How I ended up being wedged between Matt Damon and Leonardo Dicaprio

From Come Dine With Me to the Oscars, Serena Armitage talks to Catherine Scott about her life behind the camera.

Serena Armitage Picture: Geordie Barrie
Serena Armitage Picture: Geordie Barrie

If you have seen the photograph of all this year’s Oscar nominees you may wonder who the smiling girl is who’s wedged between Leonardo Dicaprio and Matt Damon. It is Yorkshire film-maker Serena Armitage.

“I have to admit that it was rather surreal. I couldn’t have been more packed out with celebs. Matt Damon was taking selfies. I was a bit star struck.”

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Serena is in Los Angeles getting ready to attend the Academy Awards where her short film, Stutturer has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Film.

Serena has been in television production for nearly a decade. She spent three years editing trailers for ITV programmes such as X Factor, and is now an experienced Producer and Director of programmes for ITV, BBC and Channel 4 including Come Dine With Me, Piers Morgan’s Life Stories and the BAFTA nominated Paul O’Grady: For The Love of Dogs.

“I always knew that I wanted to be in media,” says Serena, whose mother Elspeth Crookenden lives in Fadmoor, near Kirkbymoorside.

“I did some work experience at the York Evening Press and then Radio York before moving to London and working at Heart.”

Then when a friend left her job at a television company Serena applied before managing to get a job as a runner with ITV.

“It did take quite a long time to get into television but once I did I moved up quite quickly,”

Within three months she had moved into editing which she did for three years before deciding she wanted to direct shows.

“I went on the ITV fast track scheme and my first job was directing Come Dine With Me which was already very well established I still do some episodes.”

Serena took a month off from ITV to work on Stutterer after she fell in love with writer Ben Cleary’s script about a man with a severe speech impediment who falls in love with a girl on line.

Along with fellow producer Shan Christopher Ogilvie, Ben and Serena set up Bare Golley Films.

“We are absolutely astonished and overwhelmed by the success of Stutterer. The last six months have been absolutely extraordinary.

“I can’t believe this little project we were sitting around a dinner table talking about, maybe throwing a few grand into, is now going to Hollywood. It has been an absolutely insane journey.

“It’s very surreal and very humbling. We didn’t set out to make an award-winning film, just hopefully something that might get seen by a few people, but the response has been completely bonkers and I’m just thrilled that we’ve made something that resonates with its audience.”

The trio are spending the four weeks before the Oscars on February 28 in LA promoting Stutterer. The trip has been made possible thanks to sponsorship from ITV and Serena’s dad’s Easingwold-based York Handmade Brick Company.

Stutterer stars Matthew Needham (Sherlock), alongside Chloe Pirrie (The Game) and Eric Richard (The Bill). The film has been selected for almost 30 prestigious film festivals.

But it is not the only film from Yorkshire in the Best Short Film (Live Action) category. Shok, directed by Jamie Donoghue, who went to Ashville College in Harrogate, and who now lives in Leeds is also up for the Oscar. The film is set during the bitter and bloody Kosovan war of the late 1990s.