Writer/Director Annetta is the founder of Roman Candle Productions, a film production company focused on black and female–led films. She is currently developing a feature film Colony Rooms, a period drama set within the Caribbean community in 1960s London with the BFI, and a 2nd feature film, Wild Swimming exploring race and identity, with Film Four. She is also developing a revenge drama TV series with Buccaneer Media.
As a director, Annetta has directed the New Years Special of Doctor Who for BBC Studios. She is also attached to direct Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s upcoming film adaptation of her Laurence Olivier Award winning play Emilia, based on the life and times of Renaissance poet and Shakespeare contemporary Emilia Bassano.
When did you know you wanted to be a director?
I didn’t know I wanted to be a director for a long time because I didn’t know I could. I had always loved film and had been watching films ever since I can remember. But that world seemed very far away from me. However, when I realised I wanted to be creative I chose acting because that seemed more accessible. I went to drama school and then acted in theatre for a while. But my dream was to act in films. But I just never got there. When I was offered a chance to direct theatre, I realised how much more of a voice I had than if I remained an actor. So that is when I switched and began to pursue directing.
Once you knew you wanted to pursue a career as a director, what where your first steps in achieving this goal?
My first steps towards building my directing career was to form a theatre company, where I put on contemporary as well as period plays, in these tiny fringe theatre spaces I rented (via box office splits). I would then direct plays I liked and try out different ideas. The money I made from the box office (it was tiny) was then reinvested into making short films. It was a great learning curve and playground to explore drama but also a great opportunity to work more with actors. I learned so much about blocking through my theatre work. After that I worked professionally as a script supervisor for both Film and TV to strengthen my technical film skills. This was extremely educational as I worked alongside many directors and could observe how they used the camera to cover scenes and work with cast and crew.
What obstacles or set backs did you face in becoming a director?
Once I had honed my craft through film courses and quite a few successful short films via short film schemes, I suddenly found myself invisible when knocking on doors to be seen for professional work. As a woman of colour this is not new to me but it felt particularly hard to convince the powers that be that I was good enough to do the job. I was either told I needed a broadcast credit, even though they had advertised for new voices etc. Or I was told to try shadowing schemes to learn to be on set i.e. things I already knew. It was a very frustrating time. And took a long time to convince people. However, I think its slowly beginning to change. Which I am excited about.
How did you develop your voice and hone your craft?
I developed my voice and craft mainly through making my own work i.e. writing and directing shorts. I also taught myself to edit and ended up editing my last three shorts. This really opened my eyes to what I liked in regards to rhythm, pacing and the power of movement or stillness within the frame.
How did you get your first break?
It was very random. One of the producers from Doctor Who saw the trailer to one of my SCI FI short films on a blog about women of colour filmmakers in the UK. I had done an interview with them ages ago. This producer then went onto my website and checked out my work and then contacted me about doing the Doctor WhoSpecial. I then had a chat/interview with her. Three days later I had my 2nd interview with the show runner and the series producer. And then they offered me the job.
TV Credits: Doctor Who (2022)
Film Credits: The Arrival (2018), Afro Punk Girl (2018), Scarlet (2010), Winking Man Rock (2010), The Recording (2007), Winnie and the Duppy Bat (2006).
Photograph: Violeta Sofia