This year’s Chairwoman, Anna Hashmi, talks innovation, creativity and culture, and explains why the industry needs to nurture new talent to secure its future.
In 2022 the Young Director Award, in partnership with shots, hits its quarter century landmark and, after those 25 years, the YDA is still attracting – and championing – the most talented new directors from across the globe.
Anna Hashmi is tasked with presiding over the YDA jury in 2022 as, later this year, it casts its collective, expert eye over the entered work. The Founder and Executive Producer of The Corner Shop here reveals what she and her jury will be looking for in the entries, how the pandemic has affected opportunities for new talent, and why competitions like the YDA are so important for the next generation of filmmakers.
What made you accept the invitation to become YDA jury president for 2022, and how important is it to make sure new directing talent is recognised and nurtured?
I have huge respect for the YDA and Francois [Chilot, YDA President] for championing emerging directors and giving them a platform where their work is celebrated and, most importantly, is seen by so many people in the industry.
The YDA ultimately is about the talent and craft of filmmaking, but it does an important job in creating visibility and opportunities for young directors – and working with young directors is the most exciting and important part of my role as producer and company owner, so it’s an honour to be asked to be this year’s Chairwoman.
Our industry is about innovation, creativity and culture, and unless we invest in finding, nurturing and working with young directors we will not evolve.
Our industry is about innovation, creativity and culture, and unless we invest in finding, nurturing and working with young directors we will not evolve. I think it’s important that progress also means challenging outdated ways of thinking about diversity and representation, and as a mixed race woman from south London, I’m encouraged that the industry is working to readdress the stories being told, and who is telling them. We need more opportunities for young directors with different life experiences and unique and original perspectives and the YDA is a truly egalitarian platform that helps everyone.
The Corner Shop works across different formats, including long-form content; how important do you think it is that talent coming through has a good understanding of this type of content?
For us, it made sense to explore other mediums as not all the directors we work with, or want to work with, fit into traditional advertising director roles. Also, some stories and perspectives benefit from different formats, to be able to explore an authentic idea or style without having to align it with a brand or product.
There are so many platforms now for long and short form content that it is really a viable goal for young filmmakers to focus their craft towards different formats. But they need to learn and understand the disciplines used in those mediums as there’s so much content available to watch. Young directors need to think about how their films offer this saturated market something new and exciting. In the end, whatever format a director is working in, it’s all about the idea and the craft of how it was made.
Above: The 2022 YDA Jury Chairwoman, Anna Hashmi, and YDA President, Francois Chilot.
Do you think that the pandemic, and the enforced restrictions on advertising over the last couple of years, has negatively affected the pathways for new directorial talent?
Obviously, the pandemic and all the restrictions created new barriers for young directors as it’s been harder for them to meet people who might champion them or give them opportunities. Agencies mostly worked with established directors during the height of the pandemic, and with less work being made there were less chances for young directors to get a break.
We are lucky to work in advertising, TV and film, and it’s really not that difficult to employ a social conscience into everything we do.
However, I do think that adversity can inspire creativity, and a lot of young directors used that time to make some really original films and content. I saw this with the young directors I work with who made films at home during lockdown. Directors like Varun Chopra who made Smell of Raw Mangos from his bedroom at his parents’ home in New Delhi, and Sindha Agha who captured her lockdown experience with Impossible Time for Vox. And, look at Raine Allen-Miller at Somesuch who, although a more established young director, really showed us all what you can get up to at home with her sublime lockdown film Wank Wiggle.
So, now that we have learnt to work with all the restrictions, I hope that agencies and clients will have the confidence to work with new directors, who will bring a refreshing and new perspective to the industry.
The YDA category, Changing the World Frame by Frame, aims to highlight work which concentrates on social good; how important do you think advertising’s role is in global social education?
I think every industry has a responsibility to consider its impact on the world, to actively work to offset its negative effects and contribute something good to society. We are lucky to work in advertising, TV and film, and it’s really not that difficult to employ a social conscience into everything we do. From making our sets greener and actively offsetting and reducing our carbon omission, to creating opportunities for people from different backgrounds, to telling stories from different perspectives to create a true equality in the advertising and content we consume. These things will only create a better environment for us all to live in.
Advertising has such a huge reach, and can effect change in people’s opinions and perceptions, so it really is influential. We have an opportunity to educate, entertain and sell products – whilst trying to make the world a nicer place – so why not do it?
What will you be looking for when you’re going through the shortlisted work?
I am totally open minded about the work, as I really love surprises. I find it exciting when you watch something new and unexpected. It’s great to be challenged as a viewer, and be taken on a journey and get really immersed in a narrative, or the characters. Or be shocked, or entertained, or made to laugh out loud. It’s not so much the genre of the work but the originality that shows the director’s singular voice and style.
When I served on the jury last year, I was so consumed by some of the films that they kept coming back to me. Mostly during Zoom calls, I would recall parts of the films that really impressed me and stayed with me. That is what I am looking for again this year; films that distract me from Zoom!
How important are competitions and showcases like the YDA to new talent, and to the industry at large?
SUPER IMPORTANT. For young directors, this is an opportunity to have their work seen by the industry on a global scale. It gives them the validation and accolades that will help them stand out and get noticed. There are so many platforms to watch films and content on that it can be overwhelming, so the YDA offers a curated selection of the best young directors, making it really easy for production companies and agencies to find new and exciting talent.
Young directors need to think about how their films offer this saturated market something new and exciting.
We need new and different perspectives and voices and different storytellers to keep advertising progressing, to keep it interesting, and fun, and relevant! Unless we invest in the next generation of filmmakers and continue to evolve as an industry, the industry at LARGE would become very SMALL, and very BORING.
What are you looking forward to most about the upcoming experience?
I was on the jury last year, and Gijs [Determeijer last year’s Chair] and Francois and his team selected a really smart and talented group of producers, directors and creatives from around the globe. It was interesting to see what resonated with people in different parts of the world, and how some films can just transcend all cultures and perspectives and be universally loved.
I’m really looking forward to watching the films. The YDA attracts a really interesting, eclectic mix of young directors from different backgrounds and countries, so some of the films are really unexpected and refreshingly different. It is unlike any other awards show, where you may already be familiar with the work and know the directors. I get excited when something is surprising and authentic and, even if the work is not perfect, but there is something original or singular in the director’s voice, it can make you want to see more and see them evolve and develop.
Interview with Danny Edwards, editor of shots magazine