Making the Grade: Women Directing Documentary Past and Present

Friday 22-Saturday 23 November 2019, in partnership with Arts Institute Plymouth 


Directors UK (2018) reports an almost 10% decline in the number of women directing factual programming in recent years. What factors are driving this and how have individual women managed to forge careers in this sector? We will use the career of Jill Craigie (1911 – 99) as a springboard to explore how far things have changed since she started as one of the first women documentary directors in the UK, with contributions from women film-makers from the South West and around the UK.

Jill Craigie directed a series of films in the 1940s including The Way We Live (1946), a film which tried to foreground women’s perspectives on the plan to rebuild Plymouth after the World War Two. After her success in the war and post-war period, she had few opportunities to direct again, until, propelled by anger at the fate of the people of Dubrovnik during the war in Yugoslavia, she made Two Hours from London at the age of 84.

Further details and booking pages for events here:



Making the Grade (Lizzie Thynne): Film Screening and Discussion

Friday 22 November 6-9pm

Jill Craigie Cinema, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth

Archival footage and Craigie’s own words from letters, diaries and interviews present an intimate film portrait of the life and career of this pioneering director whose work imagines a new place for women post-World War Two. Craigie made the first film to feature living artists at work, Out of Chaos (1944) and To Be A Woman (1951), a forceful and witty argument for equal pay.   Making the Grade explores her unique contribution to documentary and her contrasting identities as director, writer, early media ‘personality’ and wife of former Labour leader, Michael Foot. The film will presented as a work in progress for your responses and feedback.

With director Lizzie Thynne (Sussex University), Professor Yvonne Tasker (University of Leeds) and invited filmmakers Rebecca Brand and Ruth Grimberg. Followed by wine reception.

Registration is free. Please book your ticket here:


Workshop: Making Our Way

Saturday 23 November 10am-1pm

Jill Craigie Cinema, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth

A workshop with directors Rebecca Brand, Ruth Grimberg, Anna Best and Barbara Santi on the opportunities and obstacles women face now in sustaining a career in documentary production. What avenues have they found to fund and exhibit their films outside, and within, film and television?

Led by Kayla Parker (University of Plymouth) and Lizzie Thynne (University of Sussex). Followed by complimentary buffet lunch.

Registration is free. Please book your ticket here:


The Way We Live (Jill Craigie, 1946): Film Screening

Saturday 23 November 2-4pm

Arts Centre Cinema, Plymouth College of Art

Craigie’s provocative documentary on the plan to rebuild Plymouth cleverly combines humour, melodrama and political polemic to stir up support for the architect’s radical proposal to re-design urban space and ensure housing meets the needs of families and young people.

Screening and discussion with Sadie Wearing (LSE), Stephen Essex (University of Plymouth) and Hollie Price (University of Sussex).

Tickets are £4, and are available to book here:


Workshop speaker biographies

Rebecca Brand is a documentary filmmaker and editor. She has made a number of short films which have played at festivals around the globe, including in London, Paris, New York, Edinburgh and Milan. Her debut feature-length film – Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model – which features performance artist and activist Bryony Kimmings, premiered in Portland (USA) and won the Audience Award at the London Feminist Film Festival. Rebecca loves making films about captivating characters who are on a mission, and her work is mainly concerned with gender, identity, activism and family.


Ruth Grimberg is a documentary filmmaker, photographer and part-time lecturer living and working in London. Her short films focus on the lives of ordinary people, exploring life in contemporary Britain whilst making connections to our recent past. Most recently her documentary Learning to Swim for BBC4 and the BFI was a commissioned response to the 1942 film Listen to Britain


Anna Best is an artist film-maker based in rural Dorset. She made the 16mm film Buddleia for a commission with Plymouth Arts Centre in 2007, and has recently made a film Plastic Water Stone filmed partly in Croatia, supported through a KURS residency and an Artists International Development Fund 2017. She runs an artist’s residency in her studio – The Mothership. An archive of past work can be found at


Barbara Santi is a documentary maker using film as a creative tool for social change. She has made documentaries for Channel 4 and Carlton TV and is co-founder of awen productions CIC, a media social enterprise set up in 2006 based in West Cornwall. Barbara recently completed Home of Springs, Trengwainton, a 3-year collaborative project in partnership with the National Trust culminating in an exhibition at The Exchange Gallery, Penzance, a book and feature documentary currently touring across venues in Cornwall. Her interest in collaborative documentary film, creative storytelling and ideas around place, identity and culture has further developed into a practice-based PhD with Exeter University (Penryn campus) of which she is in her third year of studies.