Chair of the Film Committee
Anna Higgs is a creative leader working at the forefront of storytelling and audiences.
As Head of Entertainment at Facebook in the UK, Anna leads a team across film, music, television and publishing, working in partnership with studios, record labels, broadcasters and publishers to help connect great work with the right audiences.
Because side hustles are all the rage, Anna is also a columnist for Creative Review, specialising in career coaching, workplace culture and career growth advice for creatives with the ‘Ask Anna’ monthly feature.
Before joining Facebook Anna was Creative Director at global culture channel NOWNESS, bringing the best emerging and established filmmakers together with bold audience strategies. During her time there, she developed, commissioned, produced and distributed dozens of series, hundreds of single films and curated thousands of acquired short films. She also spearheaded a move to 50/50 gender balanced commissioning across all editorial and branded work, as well as a strategic company restructure that led to a successful merger with China’s Modern Media and Dazed Media Group.
Prior to NOWNESS, she was a commissioner and Head of Digital at Film4, leading cinematic innovation with projects including Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s 20,000 Days on Earth, Ken Loach’s The Spirit of ’45 and Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank. This move built on a strong track record as an independent producer working across film, TV and digital projects.
Anna’s work has seen her named as one Creative Review's ‘Creative Leaders 50’, alongside the likes of Felix Barret, Gorillaz and Maria Balshaw. In 2012 she was selected as one of the inaugural Time Out ‘Culture 100’, a celebration of the "innovators, visionaries and pioneers behind what's now and what's next. A search for the most original and influential people in the UK creative and media industries" alongside creative innovators such as Danny Boyle, Stella McCartney, Grayson Perry, Jonathan Ive, Zadie Smith, Thomas Heatherwick and Alan Rusbridger.
Biography to follow
Alex is an established Film Producer based in London. She has produced or co-produced over 20 films, including the ground breaking Working Title productions Anna Karenina and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Most recently Alex Executive Produced the award-winning Paddington films, written and directed by Paul King; a collaboration which continued into preparation for a Disney adaptation of Pinocchio.
From an early age, Alex had a passion for storytelling and the magic of cinema. After graduating in Film and Photographic Arts, she went on to work on IMAX documentaries, which took her around the world filming in the most remote corners of the globe. The most notable of these productions was the award-winning IMAX 3D film BUGS, filmed on location in Borneo and at Peter Parks’ bespoke micro studio in Oxford.
In 2003 Alex started working on feature films and since then has forged a career as a hands-on producer. She can always be found on set, right at the heart of the film. Alex considers her role as a support and sounding board for the director. She is highly valued by the directors that she works with and consistently helps them to realise their vision. As well as being an active campaigner for diversity in crewing on her productions, Alex is passionate about creating a fair workplace and endeavours to create a supportive, family environment on set.
Alex is currently in early preparation for her next project with Universal Pictures – waiting for dinosaurs to hatch before filming can commence!
Ivor Novello, RTS and BIFA nominated composer, Nainita Desai is a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit and the International Film Music Critics Association Breakthrough Composer of 2020.
Amongst various BAFTA, Oscar, Emmy acclaimed productions, Nainita’s recent features include Oscar nominated, Bafta winning film For Sama.
Film4 labelled her as one of the top 5 ‘composers who should be on your radar’ for 2020 and her projects have been in the Top 5 Film Scores and Video Games scores of 2019 by Scala Radio.
Following a degree in Maths she attended the NFTS to study sound. Nainita began her career working as a sound designer on features for directors including Werner Herzog and Bertolucci and assistant music engineer to Peter Gabriel.
Nainita has an upcoming slate of projects for Netflix, BBC, ITV for 20/21.
Recent projects include Sundance 2020 winning and London Film Festival premiering feature The Reason I Jump, Netflix original series Bad Boy Billionaires, American Murder (exec prod: James Marsh), BBC drama series Unprecedented, (Gemma Arterton, Lennie James, James Norton) Tim Travers Hawkin’s Persona (HBO Max), Enslaved (Samuel L. Jackson) and Telling Lies (Annapurna).
