The project director of Global Short Doc Forum, which begins its British Council-supported inaugural workshop series on 15 May, discusses her career.
Flora Gregory: 'I just woke up one day and wanted to be a director'
What's your connection to the British Council?
The British Council is supporting the new Global Short Docs Forum of which I am project director, working closely with the marvellous Clothilde Redfern, the director of One World Media, and her incredible team. The Forum is a new One World Media initiative connecting filmmakers of documentary shorts from around the globe with digital platforms. The inaugural event is in London at the Frontline Club, 15-18 May, and we hope the next one will be in Kiev in Ukraine in March 2019.
What are you working on right now?
Apart from the Global Short Docs Forum I’m also working with the One World Media team supporting grantees of their production fund as exec producer. I help support new filmmakers as they go off and make what is often their directorial debut.
What originally turned you on to film?
I just woke up one day and wanted to be a director. I didn’t actually become a director in the way we usually mean it, but I’ve had and continue to have plenty of opportunities to be creative in many other ways, which I suspect might have been more satisfying.
What has been your career high so far?
The best thing about my career has been helping new talent, either in front or behind the camera. I initiated a new talent scheme, TVYP, when I was director at the Edinburgh International Television Festival (it now has The Network/Ones to Watch). We made it a part of the ethos of Unreported World (for C4) to find new director and presenter talent. Then when I set up Witness at Al Jazeera we started Viewfinder to find new global filmmakers. And now there’s the Global Short Docs Forum. That’s a lot of highs.
What was your first job in the film industry?
I worked with Brian Duffy the photographer when he was making commercials. That was a long time ago.
What key piece of advice would you give to someone starting off in the film industry?
Know what you want, keep searching, be determined and charming, and don’t take no for an answer. Oh, and work with lovely, hard-working people.
What is your favourite British documentary?
There are many. I loved Sean McAllister’s The Minders (1998), and Dan Reed’s The Valley (1999) about the Balkan War really changed my life.
If you could have been involved with any film ever made, which one would it be?
I don’t think it's been been made yet. Something echoing the Qatsi trio, by Godfrey Regio, the most high profile of which was Koyaanisqatsi : Life Out of Balance (1982). But with a different form.
What's the first film you remember seeing? What was so memorable about it?
My mother took me to the cinema for the first time when I was eight years old to see Sammy Going South about a boy whose parents had been killed in an air raid in Egypt, so he sets off to find his aunt in South Africa 5,000 miles away. It’s an adventure film. I think it probably whetted my appetite for travelling in remote places, although now I’m wondering if perhaps it’s better if we all just stay put.
What's the first documentary you remember seeing?
Night Mail (1936), directed by Harry Watt and Basil Wright.
Who would play you in the film about your life?
Mae West, Ingrid Bergman, Isabelle Huppert, Jessica Lang, Susan Sarandon – someone like that. Strong girls who like to laugh.
Filnd out more about the Global Short Docs Forum here