The film industry can be an incredibly intimidating space to enter, especially for a young creative. Every aspiring filmmaker or creative in general has their own background, story and experience. Although the creative scene is full of talented individuals, quite frankly not everyone has the same accessibility and opportunity to have the best chance to make it.
We’re partnering with Adobe in a new BAFTA conversation series to provide young people with some inspiration and guidance needed when forging a career path within the film and TV industry.
In support of BAFTA Guru Live, Adobe Insider and Photographer/Director Ron Timehin interviewed Oscar-nominated Director Cornelius Walker on how he has managed to overcome barriers faced. From his experience of getting a foot in the door into the film industry; to the obstacles he encountered and the success he had producing the Oscar-nominated Black Sheep.
As an extension of the conversation series, we hosted a discussion in partnership with Adobe on Twitter Spaces about ‘What it’s like working in the film industry?‘ We looked into our community of creators to find emerging filmmakers to further discuss with Cornelius some of the topics covered in the Guru Live series, and connected him with another amazing filmmaker to share perspectives from the different stages in their respective careers.
Lolly, a London-based Director & DOP. She has a few years of experience working with brands, influencers, and artists to produce authentic, relatable, and engaging visual content for their audiences. Lolly continually aims to challenge the status quo by being a black female navigating within the film production industry. Being a strong advocate for women of colour who work in the industry, she built a platform to empower the community called #WomenCreateToo.
Cornelius Walker, a Writer & Director based in London, England. His love for film sprouted at a young age and his passion blossomed shortly after being inspired by a teacher he had during his time in Canada. Early in his career, Cornelius self-funded his own short films, creating opportunities to learn and increase his skill set. Since leaving film school, Cornelius has worked at ITV Studios, as well as co-founding his own company to work on projects for some major international clients. His documentary “BLACK SHEEP” was produced by Lightbox Entertainment and The Guardian and went on to secure an Academy Award nomination. Also nominated at the IDA Awards, it went on to win 13 titles at a series of film festivals.
We have taken some of the key talking points from the Twitter Spaces discussion to hopefully shed some more insight into the industry and help to reduce some of those barriers to entry.
What initially inspired your love for film?
Well, you know how it is. When I was young I watched Richie Rich. I watched all these films and I used to think they were real. So since I was young I kind of saw film as a real thing. I took it very seriously but I didn’t know it could be a profession. So my family relocated to Canada and I had this English teacher named Ms Authur. I was writing a book at the time, I don’t even know why and she basically just read it. She said you remind me of a French writer and it just gave me encouragement to think, oh maybe I can do this creative stuff. Then we watched a film called ‘Into the Wild’, written and directed by Sean Penn and literally from that moment I was like whatever this film is, I like the way it touched me, this what I want to do with my life. So I litterally just dropped out of every single class except from Ms Authur’s and I would read scripts and watch films every single day. I guess for me I really wanted be a writer at first and then I was like no, more visual, I want to be a Director.Cornelius Walker
The moment you first picked up a camera?
I thought Directors always have a DOP. When I realised nobody’s going to hire me I had to pick up the camera myself. Like litterally, even with Governor B, my friend who is a musician, it was more like my other friend was the camera guy. He didn’t want to produce so I end up producing it. This gave me an idea of how the financial side of film making works. So I think for me everything has just been out of necessity. Like I have to find a way to make my dreams and my vision come to life. So I pick up and will do whatever is needed really.Cornelius Walker
Let’s talk about some of the barriers in the industry?
I know for myself, it’s hard coming into the industry, especially being someone self taught. You know, the journey that I’ve taken is not your typical journey, and I like that it’s original, you know. There is obviously barriers that come with that, especially for me, being a female DOP is not very seen. It’s something that people are just getting used to, seeing a female behind the camera. Also I find that accesilitiy is another issue. Not going to film school and being able to have forged these amazing relationships with other people in the industry, I had to start from scratch.Lolly Comms
Dealing with Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is almost like you don’t believe that you’re meant to be in the space that you are in. I think it just comes from a comes from the lack of seeing other people that look like you in that space and not being comfortable with that makes sense. So for me I think the more I get on set and the more I do i’m becoming more confident but that it gets easier with experience. It is not something that will ever go away. It just get’s a little easier with confidence and experience.Cornelius Walker
Some Tips for Emerging Creatives?
Build a community build like two or three friends and support each other and help each other encourage each other. Two or three friends, support each other, help each other and encourage each other. Iron sharpens iron and i’m so blessed that Thomas and Ade, Koby Adom and Adjani Salmon are my boys. When we were broke and we had nothing we would just encourage each other.
Before Koby made Haircut we would watch this and film making thing on camera angles but that encouragement and helping each other really helped. Go on each others film sets and challenge each other read each others scripts.
Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are all friends. If Martin can’t do a job he’ll call Spike Lee or George. We need to have that in our communities. We need to have friends that we are familiar with.
On top of all of this just Study and find Study buddies.Cornelius Walker
How Mentorship and Shadowing lead to an opportunity to work on Peaky Blinders?
It’s so important that you shadow your friends. I mean, you’ve got to collect your 10 thousand hours and part of that is being on set. I think it’s good to network and make friends and not just stick to film people there are people that work on a desk and people that do different elements to the film industry. The first year I did Jury at Estetica Film Festival I met a woman named Marion we had a similar taste in films but she worked for Studio Canal at the time. During Covid, I reconnected with her and she was like how can I help you, she had just moved to working at Sky. I was like I’m trying to get into TV, I need to get on set. She was like do mind shadowing? I said I’m ready, let me do it.
My boy Koby shadowed on Top Boy before he went on to direct Noughts and Crosses and he told me how vital it was. So I literally started going and shadowing and I met the Director and the Producer of Peaky Blinders and they were like are you cool to do some splinter units and I said what’s that? But also said yeah and I got there and they were like we haven’t got time to shoot one of the scenes for episode 2 do you want to do it and said yeah let’s go.Cornelius Walker
The point Cornelius made on building a community is such a relevant and powerful one. This collaboration with Adobe has helped bring together a new and exciting generation of filmmakers who connected through some deep and powerful conversations. Not only this, but it has created a stage for countless others who tuned into the Twitter Spaces event and the BAFTA Guru Live series to share in these insights and tips.
The conversation between Lolly and Cornelius was a truly insightful and, at times, incredibly intimate opportunity to get a fly-on-the-wall experience of what it’s like breaking into and navigating the film industry. If you felt inspired by the extracts from the event, you can find even more inspiration and tips on the BAFTA Guru YouTube channel, where Cornelius Walker delves into the barriers faced as a Black creator – Tune in here.