Christiana Ebohon-Green is an award-winning drama director, and 2015 WFTV Mentee. She graduated from the National Film and Television School’s Directing Fiction MA and found early success making shorts. In 1998 she directed In Your Eye, which won her the Kodak Award USA that same year, and was screened at the Kodak Emerging Filmmaker’s Showcase at Cannes the following year. She went on to hone her directing skills on a number of well-known TV series, including EastEnders, Father Brown and Holby City.
In 2015, as well as being on the WFTV Mentoring Scheme, Christiana was selected for Directors UK’s prestigious High-End TV Drama programme, where she worked alongside director Carl Tibbits (Humans, Black Mirror) on The Tunnel. In 2017 she was selected for BAFTA Elevate, a programme which was designed to support female directors progress in their careers, and her Creative England and BFI funded short, Some Sweet Oblivious Antidote (which starred Sir Lenny Henry, Wunmi Mosaku, Colin Salmon, and Arinze Kene) was long-listed for Best British Short at the 2018 BAFTA Awards.
Fast forward to 2019 and, in February alone, two episodes of the BBC’s hugely popular series, Call the Midwife that Christiana directed were broadcast, and two episodes of BBC Four’s Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle. WFTV caught up with Christiana to find out what it’s like directing on some of the UK’s most well-known TV series, how she preps for jobs and works on set, and what advice she would give to the next generation of directors…
“It’s often hard to know if you are a million miles away from your goal, or almost there, so keep at it.”
Call The Midwife is one of the UK’s most popular TV series. What’s it like joining a show like that as a director?
It was exciting and a bit daunting to enter a series that is so loved. I am passionate about telling female stories, so I knew that I was definitely in the right place. Call the Midwife is fantastic at telling hard-hitting female led stories with the lightest of touches. It examines the lives of women in the past, the struggles that they faced with their sexual health and lot in life, and cleverly makes us reflect on the present.
How do you go about prepping to come in and direct on a long-running series?
You read your scripts, read previous scripts, watch past episodes and read characters biographies to prep a long-running series. This gives you a clear picture of who your characters are and what they have experienced. It helps you understand how they would/should respond to the challenges in your scripts.
How would you sum up your on-set ‘style’?
I enjoy being on set, so tend to be quite relaxed (unless it’s ten minutes before wrap and there is still lots to do). I try to encourage, rather than dictate. They say that the carrot works better than the stick and I agree with that approach.
“The WTFV Mentoring Scheme gave me a network of nineteen amazing women from different specialisations, at a similar place in their careers.”
Like you, many directors start out making shorts with the aim of transitioning over to TV and/or feature films. How did you make that transition and what advice would you offer others for how to go about it?
Different things work for different people, so I don’t think that one approach works for everyone. The schemes that I did helped me to make that transition, my experience, as well as my determination not to give up. It’s often hard to know if you are a million miles away from your goal, or almost there, so keep at it.
You’ve been selected for a number of career development initiatives, including the WFTV Mentoring Scheme. What have you found to be the most valuable thing you’ve gained from taking part in such programmes?
The WTFV Mentoring Scheme gave me a network of nineteen amazing women from different specialisations, at a similar place in their careers. I was so impressed by them and then realised that if I was one of them, that I must be okay too – we all had that experience. It did wonders for our self esteem and in addition to that we were a sounding board for each other. As a freelancer we often spend a lot of time alone, which can be isolating. This scheme was invaluable.
BAFTA Elevate was great because we (fifteen female directors) had the approval and support of an amazing organisation. It provided a spotlight, which meant that I was taken more seriously within the Industry. It helped to open doors.
Directors UK’s High End TV scheme put me right where I wanted to be, right in the middle of a High End drama. I shadowed a director (Carl Tibbetts) in prep, production, in post and got the opportunity to direct some 2nd Unit. It was a fantastic experience.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given, and who was it by?
Nicola Lees (former Producer of the WFTV Mentoring Scheme) said that you should do at least one thing every day to further your career. It could be a small thing, but it means that you keep pushing forward. This also takes the pressure off, as you realise that you don’t have to conquer them in one go.
Christiana directed episode 6 (broadcast on Sunday 17 February) and episode 7 (broadcast on Sunday 24 February) of Call the Midwife (Series 8), which can now be viewed on BBC iPlayer here.
The two episodes of Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle that she directed were Cyrus 1951 (episode 2) and Yvonne 1981 (episode 4), and these can also be viewed on BBC iPlayer here.
WFTV would like to thank Christiana for taking part in this interview.