Nainita moves seamlessly between working with orchestras, to scores utilising her collection of custom made instruments, incorporating electronics, found sound, and experimental sound design which has informed her experimental, deeply immersive approach.
Nainita is an ambassador for Screen Skills UK and also sits on committees at the PRS and Ivors Academy campaigning for composers, as well as championing diversity and inclusivity.
Nainita is in demand internationally, giving masterclasses and interviews about her craft, ranging from the Royal College of Music, NFTS, Royal Academy of Music, Cannes Film Festival, LA Comic Con USA, Rio de Janeiro Brazil ASA Women in Music Conference, NOPO in Oslo, Ukraine and India for the British Council, Glasgow FF, Sheffield Doc Fest, Soundtrack Cologne, Moshita Music Conference South Africa, Sundance 2020, WOMEX in Copenhagen, IDFA, and the World Soundtrack Awards Ghent.
BIOGRAPHY TO FOLLOW
Marc Samuelson was formerly a director of the Association of Independent Producers and of the Edinburgh International Television Festival, and MD of Umbrella Films, producers of White Mischief and 1984. He was previously a Board Member of the UK Film Council, a Governor of the NFTS and Deputy Chairman of the British Screen Advisory Council, and he is a member of Pact Council.
From 1990 to 2006 he worked as an independent film producer on films such as the Oscar nominated Tom & Viv, BAFTA-nominated Wilde, Arlington Road, Gabriel & Me, The Gathering, Things To Do Before You're 30, and Stormbreaker, and as executive producer of The Libertine, Keeping Mum and Chromophobia.
In August 2007 Marc became a director of CinemaNX, the film investment company backed by the Isle of Man Government. For NX Marc produced BAFTA-nominated Me and Orson Welles and TT3D: Closer to the Edge and executive produced The Disappearance of Alice Creed, A Bunch of Amateurs, Heartless, Oscar-nominated Chico & Rita, Wild Target, Albatross, The Shadow Line, The Decoy Bride, Ashes and Honour.
In 2016 he launched Route 24 ltd, a TV drama production company backed by ITV Studios. R24 is now in advanced development with a number of series across a range of networks.
Clare grew up in a small town without a cinema and has been overcompensating ever since. For 25 years she’s been doing what she loves most – connecting films and filmmakers with audiences.
As Director of BFI London Film Festival and BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival (2012-17), Clare increased audiences, elevated the international position of the Festivals and boosted the profile of British and international films and filmmakers. As a passionate supporter of emerging talent, she also oversaw the introduction of new labs, mentorship schemes and the filmmaker bursary.
While running BFI Festivals, she promoted action on diversity and inclusion with highlights including the Gender in Media and Black Star symposiums (Geena Davis and David Oyelowo keynotes respectively), the Flare LGBTIQ Mentorship and the Accessibility think-tank.
Clare was previously Festival Director, Sydney Film Festival (2006-2011), the inaugural Head of Film Programmes at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (2002-2006), Events Manager at the Australian Film Institute (1996-2001) and Programmer/Manager of the Melbourne Cinematheque (1995-2002).
Clare has served on the World Economic Forum’s Global Advisory Council for the Creative Economies (2014-2016), on competition juries at Sundance, Mumbai, Rio, Dubai, Hong Kong and Macau film festivals and the BAFTA Outstanding British Debut jury (2014-2019). She is a previous recipient of the Queen's Trust Award for Young Australians and a Women and Hollywood Trailblazer Award in 2017 for her work promoting diversity and gender parity in the film industry.
Clare is currently working as a creative and development consultant and was elected to the BAFTA Film Committee in 2020.
