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Newcomers Program: Meet Our Participants

23 September 2016

BAFTA Los Angeles is proud to introduce the current participants of our Newcomers Program.

The BAFTA Los Angeles Newcomers Program offers UK professionals and students a supportive hand during the early stages of their careers in the US. The program is aimed at UK industry professionals and students who work in or study film or television and have recently moved to Los Angeles.

Participants of the 2016/17 program:

Carina Birrell

Raised in Glasgow, Carina trained at the Italia Conti Academy, London. She was recently awarded Best Actress at the 2015 British Horror Film Awards for her performance in the psychological thriller, Wandering Rose. She stars in two British feature films due for release later this year. Carina is also co-producing an archive documentary feature with Scottish BAFTA winner, Matthew Pinder and the support of BBC Scotland, as well as, having a feature film in early stages of development, and recently writing, producing and starring in comedy sketch LA Girlfriend for We Like Laughter. She is very excited to be in LA, and extremely grateful to be a part of the BAFTA community here.

Andrew Blackburn

Writer & Director Andrew Blackburn trained on Isle of Man Film's Production course before moving to London at 19 to begin a career directing commercials. His ability to capture natural and authentic performances has led to global TV campaigns for Kellogg's, Pampers, Nestle and Fisher Price amongst many others. His debut feature film Being Nice, a comedy-drama set in an advertising agency, was released in November 2014. He moved to Los Angeles in February 2015.

Julian Booth

Julian is a Welsh actor and stand-up comedian originally from Newport, South Wales. After completing formal acting training in London, he then studied in Los Angeles with well-renowned acting coach and former film/television actress Dianne Hull, herself taught by Lee Strasberg and legendary American director, Elia Kazan. Since relocating to LA, Julian has wrapped up several indie-features and shorts, along with numerous music videos, plays and commercials. Most recently he has starred in George Clooney's new movie, "SUBURBICON"; a recurring role on NBC Saudi Arabia's new TV comedy "CUT"; Smosh TV's recent comedy "PART TIMERS"; and "SAW" director Darren Bousman's highly innovative immersive theatre "THE TENSION EXPERIENCE: ASCENSION", voted as one of the top three immersive theatre productions in the world.

Bernard Bullen

Born and raised in Madrid with a British father and bilingual education, Bernard studied drama at the Classical Theatre Company, as well as, the Spanish National Theatre. After moving to London, he worked with award-winning directors Hugh Hudson and Costas Gravas.

Now based in Los Angeles, Bullen can be seen in John Wells’ upcoming comedy, Burnt, acting alongside Bradley Cooper, Daniel Bruhl and Sarah Green. Bernard hopes to keep expanding his career in the US where he has been so well received so far.

Marcus Chan

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Marcus was a real estate financing solicitor for over a decade at several international law firms including Clifford Chance and Slaughter and May. He joined the UCLA MFA film directing program in 2012 and has since directed several short films showcased in various film festivals, as well as internet spots for Cirque du Soleil. He is about to finish his UCLA thesis film, which is executive produced by James Franco’s Rabbit Bandini Productions and features BAFTA winner, Whoopi Goldberg. Marcus currently splits his time between feature and short film editing and is developing his own web series that explores diversity in Hollywood.

Lara Clear

Lara Clear, originally from London, is an actress and producer. After training at both The Urdang Academy and RADA she performed in various UK film and theatre, before treading the boards in NYC for the last couple of years. She has appeared in numerous print and on-camera commercials globally. She is the current voice for Vistaprint and Sky Living and most recently she attended the 68th Cannes Film Festival with her film in which she produced and starred. New to LA, she is honored and excited to be selected as a participant of the BAFTA Los Angeles Newcomers Program.

Lucy Drive

Lucy was born and raised in Isleworth, West London. She is now primarily based in Los Angeles where she continues to work in television and film. After a stint training in musical theatre, she began her professional acting career starring in prime time BBC TV shows Hustle and Doctors. Lucy's breakthrough film role was playing Erica in the feature film Outside Bet, where she won high praise for her performance alongside Bob Hoskins and Jenny Agutter. In 2014, Lucy played the iconic role of Karen Carpenter for an ITV documentary about her life, appeared in The Borgias for Showtime and in 2015, filmed a role for a TV pilot for Bravo.

