NTU alum chosen to join Women in Film and Television mentorship scheme
NTU Television Journalism alum Sarah Leigh has been selected from hundreds of applicants across the UK to take part in an industry-backed mentoring scheme.
Organised by Women in Film and TV (UK) and supported by media organisations including the BBC and Pinewood Studios, the scheme is designed to assist mid-career women to progress in the film, television, and creative industries.
Sarah will receive mentoring in her specialist field as a screenwriter and film director.
Graduating from NTU’s Centre for Broadcasting & Journalism MA Television Journalism course in 2005, Sarah has positive memories of her studies.
“It was a brilliant time,” she recalls. “A highly vocational course and a great training ground. Before the end of my studies, I secured a long internship at CNN as a researcher. Realising what a great opportunity this was, my lecturers were incredibly accommodating and gave their complete backing.”
Further success followed when Sarah secured a job at Sky News as a journalist.
Sarah, who runs her own production company Inclusivity Films, is particularly keen to promote wider inclusivity in her industry.
“As someone who is neurodivergent and the mother to a disabled son,” she says, “I’m very aware of what I perceive to be a lack of representation both on and off the screen. In terms of people working in television, only six percent identify as deaf, disabled, or neurodivergent, whereas in society that figure is around 22 percent.
“With my own production company, I wanted to have a vehicle to make social impact films and productions that would give people opportunities and remove barriers to work. A huge part of what I do involves making my film sets more inclusive and accessible.”
Sarah is incredibly proud of a recent production entitled Typical? Describing it as a verbatim piece, it details the lived experiences of adults who have learning disabilities.
“90 percent of our cast have a learning disability and 50 percent of our crew identify as disabled and / or neurodivergent,” Sarah says. “It’s really important to me to share their words and I hope it will change some perceptions around disability. We had support from Panavision and Warner Brothers and there’s an appetite in the film industry to be more inclusive.”
Given our chat with Sarah happens in the same week as International Women’s Day, we wonder who are her heroes. Who has been her inspiration?
“I’ll list three,” Sarah says without hesitation. “Judy Heumann – a disability rights activist in the US – because of her work to change attitudes.
"Industry-wise, Ava DuVernay (director, writer, and producer of When They See Us and many other social impact films). I have one of her quotes on my website, which reads ‘an artist and an activist are not so far apart’.
"And finally, Angelina Jolie – for similar reasons – as an activist and artist.”
And Sarah’s advice to our undergraduates?
“During my MA, I was a single parent commuting daily from Stevenage to Nottingham," she says.
"So to student parents, I’d tell them that it is possible with support to make it all work. I’d also quote my motto: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Life can be difficult and uncomfortable at times, but you should always aim for the very top of what it is you want.”
Photo credit: Sequoia Ziff
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