The duo behind Hot Coals Productions have plenty of irons in the fire, including a feature-length version of their acclaimed short My Darling Christopher and other film and TV projects. Director/writer/producer Clare-Louise English, who is deaf, and neurodiverse producer/writer Jo Sargeant have honed a range of skills, collaborating for more than 10 years since meeting at RADA in the inaugural year of the academy’s MA theatre lab.

“We have always been very inspired by Charlie Chaplin,” says English, who splits her time between Folkstone and London. “I think one of the reasons is because he did everything — he wrote, directed, acted, produced and, of course, tackled the big issues with comedy.”

Originally training as actors before working in theatre, the duo pivoted to the screen when the pandemic saw a planned stage production of My Darling Christopher morph into a short film, which had an award-winning festival run. Sargeant and English have since made two shorts, We Care and Indefinitely — written by and starring Steph Lacey and Karl Knights respectively — in a collection entitled Talking Bodies. The shorts, which bring disabled people’s stories to the fore, are a response to Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues and are currently on the festival circuit, with Indefinitely already notching up a prize at California’s Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema.

The pair look to push the envelope in terms of accessibility — producing, along with Bridge06, an About Time! event last October to challenge the lack of representation and opportunity for disabled actors. Within their own films, their attention to detail extends down to subtitling, which is integrated into the aesthetic and not just an afterthought.

Sargeant, who has dual Swiss/British nationality, says the subtitles are not just about accessibility for a deaf audience. “It’s thinking about neurodivergence as well, and the way different colours affect different people and how easy they are to read.”

Upcoming projects include a deaf-led TV crime drama, with Yellow Bird UK, adapted from Nell Pattison’s Silent series of books. They are also writing a comedy drama that is in development with ITV Studios’ 5 Acts Productions. “There is so much talent out there in the deaf and disabled community that just hasn’t had its time in the sun yet,” says English. “It’s time to shine.”

Contact: Jo Sargeant and Clare-Louise English, Hot Coals Productions