Waleed Elgadi

Actor Waleed Elgadi moved to LA in 2016 armed with varied and well-respected credits from a screen and stage career. A native Londoner with Sudanese-Egyptian heritage, he’s perhaps best known for his work in Chris Morris’s Four Lions, Suzanne Bier’s Brodre and as recurring Walid Rashid In Fox’s Tyrant. He’s currently in theatres in A Hologram For The King alongside Tom Hanks and upcoming in the ITV miniseries Tutankahmun alongside Sam Niel and Max Irons airing worldwide later this year.

Menik Gooneratne

Born in London, Menik travelled the world as a child with her father’s work on climate change. As an adult, Menik still forgets to switch off the lights when she leaves the house. Menik’s passion for acting began in a Papua New Guinean kindergarten where she was cast as “Wild Boar”- the most coveted role in the Easter play. Catch her next in the Dev Patel feature Lion (she does not play the actual lion).

Ben Gutteridge

Ben has directed advertising in various countries for brands from Prada to Volvo and primetime TV drama for the BBC and Channel 4. As Writer/Director, he’s had shorts in major festivals, been selected for international schemes both as participant and juror and has various feature film and TV drama projects in active development.

He’s represented by The Gotham Group Management in the US and Independent Talent in the UK.

James Hansen

James was born in Hong Kong and moved to LA immediately after graduating from the Professional Acting MA at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Prior to that he went to the University of Cambridge to read Archaeology and Anthropology. He has appeared in international tours of Antony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing, and Peter Pan.

He has a passion for movement with experience in creature work, static trapeze, aerial silks, and free running.

Heather Harris

Heather Harris was born and raised in the Cayman Islands. She began her entertainment career working on Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) while earning her undergraduate degree at New York University. Over the past few years, Heather has worked in television production for numerous entertainment labels, including Nickelodeon and MTV Networks. Heather currently resides in Los Angeles where she studies directing at USC's School of Cinematic Arts.

Zara Hayes

Zara has directed a number of successful documentaries, both in features and for TV. Recent credits include cinema’s Battle of the Sexes, the BBC’s Clothes to Die For and Channel 4’s 12 Year Old Lifer.  Here in LA, she recently completed a film about artist Derek Boshier for the BBC.  Zara is in development on a slate of scripted projects, including her debut narrative feature, which is a US/UK co-production.

Find her online @zarhayes.

Guy Hepworth

Guy is a product manager, entrepreneur and actor with extensive experience in the technology and entertainment industries. Originally from Aberdeen, Scotland, Guy recently moved to LA to work for Hulu where he is combining his passion for technology and entertainment to help redefine the television experience through emerging technologies. Guy is truly honored to be part of the BAFTA LA Newcomers Program.

Amber Hodgkiss

Amber was born and raised in Wigan, started acting from a young age and attended the Octagon Theatres youth program. She landed her first professional TV job while still at school on TV show Grainge Hill.

Hodgkiss studied at the Manchester school of acting for 3 years working small parts on TV shows such as Doctors, Bedlam, and Casualty and got her next regular role as Caroline in the soap, Hollyoaks. She moved to LA this year, and landed her first role in the comedy pilot, Zabruso. Hodgkiss also models and was featured in Vogue Italia this year.

Ruaraidh Hunter

Hunter originates from Edinburgh, Scotland but has spent the past 13 years in London. He joined the UTA Agent Training Program a year ago having worked as an assistant agent for two years at the London-based theatrical talent agency Sally Hope Associates. The agency focused on UK theatre, film & TV representing talent and creatives. Before moving into entertainment he enjoyed successful careers in classical music, as a marketing and events director of a non-profit orchestra, and luxury fashion as a press and PR officer of a high-end French brand. He graduated with a BA (Hons) and Masters in History of Art and History of Costume respectively from the Courtauld Institute of Art. 

Anna Jones

Anna is a writer/director for the stage and screen.

In film, Anna has directed six shorts, including the recently completed 'Now What?' trilogy for Brooklyn Seoul Productions and the award-winning 'No Strings' based on a poem by actress Emily Bevan (HBO/BBC’s The Casual Vacancy). She also makes video for Sixth & Western, and is currently developing various long and short form narrative projects.

