'My wife calls me a real life Rocky': Meet the Bafta-winning director from Scarborough with cerebral palsy whose career is going international

Chris Burn speaks to a director and writer who are making a name for themselves in the screen industry and who back BAFTA’s drive to find and support new talent across the country.

Yorkshire director Jordan Hogg in Hollywood.
Yorkshire director Jordan Hogg in Hollywood.

“I knew I wanted to be a director when I was about 12,” explains Jordan Hogg, the recent BAFTA Breakthrough winner who has been behind the camera of many of the nation’s favourite shows. “My parents were getting divorced and I remember sitting in front of the TV and Lawrence of Arabia was on.

“David Lean completely took me out of this environment I was in and took me away to the desert for three hours. I can remember thinking this is like magic, this is amazing and if I could do this for just one person that would be a hell of an achievement – like being a modern-day magician. That is when I knew I wanted to be a director. But being a disabled kid from Scarborough I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”

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Growing up in a North Yorkshire seaside town with no connections to the screen industry and living with cerebral palsy, Hogg could have easily written off his childhood dream as unachievable when he grew up.

Hogg filming Death in Paradise.

But as he speaks to The Yorkshire Post to help promote BAFTA’s drive to find and support new talent from all corners of the country, Hogg explains that his upbringing made him determined to take on challenges.

“My wife calls me a real-life Rocky. My parents never cut me any slack when I was a kid. I was expected to do everything other kids did and they hammered home I was no different to anyone else. It gave me a never-say-die attitude about things. I go the extra mile to prove to people I can do just as well as they can if not better.”

Hogg went on to do Film Studies at university in Hull and while still a student was invited to take part in a Channel 4 show called The Shooting Party, which Hogg describes as “like The Apprentice for directors”.

It led to him getting a Diversity Production Training placement on Channel 4’s Shameless. He has gone on to work on shows like Coronation Street, Hollyoaks, Emmerdale and Casualty – with one of his episodes of the latter show winning a BAFTA in 2018.

Hogg on the set of Ackley Bridge.

“I’m so fortunate to work in this industry because productions always go out of their way to make sure I have what I need. A lot of the time I am designated my own personal runner so I can focus on directing.”

He says while the recognition for his Casualty episode was special and thanks to a great team effort, finding out last year he had selected for the BAFTA Breakthrough award was an extraordinary moment.

“I was in Guadeloupe filming Death in Paradise and I got an email saying I had won but I couldn’t tell anyone for three months until it was officially announced. I was in the canteen and I started crying and when people asked if I was ok, I couldn’t say what had happened.”

Hogg has also remained true to his Yorkshire roots. After spending ten years in Manchester while he was building his career, he moved back to Scarborough with his wife, who is from Filey, and their young son.

Screenwriter Edward Cripps has been working on major new Netflix show Kaos.

“In Manchester, I used to watch The Yorkshire Vet and pine to be back in Scarborough. Me and my wife had a little boy – all our family is in Yorkshire and we thought it would be nice to move back.”

He says that the pandemic has brought an increasing acceptance of Zoom for meetings which has made being outside London easier, while his regional roots have helped him bring a different perspective to his work, helping him secure work as a director on the Yorkshire-set Channel 4 show Ackley Bridge.

“With Ackley Bridge, I said this is a story of my people and I really want to tell these stories. It lets me do shows that are not necessarily London-centric and there is a lot more of that going on at the moment.”

His BAFTA Breakthrough win has brought him more exposure and led to him being picked up by an American agent and manager who aim to secure him more work in the States, while he was recently thrilled to find himself on a call with Victoria Alonso, executive vice president at Marvel Studios who has worked on every single one of its gigantically successful Marvel Cinematic Universe film franchise.

“She told me that an Ackley Bridge episode of mine had made her cry. It was a real ‘pinch yourself’ moment,” he says.

