Katie O’Hara – The BFI Film Academy to Elstree Studios

BFI Film Academy to Elstree Studios

What happens after the Kent BFI Film Academy
- Katie O'Hara's Story

Katie O’Hara is a content creator based between Kent and North Yorkshire. To this day Katie has worked on thirteen Productions over the first 4 years of their career; 7 as 1st Assistant Director/Production Manager and 3 as Director. Their first taste of film production was back in 2014, when, aged 15, Katie was lucky enough to help run a small local youth cinema at their local church. Where they wanted to bring films to more rural communities and offer a more diverse range of films to younger audiences. A couple of months later they found themselves working on small local documentaries for a local film company called ‘Funder Films’, where they used a film camera for the first time and realized the range of stories that their local society possessed.

BFI Yr 4 - 2015-2016

In 2015 Katie found themselves springboarded into being accepted into their local BFI Network Film Academy run by Screen South. This was a fantastic course which they undertook while completing their A-Levels which saw them learn for the first time, every department and skill which is needed to make a full-length artistic film. They received education and practical training from writing to production and post-production.

The BFI course was the first time Katie had heard of and stepped into the role of 1st Assistant Director on one of the two films ‘Nightmare”. The mentors on the programme helped Katie develop their 1st AD role and encouraged them to be confident and clear on set. This set off a long love of 1st Assistant Directing and Production Management filmmaking roles.


In 2016 Katie had the privilege to visit Pinewood Studios with other BFI Graduates when Star Wars: Rogue One was filming there. It was a fantastic opportunity to network and tour the studios for the first time.

This is where Katie met a fellow BFI graduate screenwriter Lauren O’Kill. The paid subsequently teamed up and went on to Produce, 1st AD and Co-direct a web series called “Twisted Tales: Grimoire University” where the skills gained on the BFI course came into great use.

Later in 2016, Katie was accepted onto the BFI Sheffield Residential. It was a fantastic experience where Katie travelled 224 miles away from home to stay in halls at Sheffield University and undergo a course on Independent Cinema Management and Festival Programming with the Showroom Workstation. This was Katie’s first experience in the world of cinema management and festival pitching and they felt a buzz that they would never forget.

From the Sheffield Residential, Katie was encouraged to apply for an opportunity from the BFI Bigger Picture to be sent up to Glasgow for the 2016 THIS WAY UP conference, an insightful and eye-opening conference on the film business and film exhibition sector.

Shortly after this amazing opportunity, Katie moved to the University of York to study a BSc in Film and Television Production. The course was fantastic, helping them learn so many new skills and insights into film and television. Their final year dissertation film was the big highlight, which saw them applying many of the skills they had learnt at the BFI and on the course to manage a 3K budget production as Production Manager, with it being shot across Scarborough and North Yorkshire, one location even including a well known Peaky Blinders Set in Keighley.

"This Is Why We Walk"

2019 saw the production of Katie’s biggest documentary project “This Is Why We Walk” (2020). Over the course of the 48 hours leading up to the Real Runway in Trafalgar Square in London, we follow seven stories of non-stereotype conforming models who want to show to the world what the power of loving your own body, no matter what, can do. Working on it as Producer, Director and Editor and alongside the final year of their degree meant it was an incredible feat and huge undertaking, but it was an amazing experience and full of so many inspirational stories, it was only a matter of time until Katie discovered their love for documentaries.

Katie has many other documentaries they endeavour to go onto make, as they navigate the world of post-graduate film education with the hope of completing a documentary masters. Katie has formulated a lot of key relationships in the film business, greatly encouraged by the confidence that the BFI courses have installed in them. They see Kate Croft, the Executive Producer of Artis Pictures as an important mentor figure who in 2019 helped them look at stories and screenplays from a new and more original perspective. They have met many inspirational filmmakers on their career journey, Ian Smith, the Executive Producer of Mad Max: Fury Road, at a masterclass in London, made them realise how important the paperwork is to the creation of the art. Suzie Wiesmann, Production Manager of Captain America: The First Avenger, to name a few, has helped Katie understand the key qualities needed to organise and lead a successful set.

Now with 13 productions under their belt, Katie has continued to develop their love for Production Management and 1st ADing which they discovered at the BFI course. Helping other creatives develop their scripts and consulting on projects in a Production Management role on the side of their core productions. In Easter 2020 Katie was invited to undertake a placement at the world-famous Elstree Studios in London in their Production Management offices, unfortunately, it has been postponed till later this year due to the Covid-19 crisis, but Katie is incredibly excited to be a part of the world of Elstree studios and develop their Production Management skills in such a professional and exciting environment.