In theatre, Anna co-runs NYLon Projects that focuses on bold, diverse storytelling (including Alena Smith's melancholy farce 'Plucker' at Southwark Playhouse & Ben Jonson's excoriating C17th comedy about greed 'Volpone' at The Rose Lipman Building) and previously founded and ran Bone Orchard, an acclaimed New York theatre collective (five original productions, including 'Times 365:24:7', "a teeming mosaic", New York Times).

Originally from East London, Anna studied at Cambridge University and the Yale School of Drama.

Gavin Laing

Gavin is an award-winning filmmaker from Edinburgh, Scotland, currently enrolled on the Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California. Gavin earned his undergraduate degree in Digital Film & Television from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and his graduation short film My First Spellbook achieved success at the Royal Television Society Awards. He has recently worked across a number of productions for the BBC, including several BAFTA award-winning children's titles. 

James Longman

James is a Supervising Producer on The Late Late Show with James Corden, developing and producing ideas for the show on a daily basis. He started life at MTV, before producing comedy shows such as The Friday Night Project, The Rob Brydon Show, Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Alan Carr: Chatty Man. He co-hosts an award winning West Ham podcast and also produced a short film, FestEvil, which screened at the prestigious BFI London Film Festival and is currently developing the feature version.

Louisa Lytton

Louisa Lytton attended the iconic Sylvia Young Theatre School. It was this platform that lead to Louisa securing her first professional role as Ruby Allen in BBC's BAFTA award-winning Eastenders in 2005 and has since gone on to sustain a successful career in the industry. From starring in ITV'S police drama The Bill, becoming a finalist on BBC's Strictly Come Dancing, touring with the British Shakespeare Company and has more recently appeared as the lead in ITV's comedy Edge of Heaven.

As well as a consistent acting career Louisa has been busy producing and presenting Don't Look Back a documentary that shows the daily struggles of young people suffering with RP (retinitis pigmentosa), a degenerative eye condition. Moving to LA and being welcomed as a participant of the BAFTA Los Angeles Newcomers Program is something Louisa is most grateful for.

Hayley McLaughlin

Hayley McLaughlin is a Conservatory trained Scottish Film and Television actress based in Los Angeles, and is the recent proud owner of a Green Card.

This year, Hayley landed a Leading role in The Librarians, TNT (US)/Syfy (UK) alongside Noah Wyle and Rebecca Romijin, as well as securing a role in the upcoming feature film Escape Room alongside Skeet Ulrich and Sean Young (Sony Pictures/ Peter Dukes Dir.).

Gary McMonnies

Gary has been working in the Art Department of Film and TV since graduating from Wimbledon School of Art in 2005.  After doing internships on Atonement, and Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, he worked in South Africa on projects like Black Sails for Starz.  He is currently based in Los Angeles and has recently finished working on Season 1 of Mindhunter for Netflix. He is looking forward to being part of the BAFTA community.

Samantha Mesagno

Samantha is a professional actor, presenter and voice over artist, gaining her Master’s Degree from the prestigious Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Her extensive experience in Film, TV, Theatre, and commercials includes recent professional credits in the British Independent feature films Freesia and 27, Memory Lane, The Sarah Millican TV Programme for the BBC and the lead role in a crime drama for the Discovery Channel aired in both the UK and USA. Samantha is also the ongoing host for That’s English, a popular daytime education show for Spanish TV and is currently involved with Disney on a new Children’s Drama. Samantha is loving every moment in LA and is honoured and delighted to have been selected as a participant of this year’s BAFTA Los Angeles Newcomers Program.

Joseph Oppenheimer

Joseph has obtained invaluable experience at organisations including BBC’s Storyville. His first film, Checkpoint, was officially selected for the Channel 4 BritDoc festival. He has since made a number of short form dramas drawing on his experience as a Criminal Barrister (defence attorney). He has an authentic knowledge of Britain’s criminal justice system, and has worked on murder and serious drug cases. This broader life experience has informed both his subject matter and sensibility. 

Alex Polunin

Alex Polunin is a BAFTA Scholar, Fulbright-shortlisted and EU ThinkYoung award-winning British-Australian film producer originally from the North East of England, who predominantly specializes in content that addresses critical global issues. Having graduated from University College London on Dean's List as a published Hobbes Memorial scholar specializing in Post-colonialism, Alex was picked up by the BFI's National Youth Film scheme, and has since gone on to work for the BBC, BBC Worldwide, Working Title Films and Twofour in both London and Los Angeles.

