lights organiser Emily Kyriakides assures me they had nothing to do with these particular productions….

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