British Council Film Team

British Council Film has a team which works together to promote UK films and filmmakers to international audiences.

The film team

The team is led by Briony Hanson, Director of Film.
Briony became British Council’s Director of Film in July 2011 and is responsible for overseeing promotion of UK films and filmmakers internationally. She began her career working in cultural exhibition as Director/Programmer of Tyneside Cinema before heading the BFI Programme Unit providing programme advice for regional independent cinemas and curating nationwide tours of film and TV material.  During this time, she also acted as a Consultant for Channel 4’s Independent Film & Video Dept, wrote broadcast support booklets also for Channel 4, and co-programmed the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival from 1996-2000. She joined filmmaker training organisation, The Script Factory, in 2000 and was its Director for over 10 years, developing its programme of activities internationally, programming and chairing live events, and overseeing its web and public profile. She has conducted numerous onstage interviews with filmmakers and performers from Julianne Moore and Gus Van Sant to Dustin Hoffman and Andrej Wajda. She makes occasional broadcast appearances as a film critic contributing to BBC TV's The Culture Show, BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, Front Row and The Film Programme, and has guested on Sky, ITV and C4.  She co-edited the 2008 Filmmakers' Yearbook for A&C Black, and was the Film Editor for DIVA Magazine from 2007-11. She is a board Member of the Grierson Trust , Birds Eye View, and European Film Promotion.

Briony is unlikely ever to top her greatest career achievement: she was responsible for co-devising and organising the first ever Sing-along-a-Sound Of Music which premiered at the NFT in '99, still runs in London’s West End, has toured America, Australia and Europe – and is “sacred” to Kurt from Glee.

Alongside Briony is a team of Film Programme Managers:

Senior Film Programme Manager, Will Massa, leads on the Americas and EU Europe and looks after the department’s short film activities including the administration of the Shorts Support Scheme and Travel Grant Fund. He came to the British Council after several years working in talent development; first at Screen Yorkshire, then at Vision+Media in Salford where he covered short film production, script development and training. This led to two years at Rankin Film Productions as Head of Development on their short film scheme Collabor8te. He is currently a board member for Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival in Bristol. He's a huge fan of all things Latin American, and especially of Colombian and Argentine cinema, a passion that developed after extensive periods spent in both countries.

Christine Bardsley is a 15-year veteran of British Council Film and is our longest serving Film team member, joining Arts in 2001 following a varied career in the British Council including stints working overseas. Christine’s main areas of responsibility are the Wider Europe and South Asia regions, and she also leads on our work in documentary. She designs film projects, curates programmes and advises on selection for screenings of British short and feature films at international festivals and events. She is also a Documentary Programme consultant for the BFI London Film Festival, and sits on the advisory group of BBC Artscreen Festival.

Gary Thomas leads on animation, digital and experimental film, and oversees the Film Department’s work in East Asia, China and the UK. Outside the British Council, he continues to work as Director of Animate Projects, a charity dedicated to championing experimental animation. He was previously Head of Moving Image for Arts Council England, leading on policy development for arts distribution, broadcasting and visual arts, strategic initiatives for archive and commissioning of artists’ moving image, and collaborations with the BFI and UK Film Council, including the Single-Shot multi-platform commissioning project. He has made several short films in collaboration with artist Tim Shore, including the artist's documentary 'Fits and Starts of Restlessness' which screened as part of the Dickens 2012 bicentenary celebrations.

Rachel Robey leads on producers' support and oversees our work in the Middle East, North Africa, and Sub Saharan Africa. She is a producer herself, at Wellington Films, the company she co-founded in 2000 with Alastair Clark and which was named as part of the ‘Creative England 50’ list of leading creative enterprises in the UK in 2016. Their BAFTA-nominated debut feature, London To Brighton (Edinburgh International Film Festival 2006, Toronto International Film Festival 2006) earned them the Best Achievement in Production award at the 2006 British Independent Film Awards and a nomination at the London Critics Circle Film Awards for British Film Producers of the Year. It was released by Vertigo Films to huge critical acclaim and earned director Paul Andrew Williams a BAFTA nomination for the Carl Foreman Award. It has since been named by TimeOut London as one of the top 100 British films of all time. Other credits include Better Things by Duane Hopkins (Cannes Film Festival Critics Week 2008, Toronto 2008), Alexis Dos Santos' Unmade Beds (Sundance 2009, Berlinale Generations 2009) and Justin Molotnikov's Crying With Laughter (SXSW 2009, Best Film at BAFTA Scotland 2009). Rachel is currently producing The Levelling by Hope Dickson Leach with backing from the BFI, BBC Films and Creative England.

