VIP judges 2020

Our VIP Jury and screenings

Zara Ballantyne-Grove 

Zara Ballantyne-Grove, previously a member of the advisory committee of the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA), is currently the COO of Upbeat Productions, a video production and software development company that creates engaging content and bespoke technology, where she has produced award-winning short films which have screened at festivals around the world. Major festival screenings include Raindance Film Festival and London Short Film Festival.

Previous shorts Hyper Jump won Best Sound at the Nottingham based International Short Film Show Awards, and I Seek Asylum starring Emma Thompson won the Women Film Critics Circle Award at the Socially Relevant Film Festival in New York. Additional short film producer credits include Teeth and period drama Somatic. Zara has finished producing her first documentary, The Easy Bit, which is a feature-length documentary about fertility treatment from the male perspective currently being entered into film festivals around the world.

Casting Director Shakyra Dowling

An amazing casting director, Shakyra Dowling is responsible for casting many incredible award winning pieces, cinema releases, Netflix films and more. Specializing in British Independent Feature Films, European co-productions, TV and commercials, Shakyra is also part of the Casting Directors Association, a voting member of the European Film Academy and a member of the Casting Society of America and a BAFTA member. Her latest films include Love Sarah ( Rupert Penry-Jones, Celia Imrie, Shelley Conn), Clay Kickers (Sam Hazeldine, Tom Goodman-Hill), The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (2013), and Spaceship (2017) as well as TV Moscow Noir and Coconut. And Wolf starring George MacKay, Lily-Rose Depp, Paddy Considine has just commenced filming.

Twitter: ShakyraDowling

Director Marc Price

Internationally award-winning director, Marc Price, is the writer and director of NIGHTSHOOTERS and Dune Drifter, a sci-fi action feature having its premiere at Frightfest before being released this year. Marc’s debut feature, COLIN, won six international film awards including Best Feature at Raindance and a nomination at the BIFA awards for best feature. Screening at the Cannes Film Festival, Frightfest and Sitges, it has been released theatrically in Japan, North America, Canada, Australia, Germany and UK. COLIN also received a wealth of critical acclaim across the world, with Martin Scorsese describing it as, “Savage, with an energy that takes the zombie idea to another level. Really interesting filmmaking. Disturbing.”

Marc’s second feature, MAGPIE, was released theatrically in the US and UK and is currently featured on Amazon Prime Movies. Marc has also developed projects for Film 4’s Frightfest, CBBC, E4 and BBC Three. Marc’s has co-created Dead Pixel Productions with producing partner Michelle Parkyn and in two years produced 5 feature films that have found distribution in the UK and US.

Twitter: Marc Price

Casting Director Ben Cogan

A BBC Casting Director for 15 years casting, Ben Cogan is no stranger to discovering new talent and helping many a new actor and filmmaker. Just a few  years ago Ben Cogan became freelance and has been busy casting a host of films and shorts including Trendy and Just Charlie since his departure. Prior to that, his extensive list of television casting included Doctors (345 episodes), Casualty (183 episodes), EastEnders, Holby City and Waking the Dead…plus a bunch more. And Ben is also a huge fan of helping and championing actor talent.

Twitter: Ben Cogan

Rajita SHahProducer Rajita Shah

Rajita started work as a producer for National Geographic and Discovery in New York. She won more than 15 awards for the 2007 documentary 4 Kilometers which was shot with Bedouin Tribes in the unrecognized villages in Negev, Israel. Thereafter she worked with the UK Film Council Agency B3media as an in-house producer and produced several award-winning films which were screened at BFI London Film Festival, East End Film Festival, Palm Spring Festival, and Chicago Film Festival. Rajita produced the feature film Zohra directed by Cannes and Venice award-winning British director Barney Platts-Mills which enjoyed its World Premiere at the 40th International Rotterdam Film Festival. Her latest feature is Love Sarah, starring Rupert Penry-Jones, Celia Imrie, Shelley Conn, which has just enjoyed being released in cinemas around the globe, despite us having a pandemic in 2020. What an achievement.