British Council Freetown Film labs


Nova has a long history of working in Sierra Leone, visiting 15 times since 2006.

So, when the British Council put out a call looking for an experienced UK film company familiar with working in West Africa, to hook up with an established Sierra Leone-based film-making organisation and deliver a series of film-making workshops across the year we felt we had a particularly strong platform from which to bid for the job.

Partnering with Freetown Media Centre, run by our Emmy-nominated Sierra Leonean partners Lansana Mansaray and Arthur Pratt, we were awarded the £100,000 British Council contract.

Sessions were led by Nova director Matt Stephenson. The plan had been for Matt to fly over to Freetown to deliver the workshops in person but Covid 19 had other ideas.

So the ‘film labs’ took place on Zoom. Working closely with our long-time friends and colleagues at Freetown Media Centre, Nova also brought on board acclaimed Sudanese film-maker Alyaa Sirelkhatim and Cumbrian based film-maker Dom Bush to co-deliver the labs.

In addition, guest sessions were delivered by Nova’s staff – Lina talked through the intricacies of editing, Callum shared his expertise on shooting and Barney spoke to the group about identifying and sourcing stories.

Around 40 of the country’s most talented young film-makers took part in series of five one-week-long workshops, working in small groups to produce, shoot and edit their own short documentaries.

The results were quite brilliant.

In fact, we were so impressed by the group’s work we set up a fund with Hull’s Freedom Festival, KCOM and the British Council to enable the participants to continue to develop their portfolios and launch their careers in the film industry.