In a world where art serves as a refuge, offering solace and reflection, there emerges a cadre of remarkable individuals who are not only contributing to the realms of film, television, and design but are crafting narratives that resonate deeply with the human experience. In this collection of noteworthy contributors, each artist has become a beacon, illuminating the transformative power of their craft. The performances of actors like Ambika Mod, Naomi Ackie, and Tamara Lawrance showcase the profound impact of storytelling, while costume designer Sophie Canale brings Regency glamour to life. As we delve into their stories, accomplishments, and aspirations, we celebrate these creators whose artistic endeavours not only entertain but rescue the human spirit, providing a sanctuary in the world of creativity.
Charlotte Wells, director
Charlotte Wells likes details. In the Scottish director’s debut film, Aftersun, 11-year-old Sophie (played by Frankie Corio) and her troubled father, Calum (Paul Mescal) take a package holiday to Turkey in the late 1990s, and Wells populates the tender family drama with some visceral touchpoints: Fanta Lemon, arcade games, resort karaoke. "I really like capturing the specifics of any experience," she says. It’s those little things, combined with more transcendental musings on grief, that have made the film such a heart-stealing hit. Wells, who lives in New York, carefully assembled the team for her first full-length feature. Corio, a newcomer, was chosen from about 800 applicants; Mescal, channelling his Normal People vulnerability, honed his Scottish accent for the role ("My family seem a lot more convinced by his accent than they do by mine," Wells says); and the film was co-produced by Pastel, the production company founded by Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins. Inevitably, awards buzz is building. At the British Independent Film Awards, Aftersun scooped seven prizes, including for best director. And while trophies are nice, there’s always the next story to tell. "I’m looking forward to the point where I make my morning coffee and sit down in front of a blank page," Wells says. "But that moment hasn’t come yet."
- By Henry Wong
Jane Millichip, CEO of Bafta
"It was like all my birthdays coming at once," says Jane Millichip of the opportunity to join Bafta last summer, when the CEO role became vacant for the first time in two decades. The former Sky Studios chief content officer has a track record of successfully spearheading diversity and inclusion initiatives—a mission she will bring to Bafta as it continues to recalibrate itself in the wake of controversies emerging from the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements. "We now have gender parity on our long-listing juries, which is helping to elevate women’s stories, but we still have work to do on tackling the class barrier in film and television," she says, citing Bafta’s bursaries and acceleration programmes as vital to helping people from all backgrounds to progress in the industry. Sustainability is another priority: Millichip is a passionate advocate of both reducing the industry’s carbon footprint and encouraging producers to find authentic ways to weave environmental messaging into their narratives. Above all, she wants to preserve and enhance the UK’s reputation as ‘a hotbed of talent’. "We have a real tradition of excellence in the craft of storytelling," she says. "Now is not the time to rest on our laurels."
Ambika Mod, actor
In the BBC’s This Is Going to Hurt, which was filmed in the throes of the pandemic, Mod appeared as
an overworked junior doctor facing emergency C-sections and exams. Her performance as a young woman at breaking point was deeply affecting, although she has said that ‘comedy was definitely my way in’. With a deft ability to make audiences both laugh and cry, Mod has earned a spot on Bafta’s Breakthrough list, and will take the lead in the Netflix adaptation of David Nicholls’ novel One Day.
Naomi Ackie, actor
"I’ve got an eye for off-kilter projects, probably because I feel quite off-kilter as a human being," says Naomi Ackie. While she is now best-known for portraying Whitney Houston in I Wanna Dance with Somebody, the big-budget biopic is but the latest in a fabulously varied line of career choices from the London-based actor, ranging from Hollywood franchises such as Star Wars to TV projects including the excellent left-field black comedy, The End of the F***ing World, Steve McQueen’s powerful British drama, Small Axe and the queer love story, Master of None. Casting her net wide is deliberate, for both professional and personal reasons. "Each character I play pushes me into a deeper understanding of myself," Ackie says. "Plus, I’ve been acting since I was 11. For the first 20 years, I made so many rules for myself, but I’ve realised recently, it’s just about playing and trying." That experimentation will, this year, see her take the lead in Zoë Kravitz’s silver-screen directorial debut Pussy Island ("so joyful to work on!"), produce her own television projects—in which she explores magical realism and workplace power-play—and draft her first feature-film script.
Tamara Lawrance, actor
The Rada-trained actor, Tamara Lawrance has already graced our screens in several ambitious projects, such as Mike Bartlett’s BBC drama Charles III, the adaptation of Andrea Levy’s novel, The Long Song and Small Axe. She recently starred in the film, The Silent Twins, about June and Jennifer Gibbons, who, from the age of three, would only communicate with each other; her performance has earned her a British Independent Film Award, along with her co-star, Letitia Wright. She will next be seen as the protagonist in Marlon James’ detective series for HBO/Channel.
Sophie Canale, costume designer
Since taking creative control for the second season of Bridgerton, the costume designer, Sophie Canale has created some of the year’s most memorable fashion moments on television, among them the pearl-embellished sage-green ballgown worn by Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma for her introduction to London society, and Charithra Chandran’s elegant lace wedding look, complete with elbow-length gloves, tiara and statement veil. Having brought Regency glamour into our living-rooms, Canale will soon be showcasing her talents on the big screen: she has just finished her first film as lead designer, working alongside Emerald Fennell on the forth-coming thriller, Saltburn.
- By Amy De Klerk
This piece originally appeared in the February 2023 print edition of Harper's Bazaar USA.