YDA Week 2023

For YDA week 2023 we talked to a series of directors, producers and creative professionals to find out some of their own inspirations, examine some of their achievements and elicit some expert advice for the next generation.

From the movies that lit the spark for their cinematic journeys, to the commercials or TV shows that they admire most and the people who have inspired them along the way, each interview asks six questions that drill down into their passions and inspirations. 

Over the course of the week we spoke to two recent Oscar winners in All Quiet on the Western Front director Edward Berger and The Elephant Whisperers producer Guneet Monga, as well as multi-Bafta-winning actor, writer, producer and director Sharon Horgan. We also had insight from Ed Ulbrich, VFX consultant and former CEO of Digital Domain, about the hottest of hot topics, artificial intelligence.

Day 1: Jonas Åkerlund

Jonas Åkerlund, the director behind a raft of award-winning music videos and commercials, as well as features, TV shows and documentaries. 

This year’s first guest was RSA Films’ Jonas Åkerlund, the director behind music videos for artists including – but certainly not limited to – Madonna, Metallica, Beyonce, The Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga, Coldplay and, of course, the iconic and controversial Smack My Bitch Up for The Prodigy. 

He’s also helmed commercials for some of the biggest brands on the planet and has successfully crossed over to features with films including Spun and Lords of Chaos, and the Mads Mikkelsen-starring Netflix film Polar. He has also worked on television series, most recently on Clark, starringBill Skarsgård. 

Over the 30-minute interview Åkerlund discusses moving from editing to directing, why he thought Smack My Bitch Up was comedic not controversial, and why longevity is a bonus. 

Day 2: Six Guneet Monga Kapoor

Guneet Monga Kapoor, one of India’s most successful and respected film producers and who picked up an Oscar for the documentary short The Elephant Whisperers. 

Guneet is an Indian film producer, a BAFTA nominee and among the first producers from India to be invited into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She is also the founder of Sikhya Entertainment, a Mumbai-based production house.

Through Sikhya Entertainment Guneet has carved an unprecedented space in Indian film industry by producing films that focus on national stories that travel to a global audience, films such as The LunchboxMasaanGangs of WasseypurWhat Will People SayMonsoon ShootoutPeddlers and the recent Oscar-winning short documentary The Elephant Whisperers.

Guneet tells us about her career journey, the challenges she faced, and the work and people who have inspired her along the way.

Day 3: Edward Berger

Edward Berger, the director behind the Oscar-winning All Quiet on the Western Front, joins us to discuss his work as well as talk about the people and movies that inspired him. 

If you haven’t already seen Edward Berger’s adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s 1928 novel All Quiet on the Western Front then you are missing out on a brutally powerful, award-winning film that gets under the mud-caked skin of its First World War protagonists. 

The film and its director have picked up numerous awards over the past year and, as part of the YDA Week, Berger talks to us about the challenges, for both cast and crew, of making the film.

He also discusses the creative opportunities that making television series affords, the movie that motivated him to become a director, and the filmmaker he looks to for inspiration. 

Day 4: Sharon Horgan

Award-winning writer, actor, producer, director and co-founder of production company Merman, Sharon Horgan, talks about the comedy and the comedians that have inspired her, the DIY approach she took at the start of her career, and the challenge of tackling something new.

Horgan, talks about the comedy and the comedians that have inspired her, the DIY approach she took at the start of her career, and the challenge of tackling something new.

If you haven’t seen Catastrophe, the award-winning show co-created with comedian Rob Delaney, then you have maybe seen Pulling.

If not Pulling, then likely the Sarah-Jessica Parker starring Divorce. Or possibly Motherland. Or the recent Apple TV hit series Bad Sisters. I could go on; Frayed, Shining Vale, This Way Up, Women on the Verge…  Sharon Horgan has either starred in, written, produced or, often, taken on all of those roles to become one of the most prominent and successful people working in the entertainment industry today.  

She is also one of the founders of Merman, the production company which produced many of the aforementioned shows and which is also behind commercials for brands including McDonald’s, Santander, Kellogg’s and Vodafone, and home to directors such as Anton Corbijn, Declan Lowney, MJ Delaney and Vaughan Arnell.

As part of this year’s YDA Week, Horgan took time to talk about, among other things, the TV shows that inspired her to get into the business, the “hardworking and creative people” who she has admired along the way, and why tenacity is so important if you want to succeed.

Day 5: Ed Ulbrich

In the last of 2023’s YDA Week interviews we speak to VFX maestro Ed Ulbrich about how the artificial intelligence will impact creativity, both on screen and off..

Having worked on or led the visual effects teams behind features including Spike Jonze’s Adaptation, Michael Bay’s Armageddon, David Fincher’s Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, as well as James Cameron’s Titanic, the last two of which won Oscars for VFX, Ed Ulbrich knows a thing or two about technology.

Previously SVP of production, then EVP at Digital Domain and now running production for AI-focussed company Metaphysic, Ulbrich has a wealth of experience in the sector. 

He has given a TED Talk about the VFX in Benjamin Button and is currently working on a new film  by Robert Zemeckis, starring Tom Hanks, which utilises the creative power of AI. 

Over the course of 50 minutes Ulbrich explains how a week in the AI space is equivalent to a year in the real world; why, as we move forward, the skills we need from people in the industry will be different to the skills we require now; how the paradigm of creative importance has flipped, and how the ripple effect of AI will be huge. 

All Interviews by Danny Edwards shots