Features / Film

BAFTA Film: The Sessions – A look back at the event for the ‘Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer’ category

With Awards Season in full swing, and all the nominees announced for this years BAFTAs, we wanted to share some great insight from Monday night’s BAFTA Film: The Sessions that took place with the superb nominees in the Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer category.

Of course, The Session took place virtually and included nominees writer/director Rose Glass and producer Oliver Kassman (Saint Maud), producer Irune Gurtubai and writer/director Ben Sharrock (Limbo), writer Theresa Ikoko (Rocks), writer/producer Jack Sidey (Moffie) and writer/director Remi Weekes (His House). Below are some tasty quotes alongside genuine insight into the process of making their films and even more behind-the-scenes discussion.


On the casting process

On the casting process, it was a long process it took about 18 months, we ended up with a mix of actors and non-actors, and people we found. We did some TV and radio publicity to try and get people. We brought on a military advisor who we ran a boot camp with who put them through their paces to try and understand what it was like to be an 18-year-old kid in that time and place. Yeah, I think it was brutal at times but was sort of necessary.


On finding Maud as a character and the horror genre

Quite early on I think one of the key things when Oliver and I first teamed up on it, he was the first person who I sort got stuck into the story in depth with when we first decided to start developing it together. I had quite a crude version of the story in my head at that point, I had a little treatment and some mood boards, and I gave them to Oliver and one of the first things he said when reading them, he thought it felt like a horror film. I hadn’t thought of it in those terms at all, more like a character study but maybe thriller-ish. So, I think at first, I resisted the idea, but then naturally over the next couple of years before we got it in development properly with Film4 and it was just this thing we battled back and forth together on the side it just sort of naturally veered that way.  I knew I wanted it to be a super subjective experience and then the story that this girl was going through became increasingly horrifying and it make sense to bring that out in how we shot it.


On how the research informed the emotion of the characters

“I guess a big part of the story [of His House] hinges on the idea that, when you’re claiming asylum, you have to adhere to really strict, very draconian rules, if you’re given a house, you’re not allowed to leave and you’re given very little money and you’re not allowed to find a job. For many people it’s such a bizarre and really traumatising experience especially when you don’t know the country and you’re housed in a very suburban and disorientating place and that was I guess the anchor to the entire story.”

On how the film has been received

“It’s really hard to know [how people have received the film] because it’s so surreal, the whole experience, and I’m not really online and I don’t have a social media presence so I’m not seeing much. Also, I’m stuck in my house, so I can’t wait to get out and see what other people are saying. It all feels a bit like a dream, I’m still convinced that this is a really long con that my flatmates are playing this long trick on me and all this is make believe, as I’m all getting is from the computer and so it still doesn’t 100% feel like it’s happening.”


On the origins of the project

 “When the refugee crisis became very prevalent in the media I was really struck by the representation of refugees in the media and I felt that there was this kind of process of dehumanisation, where we had the demonising of refugees on one side and the pitying of refugees on the other side and there wasn’t this kind of gap in the middle where we were just looking at them as human beings like us. At that point I was still in touch with friends I’d made in Syria and I knew that I wanted to write a film about this subject matter.”


On the reaction to Rocks

“There is something special about seeing yourself reflected, about the viability of your stories. I personally, when I first started writing this years ago, I remember having those conversations where the viabilities of our stories were questioned, so it’s been quite a special one to say, ‘I told you so’ to a lot of people who questioned that, and to make sure that some audience members will never have those questions because they can say, well look over there.” 

BAFTA Film: The Sessions take place online from Monday 22 March until Thursday 1 April and activity is open to industry and public guests, with free tickets available now at events.bafta.org

Recordings of BAFTA Film: The Sessions 2021 are available on BAFTA Guru, BAFTA’s online learning channel www.bafta.org/guru and www.youtube.com/baftaguru

The EE BAFTA Film Awards will take place over a weekend of celebration on April 10 and 11 on the BBC.

Credit/Quotes: BAFTA


2 thoughts on “BAFTA Film: The Sessions – A look back at the event for the ‘Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer’ category

  1. Pingback: BAFTA Film: The Sessions – Highlights and insight from the ‘Supporting Actor and Actress’ nominees | critical popcorn

  2. Pingback: BAFTA Film: The Sessions – Quotes from nominated Directors Sarah Gavron, Shannon Murphy, Chloe Zhao, Thomas Vinterberg and Jasmila Žbanić | critical popcorn

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