Joanna Boateng’s aim for her work is, on paper, a simple one: to capture real human interest stories that depict marginalised communities with nuance and depth.
But, if it was as easy as all that, everyone would be doing it. It’s testament to Joanna’s skill and talent that her first documentary as a full producer, Uprising (2022), would win a BAFTA. This three-part BBC documentary series explored the New Cross house fire tragedy in 1981 and its impact on UK race relations, and would go on to also pick up an RTS award.
We spoke to Joanna about making this year’s final 20 BAFTA Breakthrough list …
Please introduce yourself …
My name is Joanna Boateng, I am a documentary producer and I’m from south London.
Why and how did you get involved in Uprising?
I was contacted by Rogan Productions about this project in 2020; they were looking for producers. It’s a privilege to work on projects that allow me to immerse myself in black British history so when they asked me to produce on the series I said yes immediately.
Tell us about the team you worked with. Who was imperative to making your life easier whilst working on Uprising?
We had a fairly small team and I worked closest with Nelson Adeosun, the other producer on the series. We had to spend a lot of time travelling to community centres, churches and people’s homes to talk about a really traumatic period of time. It could be emotionally draining at times, especially since we started the series during the early months of the pandemic but working alongside Nelson made it so much easier.
What does Uprising mean to you personally?
Working on Uprising has completely transformed my career. I worked with some incredibly talented filmmakers, not least Steve McQueen and James Rogan, both of whom gave me the space to build on my producing skills when working on the programme. It reaffirmed my confidence in what I do and that’s stayed with me beyond the series.
Tell us a memorable moment from idea to final edit?
We had a small gathering once the edit finished; everyone who was involved in the series – people we interviewed, many members of the community who we spoke to for our research and their families – were all invited. The director gave a speech thanking them for their contributions. But then they each spoke up about how meaningful the process of making the documentary had been for them and how after 40 years, having a platform to discuss what happened to them and knowing that they had listened was such a huge release. I’d never felt prouder than at that moment.
Share a skill-defining moment working on this project …
Over the course of the project, I got to know the people who eventually appeared in the documentary really well, so I conducted many of the onscreen interviews alongside James Rogan.
What does being a BAFTA Breakthrough finalist mean to you?
Uprising was it was such a complex documentary, the sort of production you put a lot of yourself into. Being a BAFTA Breakthrough finalist means being recognised for all that work.
How are you hoping it will support your career?
I know I’ll get mentorship from people whose work I admire, and I’m looking forward to getting to know other BAFTA breakthrough finalists. Maybe I’ll end up collaborating on something with them!
More producing documentaries! Would like to move into directing, too.
Read the rest of the BAFTA Breakthrough 2022 interviews here.