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Future is bright for girls on film
Today is a special day for Calendar Girls star Dame Helen Mirren as she receives a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Women in Film and Television luncheon in London.
The Oscar, Bafta and Golden Globe-winning actress made her name on both the small screen and the silver screen with performances as Detective Jane Tennison in Lynda La Plante’s Prime Suspect crime series, and in the 2006 movie The Queen.
Thirty or so years from now, Bradford actress Sophie McShera hopes her career will follow a similar path.
Sophie, 24, is starring in the title role of the West Yorkshire Playhouse production of Cinderella, and can be seen on BBC1 as bright teen Ros McCain in Waterloo Road.
She says: “My brother Liam was going to tennis classes. I wanted a hobby, so I said I wanted to do drama classes. My mum and dad took me to the Footsteps Theatre School in Eccleshill.
“They had five girls going to London to audition for The Goodbye Girl, but one of the girls couldn’t go. They were frantic for someone who could do an American accent.
“I had spent the summer watching Saved By The Bell, a television programme about American teenagers that was on in the mornings. So I said I could, and ended up getting a job on a national tour.
“Because I was naive, it wasn’t a big thing to me. When you are 12 you just don’t care. I loved it.”
After that she got a part in the musical Annie. She took the time to do her GCSEs and A-levels at St Joseph’s College, then a degree in drama at London’s Brunel University.
At no point in our conversation did Sophie complain that she had been held back or discouraged by being a female.
Sarah Senior, 28, is co-director of Shoot Productions, which has been based in Bradford for the past two years. Shoot earns its income by making commercial films for companies and organisations.
But it also makes short films such as This Way Up, Enough – winner of five film festival wards around the world – and the latest, Soul Flowers.
She says: “Before I got into the industry, there was a prejudice about women being cinematographers, but I have never come up against people thinking I couldn’t do my job because I was a woman.
“Sometimes there is a drive to find more women film-makers and that can be positive. But I don’t think it’s a sex issue; it’s more about diversity.”
And, as though to prove that gender is no longer the issue it may once have been in the film industry, next month, Sarah is going to the National Film and Television School for a couple of years to do a masters degree in film production.
She says: “I want to make feature films and the NFTS is the best one in the country. Nick Park, who made Wallace & Gromit, went there, and so did David Yates who made the Harry Potter films.”
Sarah was one of eight successful applicants out of more than 150. In her absence, Shoot productions will be run by her co-director Jimmy Lund.
Just as Sarah goes, Peg Alexander will be getting ready to tell the district about the action plan being drawn up on the back of Bradford’s UNESCO City of Film accolade. She was appointed director of the City of Film company that was set up to make the most of the title.
She says: “My background is regeneration and public service delivery. I am new to this whole film world. In the world I work in, people just let you get on with it.
“People are very open and want to work with everybody. It’s just a question of proving you can do the job well.
“As we move forward with the City of Film, we are hopefully going to support our home-grown talent, not just actors and film-writers, but designers, make-up artists, technicians.
“We want to get to the point ten years from now where we’ve got the most film-literate population in the country.”