While Hollywood may soon be calling, Hogg says he is very excited for his next project - a new six-part Channel 4 prison drama called Screw.

Hogg says he puts his burgeoning career down to a mixture of being “a good blagger” and sheer hard work.

“I have done a couple of talks at my old school in Scarborough. I say that what I didn’t realise when I was 12 is you can do anything in the world that you want to – the only obstacle is yourself and your belief. I believe in the adage ‘Nobody can outdo you if you are the hardest-working person in the room’. You can achieve anything if you are willing to put the time and work in.”

He adds that it is good time to join the screen industry, with the ever-increasing number of streaming services leading to more programmes being commissioned. “People have been crying out for more content and the industry is growing exponentially. It is giving people opportunities that weren’t there before.”

Another person making his way in the screen industry is writer Edward Cripps. Originally from Dorset, Cripps lived in Leeds for six years after coming to the city as an English literature and language student and going on to do a Masters at the Northern Film School.

“It was like a fresh start and I got to be meet and be friends with other queer people which was new for me. It was while I was there I met my partner and our first date was at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. We are still together having met 10 years ago.”

After moving to London and working in several freelance jobs in the industry as well as in a cinema, in 2019 he was selected for the BFI Flare x BAFTA Crew programme which supports the next generation of LGBTIQ+ filmmakers with mentoring and development opportunities.

His mentor is Charlie Covell, the actress and writer best known for her acclaimed adaptation of graphic comic series The End of the ******* World. In addition to his numerous own writing projects, Cripps was offered a job in the writing room for Covell’s much-anticipated new 10-episode Netflix show Kaos.

Covell told the Radio Times in 2019 the show would be a contemporary reimagining of Greek Mythology set over three worlds “on a Game of Thrones scale”.

“She had liked one of my scripts and it seemed to fit with the tone of the show. I was working as a cinema usher when I got the call about joining the writers’ room. I went into one of the toilets and cried. That was a really transformational moment for me. It was a really amazing experience for me and I got to work closely with Charlie and everyone else. It also made me more confident with my own projects.”

He currently has several original TV projects in development including an ambitious Young Adult sci-fi with Two Brothers Pictures and a half hour dramedy with Objective Fiction inspired by his experience of growing up gay in the countryside. Cripps is also working on a queer horror film, as well as a fantasy adventure book adaptation and an irreverent coming of age comedy with a political edge.

He says he enjoys exploring different issues in genre settings to “dial reality up one or two notches”.

“I only have my experiences which are mostly focused on writing and everyone’s paths are different and unique. But I think what has helped me was trying to be proactive. I spent a lot of time thinking I have no idea how things work and it felt very inaccessible and opaque.

“But if you have a story to tell of why something matters to you and why you want to write this film or TV show, that seems to be what excites people - if you have a point of view or something you are passionate about.

“You have to keep having ideas - you can have one script you love and that is great but it is great to have more and you will get better from trying different things.”

He says being on BAFTA schemes has helped him meet peers also making their way in the industry and provided a vital support network, as well as encouragement he can make his ideas into a reality.

“These BAFTA schemes have been genuinely brilliant and incredibly helpful and the BAFTA team have been very kind and supportive.

The Flare scheme in particular made me feel welcome in the industry as a queer person. There is definitely a perception and a reality of the industry feeling very male-dominated and I have been on some sets where I felt out of place and it felt very macho. But this mentorship has helped me feel you can find a place for yourself and your stories.”

Drive to find new talent

BAFTA is preparing to relaunch an expanded learning and talent development programme next year, aiming to help thousands of people develop careers in the screen industries.

It follows a review by the charity last year which identified groups who face particular challenges in accessing the screen industries, including disabled practitioners, and challenged the industry to address the serious lack of opportunity and equality. The expanded learning and talent development programme is informed by these findings, ensuring a diverse future across the film, games and television industries.

To find out more about BAFTA’s learning and talent development programme go to https://www.bafta.org/supporting-talent.

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