Nicola Posener

Actress, Nicola Posener began her career starring in series' for Disney Channel & Nickelodeon UK as well as BBC & ITV episodic. Nicola moved to LA having booked a lead in the fantasy film series Mythica shooting the five feature films back to back. Nicola has since gone on to be cast as the American lead in The Best Man for the Lifetime Movie Network as well as the six-episode mini-series Age of the Living Dead. Currently, Nicola is filming the lead role in the action/adventure film Angels Fallen shooting on location in Macedonia.

Jeffrey Postlethwaite

Jeffrey Postlethwaite is known for the role Henry in the BAFTA award winning BBC drama Peaky Blinders. His career has since gone from strength to strength having had a film shown in Cannes film festival 2015 and landing a role in the feature film The White King, alongside his identical twin brother, which filmed in Budapest this summer. Jeffrey is also producing and currently working on a new pilot with his twin brother.

Matthew Postlethwaite

Matthew was born in Whitehaven, Cumbria and recognised for his roles as Nipper in the BBC's Peaky Blinders, Walt Flanagan in the Kevin Smith biopic Shooting Clerks and Joseph Melby in Blood. He is also the identical twin brother of actor, Jeffrey Postlethwaite.

He is currently shooting the feature The White King, based on the award-winning novel by Gyorgy Dragoman and producing his own show, #Twinning, with his brother.

Emily Rice

Originally from the London suburb of Harrow, Emily is a British composer for film, TV and games. She completed the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program at the University of Southern California where she studied and mentored under industry greats and was supported by a BAFTA LA scholarship. Her scores can be heard on numerous films, and she has recorded and conducted her work at Warner Brothers and Capitol Records. Other credits include work with composers Laura Karpman (Underground), and Brian Tyler (Avengers: Age of Ultron). Emily is delighted to have been selected as a BAFTA Newcomer, and you can find out more about her work by visiting the links below:

Emily Rice Website

Emily Rice IMDb

Oliver Ridge

After originally studying at Vancouver Film School, in 2014 Oliver graduated with an MA in Screen Acting from Drama Centre London.

Arriving in Los Angeles at the start of 2015, Oliver established his own production company, Blood Moon Creative. With its first feature, Last Days of Summer, now in pre-production, and a second feature in development, Oliver is also preparing several short films for presentation at festivals in the US and Europe.

As passionate about writing as he is performing, Oliver continues to contribute to writing projects with collaborators in the UK and the U.S. Following the recent announcement of it’s partnering with CME, Spring 2016 will see the release by Blood Moon Creative of Powerless, an all-new comic series that indulges at least one of Oliver’s guilty pleasures.

Alexander Rudd

Alexander Rudd is a Composer and Songwriter. He has worked in a wide arena, performing internationally as a singer pianist, writing for film and theatre, collaborating with visual artists and composing and conducting for concert commissions. In 2008, he received a Fulbright scholarship to study at the University of Southern California. He has composed the scores for numerous plays, including collaborations with the Royal National Theatre, The Old Vic and The Barbican. Recent TV projects include music for, Traders, Millions by the Minute (BBC) and You Can't Get the Staff (Channel 4). Alexander is currently composing an album of new songs with Academy Award-winning Lyricist Don Black for Sony/ATV.

Cecilia Shakerley

Cecilia Shakerley is Head of Development at Twofour America. She is responsible for the US slate for the Emmy-award winning international indie, coming up with original programming for networks like Discovery, History and Nat Geo, as well as adapting critically acclaimed UK series like Educating Yorkshire and Harry’s Arctic Heroes for the US market. Last year Cecilia directed and produced her first independent documentary in Antarctica, now in post-production. 

Emma West

Emma is an actress & producer of film and theatre.  She is a director of Copperhead Productions, where the first play she developed, produced and starred in, Lizzie Siddal had a sell-out run at the Arcola Theatre, London and went on to be published.  The play was nominated for three OffWestEnd awards, including Best Female Performance. The Times said ‘West is a name to watch’.  She has just wrapped season 2 of her popular web series The Nappy Files and will be appearing in feature film The Hippopotamus (adapted from the Stephen Fry novel) later this year.