Highlights from a Fellowship Showcase

Four female filmmakers spoke to us following a recent Fellowship Showcase. These are some highlights from the conversation. You can see more details about the films and watch the full recording here


On building a relationship with the subject(s):


There were moments in the filming process where I prioritised my subject’s vulnerability rather than going for a shot that might have been really powerful. And at the time I was like, oh, I should have filmed that, like moments when she came out of the courtroom and had a breakdown or came to me and said, “I’m really worried I didn’t say this”. But I chose not to turn the camera on then. And that meant that later on when we did a sit down interview, she trusted me more because I was also looking after her as a person. There are decisions you make throughout the filmmaking process where you sacrifice maybe a piece that you think is great, but what you get from that is more depth later on. – Maral Shafafy 

I believe for a character driven documentary, a character could break or make your film. So it starts from building the relationship at the research stage, which is a lifelong relationship. I start building connections with each potential contributor. This is how I select a relevant character for my film. It’s like Maral said, if you have chemistry with your potential contributor, this allows you to choose him or her as the main character of your story. – Hanan Youssef

What gravitated me to this story was my personal relationship with my mama. Of course, as a journalist, I thought, no, you cannot do that because of bias and what not. But I guess we went that way anyway. How did I navigate that? I needed to first make sure this is not a story about my mum. It’s not a story about me. It’s an honest story that has to reflect the larger struggles experienced by the students. The relationship was important in a way that it helped my mum become really comfortable with the camera. There are really important moments that if I was to film someone I didn’t know, maybe they wouldn’t be that comfortable with me. – Rahmah Pauzi

I make sure to let them know that I value what they’re doing and it’s not just me coming in, taking what I want and making money off of it. I try to be as best transparent as possible with everyone I’m filming. I try not to just make it a one-off experience and to make sure it’s not just them doing it for the fun of it but they have the opportunity to make a living as well. – Shari Petti


On how the Fellowship journey impacted the direction of the film:


What I liked the most about this Fellowship is how much our wellbeing was taken into consideration. We were not stressed by deadlines. Everything was at a pace that we could cope with. The support from my executive producer, Flora, meant we spent a lot of time brainstorming, ‘So how are we going to translate this specific legal term to be understood by an international audience?’ I was very grateful for this and for the master classes. – Hanan Youssef

I didn’t shoot this film in one go. Flora taught me a lot about the commissioning process, the journey of going from shoot to edit and how the film evolves. She really encouraged me to create a teaser of my film and then try and commission it. And that teaser helped me think about what are the key points of this film and what’s the most powerful element of it? – Maral Shafafy 

In 12 months of the Fellowship, there was a monthly check-in. It was like accountability that you needed to present something and tell your cohort that you have something going. This helped to make you want to keep going. Not just to hold yourself accountable but because you know someone cares. Another more practical part is that I applied for a filmmaking grant for this particular film. I wasn’t selected but then I developed it, applied for the One World Media Fellowship, workshopped it further for a whole year. I talked about it over and over again with the team and Flora and I applied for that grant again. Because the story was much more well developed, thanks to One World Media, they were really interested in it and I got that grant the following year. – Rahmah Pauzi

I’d never been accepted to a fellowship before One World Media. The programme gave me an idea of how to approach this process. Knowing how to access certain documents, like how to properly have release forms and other documentations was very important that I use to this day. And the network and community. I’ve benefited a lot from the workshops through the year, not just the mentorship or the support I received specific to my project. I learned a lot from this opportunity. – Shari Petti


Any advice to encourage women to become documentary filmmakers:


I want to tell all woman, don’t let anything stop you. You can do anything. I was directing a film while I had my son and he was a year old. I had this choice of whether I’m going to hold myself back from my career and turn down the opportunity. But instead I told myself, I’m going to pursue this film and I’m going to direct it. I went to the set with my son and everyone had to accept this. Yes, my son is on set and he’s sitting until I finish. I’m directing this and then I need to go breastfeed him and come back. We need to normalise this. We all have lives and this should not stop us from accomplishing our goals. – Hanan Youssef

In the UK, most of the people who are storytelling, whether that’s in production companies or in journalism, are still men. There are not enough women telling stories. A lot of women also get pushed into producing because that’s the more organisational aspect of it. What that means is the stories are geared towards what their interests are. There are not enough stories where you get intimate access with women. It’s incredible to even see someone like Shari who’s a cinematographer. There’s not enough cinematographers who are women. By having women tell stories, they have a certain sensitivity for things like visuals. You just have to go for it. Don’t be afraid. – Maral Shafafy 

There’s different perspectives that we bring as people, not just as female filmmakers, but as people with diverse experiences. And I think that’s why it’s important that if you feel like you have a story that you want to capture, you need to believe in it and find people who believe in it. I didn’t have many people who believed in my story and then someone from One World Media thought that it was interesting enough to be supported. This resulted in showcasing the kind of perspective that people had no access to prior to this, which is of teachers, who are by law, not allowed to speak openly to the media in Malaysia. – Rahmah Pauzi

I have many women who work with me. And because of their presence, I rarely ever feel, at least in my crews, the major impact of it. I’m so grateful for my mentors and producers, production managers, and even some editors who are women, who make sure that I’m heard and not taken advantage of in any way. Recently, I’ve been trying to include more women, especially in more creative roles, because even though I work with a lot of producers and production managers, I want more DPs, more editors and more perspectives from women. I feel like that affects the end result and getting that perspective from women is important for me personally. – Shari Petti