BFI NETWORK@LFF cohort announcement

We are thrilled to unveil this year’s cohort of writers, directors, and producers selected to take part in BFI NETWORK@LFF talent development programme!

30 September 2023

L to R: T: Abraham Adeyemi, Hayley Williams, Caleb J. Roberts, Dan Thorburn, Warda Mohamed. Femi Oladigbolu, Andrew Rutter, Kamal Kaan, Lowri Roberts, Maria Caruana Galizia. Simone Smith, Solène Guichard, Tobi Kyeremateng, Dipo Baruwa-Etti, Xenia Glen

BFI NETWORK@LFF is back with our annual flagship talent development programme! This year’s cohort will take part in an immersive experience nestled at the heart of the BFI London Film Festival, proudly presented in partnership with American Express. The programme will take place during the London Film Festival from 6- 9 October 2023.

Tailored to support and encourage fresh voices, BFI NETWORK@LFF embraces diverse approaches and perspectives, actively seeking filmmakers keen on shaking up cinematic conventions. This year’s programme is a great opportunity for emerging talents to delve into the dynamic London Film Festival program. They will engage with premieres from UK and international filmmakers, learn from industry experts, and build connections with peers eager to share knowledge and experiences.

With support from the BFI and National Lottery, BFI NETWORK@LFF has a compelling history of empowering filmmakers to pursue their aspirations, and many of our alumni have gone on to achieve highly successful careers. Past participants have made significant contributions to the industry, creating award-winning shorts and features, and securing roles in film, television, and various creative industries.

This year, BFI NETWORK@LFF is shining a spotlight on filmmakers with strong and unique voices, pushing the boundaries of what UK film can offer audiences. Chosen from a pool of 400 applications, our cohort of talented and ambitious writers, directors, and producers brings a diverse range of industry experience and insight. Selected based on the quality of their past short-form work and the feature projects they are currently developing, these fifteen early career filmmakers stand out as distinctive storytellers with fresh perspectives and the potential to make a real impact.

The full list of creatives taking part in BFI NETWORK@LFF 2023:

Abraham Adeyemi | Writer-Director

Abraham is a multi-award-winning writer-director from South London. His directorial debut No More Wings world premiered and won best narrative short at Tribeca Film Festival. Currently he is developing TV series South London, I Love You (co-created with fellow participant Femi Oladigbolu and John Ogunmuyiwa), feature film Teacher & I with Film 4/Greenacre and an adaptation-sequel to his Film 4-backed short Chasing the Night. He’s participated in several writers’ rooms (including Netflix and BBC Studios), shadow-directed on Top Boy season 2 and is currently developing a pilot under the mentorship of Jesse Armstrong (Succession). He is a socks and green tea enthusiast.

Dipo Baruwa-Etti | Writer-Director

Dipo Baruwa-Etti is a playwright and filmmaker. As writer-director, his short films include the award-winning The Last Days (BFI NETWORK/BBC/Tannahill Productions) starring Adjoa Andoh and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn. As a playwright, his work includes The Clinic (Almeida Theatre); An unfinished man (Yard Theatre); The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars (Stratford East); and Half-Empty Glasses (Paines Plough). He is published by Faber, has been shortlisted for Evening Standard, George Devine and Alfred Fagon Awards, and sits on the board of Shakespeare’s Globe. Dipo is currently developing new projects for film, television and theatre.

Maria Caruana Galizia | Producer

Maria Caruana Galizia runs Candle & Bell, a Gateshead based production company. Maria produced ShortFLIX 2 for Sky Arts and CreativeUK in 2023. She is in development on Marwell by Benjamin Bee, supported by the BFI Filmmaking Fund and Venice Biennale Cinema College, and Soon We Will All Be History Here by Saeed Taji Farouky supported by Torino Script Lab, Jordan Film Fund and AFAC. Maria has produced 15 short films including the RTS NE award winners They Live in Forests, They Are Extremely Shy and She Lives Alone, the BAFTA long-listed Mordechai and the BIFA long-listed A Six and Two Threes by Andy Berriman. In 2023 Candle & Bell was awarded BBC Small Indie Fund support and currently has a comedy sitcom in development with BBC Comedy.

Xenia Glen | Writer-Director

Xenia is a writer, director and producer. Her work includes Alo (BFI NETWORK 2023), My Filipino (LSFF), and Backbone (BBC Arts). Xenia’s in development on features Carabao (BFI NETWORK ‘Early Development Fund’) and Brides which, as a short screenplay, was shortlisted for ‘Future Takes’ (Film4, BFI). Xenia co-founded Sleepwalker, a Dorset-based company and filmmaker collective, after receiving the John Brabourne Award. At Sleepwalker, Xenia’s in production on Migrants on the Midway and The Wounds We Keep (as producer, supported by Brigstow Seedcorn). From 2018-2022, Xenia worked at Misfits Entertainment in development/production. Most recently, Xenia participated in ‘Shorts2Features’ (BFI NETWORK).

Solène Guichard | Writer-Director

Solene is a French writer/director based in Belfast. After graduating from Queens University Belfast with a Masters in Film Studies, Solene made her first funded short with BBC NI. She then participated in the Northern Ireland Screen’s New Short Focus Scheme in 2018 with her film Kelly. Her work was screened at Outfest LA, Rhode Island, Cork International Film Festival and Belfast Film Festival. Solene received funding from Future Screens NI and the Arts Council NI. In 2023, she started developing her first feature and took part in the X-Pollinator CREATOR scheme with Aisling Walsh as a creative mentor.