BIOGRAPHY TO FOLLOW
BIOGRAPHY TO FOLLOW
Alison Thompson is Co-President of Cornerstone Films Limited, a sales and production-finance Company, which she co-owns with partner Mark Gooder. The newly-formed Company aims to represent and curate a diversified slate of films of enduring quality for the international market place, ranging from commercial, wide release movies, to talent-driven films from world-renowned filmmakers. Cornerstone debuted in Cannes with Asif Kapadia’s AMY which screened in the Official Selection Out of Competition. Thompson’s career spans three decades: Prior to Cornerstone, she spent 8 years as Co-President of Universal owned Focus Features International (‘FFI’), running its international arm. FFI’s prestigious slate included Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom and more recently Woody Allen’s, Blue Jasmine and Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner. Before that she headed Pathé Pictures International representing films including Girl With A Pearl Earring and The Motorcycle Diaries. Prior to joining Pathé, Thompson was chief executive of The Sales Company, one of the UK’s top sales agencies through the 1990s. During her 14 years there, she represented more than 100 films from some of the world’s most celebrated filmmakers. She began her career with the Rank Organisation and Channel Four.
Emmy award winner Riz Ahmed is a critically acclaimed actor, writer, creator, producer, musician, director and activist. He became one of Hollywood’s most sought after artists following the explosive success of HBO’s THE NIGHT OF, written and created by the legendary Steven Zaillan, for which he won an Emmy Award, and was Golden Globe and SAG nominated. He went on to star in successful feature films including Disney’s ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, Jacques Audiard’s THE SISTERS BROTHERS and most-recently Sony/Marvel’s VENOM. He first garnered industry attention in festival favorites FOUR LIONS and NIGHTCRAWLER.
Up next, Ahmed stars in director Darius Marder’s SOUND OF METAL about a professional drummer’s descent into unexpected hearing loss. The film premiered at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival to career-topping performance reviews and was acquired by Amazon Films. Additionally, Ahmed will star in MOGUL MOWGLI, a film which he also co-wrote and produced. He portrays a young British rapper about to start his first world tour when a crippling tragedy strikes. Directed by Bassam Tariq, the film debuted at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival and will also screen at the London Film Festival in October. It will release theatrically in the UK and Ireland on Oct 30.
Also on the horizon, Ahmed will star in and executive produce the fantastical love story, EXIT WEST, based on the best-selling novel by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid. The feature film is being developed by Netflix and in collaboration with the Obamas' Higher Ground Productions, and Ahmed’s production company Left Handed Films.
Currently in pre-production, Amazon Studios’ sci-fi thriller INVASION stars Ahmed alongside Octavia Spencer, and is written by BAFTA-winning UK filmmaker Michael Pearce (Beast). It follows two young brothers who go on the run with their father, a decorated Marine (Ahmed), who is trying to protect them from an unhuman threat. As the journey takes them in increasingly dangerous and unexpected directions, the boys will need to confront hard truths and leave their childhood behind.
Additional productions under the Left Handed Films banner include a modern-day feature film take on HAMLET and a nine-part TV drama series called ENGLISTAN, a revisionist history following a British-Pakistani family over 40 of the most eventful years of recent British history. Ahmed co-wrote and will star in both projects.
Riz Ahmed's musical journey has spanned two decades across battle rap, techno, artistic residencies, a successful American band Swet Shop Boys, and now his critically-acclaimed 2020 release The Long Goodbye. Its 9 tracks are a breakup album like no other - these songs are about being dumped by the country you call home. Riz draws from hip-hop as well as the South Asian qawali tradition, to mix rap, melody and spoken word.
Accompanying the album is the short film The Long Goodbye, directed by Aneil Karia. Taking us on a journey that is both intimate and devastating, the 11 minute short film is an unflinching look at what may lie ahead for us in these increasingly intolerant times. It was compared to Oscar winning Parasite in its unforgettable execution by respected film critic Mark Kermode, and was raised during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Houses of Parliament as required viewing for law-makers.
As a vocal advocate for inclusion, Ahmed published an award-winning piece in the Nikesh Shukla; the edited collection of essays “The Good Immigrant” has been described as “essential reading.” In spring 2017, he spoke at the prestigious British Parliament’s House of Commons about diversity and representation. That same year, he graced the cover of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People.
