Ruth Greenberg has made the leap from screenwriter to director with her powerful short Run, and is set to step into the ring with boxing drama and first feature Sugar.

“It’s a female-centred film about trauma and domestic violence, played out through the story of a woman who boxes,” says the filmmaker. “It’s also very much about the relationship between the main character and her trainer, who is also a woman.”

Sugar is in late-stage development at the BFI, produced by Ivana MacKinnon and Emily Leo at Wild Swim Films, with Niamh Algar attached as lead.

“I’m interested in women and violence, not just as victims but also as perpetrators,” says Greenberg of a subject she also explored in Run. The short marked her first collaboration with Algar, and depicts the fear and anger of a lone female runner who senses she is being pursued. “It proved to me that I wanted to direct,” says Greenberg. “My first instinct, when asked to direct, was to say no because there was a certain amount of feeling that I was an imposter. That’s a little embarrassing to admit because if I’d been a man in that situation, I’d have just said yes.”

Directing marks a new chapter for London-­born Greenberg, who had always thought writing was how she would work in film. She studied for a literature degree and masters in creative writing at Trinity College Dublin, writing screenplays while others focused on prose or poetry. She began her PhD in 2008, writing about competition and violence in popular cinema with female protagonists.

Out of that came the script for The Competitors, a futuristic feminist western that co-topped the 2016 Brit List and brought Greenberg to the attention of Saint Maud producer Oliver Kassman. He engaged her to write the screenplay for The Origin, a paleolithic horror film directed by 2021 Star of Tomorrow Andrew Cumming, that has just finished.

It also led to writing an untitled horror project with Imaginarium and Vertigo in the US; period horror The Black Spider with Germany’s DCM; and India-set The Spark, directed by Eva Weber for Rooks Nest. “I want to continue collaborating as a writer,” says Greenberg. “But on the stories I come up with, I can’t imagine handing them over and will direct myself — unless Lynne Ramsay asks for it, of course.”

Contact: Tanya Tillett, The Agency (maternity cover: Sophie Kelleher)