Wendy Mitchell is a programme manager, responsible for festivals and digital. She looks after various film programmes (such as our new UK-Nigeria screenwriting lab Script Junction), as well as running the festival selector screening programme in London for the world’s top festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Toronto and many more. She is also a contributing editor at Screen International and, the global film business publications headquartered in London. Prior to joining the British Council in January 2015, she was editor of Screen International. Wendy previously worked as staff news editor for Entertainment Weekly in New York and as Managing Editor at indieWIRE. She has also written for The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Variety, Rolling Stone, the Dow Jones News Service, Time Out New York, Billboard, and the New York Daily News. She has also moderated on-stage talks with the likes of Ang Lee, Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels, Pawel Pawlikoski, Alfonso Cuaron, Richard Gere, David Gordon Green, Justin Chadwick, Naomie Harris and the Backstreet Boys. She is also a contributor for SkyArts’ TV series Discovering Hollywood and has appeared as a film industry commentator on the BBC, CNN, and Sky.

Jemma Desai has taken the reins from Will on a refreshed British Council shorts support offer and adminsters theTravel Grant Fund as well as new EU Film Festival offer across the British Council regions globally. As a new recruit, she is in awe of her colleagues ambitious film programmes and is busy plotting her own. She continues as programme adviser for BFI London Film Festival (LFF) , with a special sweet spot for unhinged women on screen and she is the founder of I am Dora, a publication and screening series exploring how women relate to one another through cinema. She regularly programmes film events and discussions at venues such as BFI Southbank and HOME Manchester and at festivals including London Short Film Festival and Birds Eye View.  She continues to write for various publication and has contributed to Sight & Sound, BFI online, Little Joe, Under The Influence and Cléo Film Journal.  Jemma has a Masters in Cultural Heritage and began her career working at the Black Cultural Archives as Programme Manager. She earned her stripes in film as a festival producer with LFF,  London Indian Film Festival,  BFI Flare and Edinburgh International Film Festival and as a freelancer working in film development, production and exhibition for organisations including Revolution Films, Vertigo Films and the BFI. Jemma joined the British Council from the Independent Cinema Office (ICO), where she was a Film Programmer, providing advice to independent cinemas on their film programmes, and learning about indie distribution by developing projects like  'Two Films by Josephine Decker'.

Nicola Gallani looks after the Shakespeare on Film programme. With a background in independent film distribution and exhibition spanning two decades, including stints at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the British Film Institute and Peccadillo Pictures, she has helped launch many new and distinctive filmmaking voices to UK audiences, including Wong Kar-Wai, Lars von Trier, Michael Haneke and Abbas Kiarostami, and in recent years worked on the releases of Celine Sciamma’s Tomboy and Andrew Haigh’s Weekend.  She was distribution consultant to BAFTA from 2013 to 2015 on the UK release of the nominated short films. As Artistic Director of the British Film Festival of Kurdistan in Erbil, Iraq, Nicola delivered a film festival in a city without cinemas., and closer to home she produces Net.Work at LFF, an internationally focused emerging talent programme for Creative England and the BFI. In 2014 Nicola executive produced three new short film commissions for the British Council from award-winning filmmakers John Akomfrah, Mark Cousins and Penny Woolcock and in 2012 she produced Robert Pacitti’s debut feature On Landguard Point for the Cultural Olympiad.  Most recently Nicola directed a short documentary about London’s historic Little Italy, one of 25 projects selected for Sheffield Doc/Fest’s Crossover Market, which had its UK premiere at the 2016 London Short Film Festival.

The British Council Film Team is supported by Project Assistant, Julian Pye, who has worked across a number of departments within the British Council for over 20 years.


As an independent curator and festival producer she has collaborated with London Indian Film Festival, Birds Eye View Film Festival, London Short Film Festival, BFI Flare and Edinburgh International Film Festival.