Fiona Lamptey is a producer and the newly appointed Director of U.K Features for Netflix.
She graduated in Film and Video Production at the University of Bedfordshire in 2004 and shortly after got an offer from Channel4 to work on documentary, reality and live entertainment television. After 5 years in TV commissioning, she went to work for Channel4's feature film division Film4, where she helped manage low budget and short film production.
Always on the lookout for distinct British talent, Fiona set up her company Fruit Tree Media, where she remains founder and creative producer today. Her aim with Fruit Tree is to seek out filmmaking talent and use her industry experience to cultivate original storytelling and champion unrepresented voices within a structured and supportive framework.
Fiona has served as a tutor and workshop facilitator for the NFTS, a live event host for BAFTA and a mentor to new writing talent.
Fiona has produced a number of distinctive and cross-disciplinary works and has been a support and launchpad for some of the UK’s most exciting talent. She is a Screen star of tomorrow 2019 and a recipient of the BFI 2020 Vision Award.
She has just wrapped filming on a mini sci-fi series for film4 and is in production on debbie tucker green’s feature film, ear for eye.
David Proud is an English actor/writer/director. He was born with Spina Bifida and uses a wheelchair. David is most well known for playing Adam Best in BBC’s EastEnders. Since entering the industry in 2007 David has appeared in leading roles for BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Showtime.
In 2018 David also became a member of the BBC Writers Room. David has a slate of projects for Film and TV including a BBC development project with his long term collaborator, writer Paul Viragh. Paul and David are also co-directing a feature length documentary funded by the BFI and Wellcome Trust. The documentary is an exploration of David's Public Engagement Fellowship with the Wellcome Trust. David will explore the future of inclusion of disabled people in society and scientific medical advances that impact the disabled community. The documentary will be produced by the Emmy winning film maker Lindsey Dryden.
In late 2019 David directed a BFI/Uncertain Kingdom funded film written by Justin Edgar starring Ruth Madeley and Alice Lowe which Premiered at Palm Spings Film Festival 2020 and can be seen on Apple TV, Curzon on Demand and BFI Player alongside the Uncertain Kingdom Collection.
In 2020 David finished an ITV Original Voices secondment to Coronation Street story team, as well as becoming a regular writer for BBC continuing drama. David was listed in the Shaw Trust Power 100 List as one of the top 100 most influential disabled people of 2015, 2018 and 2019. David currently works as a disability consultant for the British Film Institute, founding and sitting on their disability advisory board. He also sits on the OFCOM diversity board. David has provided project-based consultancy for Company Pictures, Scott Free UK and BBC.
David is committed to the authentic portrayal of disability and the inclusion of disabled talent on and off screen.
Known for being an exceptionally versatile designer for TV & Film, Sharon Martin started her Make-Up career working in the theatre on shows like, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, and Evita. This led to working with British music legends, Soul II Soul on their world tour.
Accolades include designing Forrest Whittaker’s look for his Oscar winning performance on, The Last King Of Scotland. Sharon has also been shortlisted for an Oscar nomination for her Make-Up Design on, Snow White and the Huntsman.
Sharon’s TV work earned her a BAFTA nomination for her Hair and Make-Up Design on the adaptation of Zadie Smith’s, White Teeth starring Naomi Harris and James McAvoy.
Collaborations with directors include, Bong Joon-ho, Doug Liman, Tom Hooper, David Dobkin and most recently Kay Cannon.
Her latest credits include Make-Up and Hair Design for the forthcoming, Jingle Jangle as well as the latest, Cinderella: Rebel Dreamer starring Camilla Cabello, Pierce Brosnan and Billy Porter.
Sharon’s longer list of film credits also include, Cats, Eurovision, OKJA, and Marvels, Dr. Strange, where she works as Personal Hair and Make-Up Artist to Rachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Sharons love of creative story telling has also led to her collaboration with artist, Issac Julian on his Franz Fanon Film and his latest Frederick Douglas art installation.