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Categories: Features

AD Cooper gives us the inside scoop on a little mistake that caused some big goings-on for an important subject: the fascinating story of BAFTA’s Lucky 225.

BAFTA started it

 Early in 2017, BAFTA launched an initiative to help women directors raise their skills to direct high-end drama. It was called Elevate, and I applied for one of the 15 places on what promised to be a very insightful and career-boosting course of training and mentoring spread over several months.

However, in early April I received news that I’d been rejected. Ho hum I thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained etc.

But one thing rankled about the email from Pelumi Akindude at BAFTA. There in the top box for all to see were the names and email addresses of the 225 rejected directors. Now the email felt not just impersonal but also unprofessional. All the sender had to do was put these into the BCC but if she had, we’d have missed out on something brilliant.

One of the recipients immediately quipped back a Reply All email saying “Bad luck ladies”.

And that’s when it all kicked off.

Suddenly all the women joined in and my In Box was rammed with email streams, conversations, suggestions and proposals to make the most of this unique opportunity. Here were hundreds of women embracing the dark cloud of rejection and immediately finding a silver lining. (Ironically my email provider wouldn’t let me reply to 224 recipients at once.)

Lightly alarmed at Pelumi’s error, a BAFTA boss immediately issued an apology asking us to delete the first email, and then delete that from our Trash folders so that the names and addresses wouldn’t be shared.

“Too late” came the Reply All response.

Rejected but not dejected

Who knew that there were some 240 women directors in the UK? None of us did but this cock-up provided a golden opportunity to create something positive out of an otherwise disappointing situation. How else would we have ever been connected in one cohesive group? Could we use our strength in numbers to share, support, network, mentor, develop and promote the role of women directors? Why not? Many of the 225 rejected are amongst the best directors in the country, some helming multiple features and TV series.

Meet the Luckies

A name was created: BAFTA’s Lucky 225, because at the end of the day, this slip led to massive positivity. Two of the “Luckies” quickly emerged as the ringleaders in managing this new co-operative: Eva Sigurdadottir and Eline Van Der Velden. In no time, we had a group logo.

Boom! And the story of the Luckies went viral

Social media went into meltdown. The Twitterati were soon at it with the exchanges and threads all delivered with great good humour, often laugh out loud funny. Multiple re-tweets followed from WFTV, Directors UK and many other professional organisations – not all of them female focused.

Before we could blink, the hashtag of #BaftasLucky225 was trending up at No 6 on Twitter. What’s more, the story was picked up by the Hollywood Reporter, Screen Daily, Grazia Daily, Womenandhollywood.com et al.

Eva and Eline set up a Facebook group, and this has become an invaluable forum for finding cast, crew, information, updates, initiatives, sharing opinions and more.

And it’s not just directors now. The Luckies FB page has now swollen to over 1000 members by including female crew, DOPs, women’s groups and more.

BAFTA invited us in for drinks

With the press coverage and general hubbub about the Luckies, BAFTA invited us in for a drink.  And that event made the London Standard and generated a news piece on BBC radio.

The Standard article

OK it was only one drink but a welcome apologetic gesture nonetheless, and it gathered a large percentage of the Luckies together for the first time.

Eline and Eva also enticed along a number of useful and relevant industry folks who could offer a wide range of services, information, initiatives and events.

Amongst the Luckies, many conversations were started about what could be achieved? Discussions about strength in numbers. Surely no one can complain now that there are no women directors.

The Luckies at BAFTA                                                                                                           Photo: Amy Matheson

What’s next?

Plans are already in place for a general meet up to discuss the future for the Luckies.  A gang of us recently met up in Cannes, but there are more solid ideas being mooted to make the most of our connections.

Despite initiatives from Directors UK, the Gena Davies Institute and others, women directors remain hugely under-represented. Film school graduates are split 50:50, but women direct only about 27% of shorts with a variable of 3 – 6% making features. Yet recent buzz generated by Sophia Coppola at Cannes, Jane Campion’s outspoken opinions, and the box office smash of Wonder Woman (directed by Patty Jenkins) show that the capability is there.

The BFI declined to insist on gender quotas after the Directors UK revealed the paucity of female directors. But maybe the Luckies can start to change opinions and seek out opportunities just through sheer weight of numbers. BAFTA’s Lucky 225 is the place to find women directors so seek us out – we’re all over the web now.

What happened to Pelumi?

 Thankfully she didn’t get fired, they couldn’t do it surely when her simple mistake engendered such positivity. In fact we thanked her and asked her to join the group, and some of the Luckies clubbed together and sent her a bunch of flowers.

Who won a place on Elevate?

 In the rejection email, the judges at BAFTA were “impressed by the passion, commitment and skill demonstrated by the entrants”. Even though they rejected 225 of us, they’ve generously invited us to join certain sessions being run on the Elevate scheme.

We’ll be joining a very elite group if only briefly, and such sessions will be invaluable.  These are the 15 talented women who won a place on Elevate (and honorary membership of the Luckies).

Congratulations to Alice Duffy, Amanda Blue, Catherine Brady, Christina Ebohon-Green, Dawn Shadforth, Delyth Thomas, Emma Sullivan, Kate Saxon, Lindy Heyman, Lisa Clarke, Rebecca Johnson, Sally El Hosaini, Sarah Walker, Tina Gharavi and Vanessa Caswill.

Let’s hope they run the Elevate initiative again next year.

 

A D Cooper is a director, producer, writer and multi-media copywriter. She’s won awards for advertising writing, for screenplays long and short, written 80+ scripts for Ninja Warrior (Challenge TV) and published articles, short stories and joke books. Weary of waiting for someone to film her scripts, she started directing in 2010 creating a slate of short films including two corporates, a documentary and a museum installation. All of her fiction shorts for Hurcheon Films have been selected for international festivals, with Ace (2013) garnering five awards. Her most recent projects are an award-winning historical docushort Writing the Peace, a stage version of her World War 1 short film A Small Dot On The Western Front which she wrote, produced and directed, an experimental short film Spring on the Strand (selected for 3 festivals in the USA), The Penny Dropped (Award of Merit in a US shorts competition), and Home to the Hangers newly completed for the Directors UK Alexa Challenge 2017.

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Posted on Jun 12, 2017

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