Kamal Kaan | Writer

Kamal writes for stage, screen and radio. Listed in Prolific North’s top scriptwriters of 2017. After reading Architecture at The University of Cambridge he completed an MA in TV Fiction Writing at Glasgow Caledonian University and the Royal Court Young Writers programme. Kamal was story, location and cultural consultant on double BAFTA nominated Ali & Ava (2022) written and directed by Clio Barnard, world premiere at Cannes Film Festival. He was Development and Story Consultant on Dance School for Channel 4 (broadcasting 2024). He has completed Me & The Witch – a short film for Channel 4. His BFI short film All The Lights Still Burning premieres at the London Film Festival (2023).

Tobi Kyeremateng | Producer

Tobi Kyeremateng is a BAFTA-winning film & TV producer from South London. Working across both narrative and documentary, she has produced work internationally for renowned broadcasters and media such as BBC, BFI, Channel 4, Film 4, Netflix, NOWNESS, Sky Arts, and more — including the E4 comedy-drama series How To Be A Person which won ‘Best Short Form Programme’ at the 2023 BAFTA Television Awards. Tobi is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts and was featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 – Europe – Art and Culture 2022 list. In 2022, she was selected to be part of the BAFTA Elevate programme for producers.

Warda Mohamed | Writer-Director

Warda is a multifaceted director, writer, and filmmaker driven by a passion for compelling storytelling. She made her directorial debut with the groundbreaking short film Sorry, My Somali is Not Very Good, which premiered on BFI Player and garnered recognition at the Aesthetica Film Festival in 2021. Currently, Warda’s short film Muna, backed by BBC Films, is making waves on the festival circuit, while she simultaneously develops her feature film Moon. With a foray into theatre, Warda’s directorial debut in Dugsi Dayz a comedic adaptation of The Breakfast Club won the 2023 Untapped award and BBC Writersroom Popcorn Award.

Femi Oladigbolu | Writer-Director

Femi Oladigbolu is a writer-director from South London. With a Nigerian heritage, Femi’s talent lies in subtle storytelling, creating warmth and affinity for characters with thick subtext and light humour. In 2022 Femi won a writing competition run by BBH and directed his latest short Oba which has been screened at several international festivals. Femi also has an extensive background directing commercials and music videos; his videos have amassed millions of views, his video for Pa Salieu, My Family, won the UKMVA for best hip hop video and he was nominated for best new director in the same year.

Caleb J. Roberts | Writer-Director

Caleb J. Roberts is an award-winning queer writer/director from Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 2021, he became the first transgender person to receive funding from Northern Ireland Screen to write and direct short fiction. Caleb’s two BFI and Northern Ireland Screen-funded short films Homebird (2022) and Malcolm (2023) have screened and won at numerous BAFTA, BIFA and Academy qualifying festivals internationally.

Focusing on themes surrounding masculinity, queerness, and place/lessness, Caleb’s work delivers authentic representation from a working-class, transmasculine perspective. Caleb is currently in the early stages of development on his debut feature film.

Lowri Roberts | Writer-Director

Lowri Roberts is a BAFTA Cymru-winning producer and filmmaker from North Wales. She studied in Bristol and worked in the industry there for a number of years before moving to rural Somerset where she is now based. After producing and directing some successful short films, she co-founded the production company, Rapt, with her producing partner Maisie Williams. There, she’s developing a number of feature films and series. Two of her features are in development with BFI, following support from Ffilm Cymru Wales and she’s partnered with notable co-producers on a couple of the series.

Andrew Rutter | Writer-Director

Andrew is an emerging writer/director from the Black Country whose films have played globally at some of the most prestigious genre festivals in the world. After a successful festival run, his short film Peter the Penguin premiered on ALTER, one of the leading horror short film platforms online. He was then invited to write and direct an episode of Bite Size Halloween for Disney which premiered on Hulu in 2022. He’s currently in early development for his first feature film.

Simone Smith | Writer-Director

Simone Smith is a self-taught filmmaker from Glasgow. Her independent short film Slap was nominated for a Scottish BAFTA and won Jury Special Mention at the Glasgow Short Film Festival, hailed as “surreal poetry” and “an impressionistic knockout” by BFI Sight and Sound. Her debut short film Red won a BAFTA New Talent award, and her latest BFI NETWORK-funded film, The Möbius Trip, now in the festival circuit, won another Jury Special Mention at the GSFF, praised for its “radicalism” and “strong and adventurous cinematic vision”. Since then, it has gone on to screen at multiple revered festivals, including Edinburgh International Film Festival, Hollyshorts, Encounters, Beyond Fest, and recently won the Grand Jury Award at the Chicago Underground Film Festival, the longest-running underground film festival in the world.

Dan Thorburn | Writer-Director

Dan is a writer and director from the North of England. Originally a painter, he studied at Central Saint Martins School of Art where he transitioned his practice into film. He has directed two award winning BFI NETWORK funded shorts: Trucker’s Atlas and Salt Water Town. Alongside his intense drama, his portfolio expands to Art Council funded contemporary dance film. Dan is a BAFTA Connect member and an alumni of Screen Yorkshire’s FLEX. He has recently won the Sony Future Filmmaker award 2023 and his debut feature Barfly recently won ‘Best Project’ at the Galway Film Marketplace.

Hayley Williams | Producer

Hayley Williams is a BAFTA-nominated, BIFA-winning Producer from Wales. Hayley developed an award-winning music video department and a number of successful directors before moving into narrative work. She produced short film Femme, directed by Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping, starring Paapa Essiedu and Harris Dickinson. She also made Louis Bhose’s Canal+ prize winning short film Calving starring Steven Mackintosh. Most recently she was the producer of Josh Fader’s short film Seekers starring Sonoya Mizuno and Alex Hassel. Hayley is most passionate about stories that are moving, thought provoking, and full of heart.