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MA Documentary Film graduate recognised by Royal Television Society

A still from Holly's winning documentary film, Gemma: My Murder.
A still from Holly's winning documentary film, Gemma: My Murder.
Image credit: Hey Sonny Films
Written by
Chloe Murphy
Published date
27 January 2020

LCC alumna and MA Documentary Film graduate, Holly Cocker, was recently awarded Best Single Documentary at the RTS Midlands Awards, an event celebrating some of the leading lights of the broadcast industry.

Holly was recognised by the Royal Television Society for her poignant BBC Three documentary, 'Gemma: My Murder', which pieces together the life of Gemma Hayter – a young woman with a learning disability who was killed by people she thought of as friends.

Featuring interviews with her family, friends and others who knew her, the documentary explores a lively and loving person who adored children and pop music, and the failings of the services that could have kept her safe.

"It's a story I've felt passionate about for a long time."

After graduating from LCC, Holly developed further practical experience in television broadcasting, and joined Hey Sonny Films as a Shooting AP in 2012. Now Hey Sonny's Co-Managing Director, she chatted to us about the importance of telling Gemma’s story, the impact of her time at LCC, and top tips for students wishing to pursue a career in documentary film.

Gemma: My Murder is incredibly powerful - what was your role in shaping the film?

I produced and directed it along with my wife, Kate Monaghan. It’s a story I’ve felt passionate about for a long time - it took almost two years to get it over the line with the BBC, but eventually they commissioned it.

We had a fascinating time piecing together the story, and even had a map on the wall full of little sticky squares connecting people to Gemma. A tragic thing happened to her, and above everything else, I wanted to raise awareness for ‘mate-crime’ within the disabled community as it’s so often overlooked.

How did it feel to receive an RTS award for your work?

It was a total shock and I was completely over the moon. We’re a very small team at Hey Sonny, and so everyone had a big part to play in making the film. We felt so pleased that as a small indie in Sheffield, we had been recognised.

How did your time at LCC make an impact on your future career?

My year at LCC was a complete joy. I soaked up absolutely everything and loved every minute. It was a year of learning, exploration and experimenting. The tutors were excellent and I felt confident in making short documentaries when I left.

What are your top tips for current students who are looking to move into the industry?

1. Be prepared to start at the bottom, even after your MA. You’ll move up much quicker as you’ll know a lot about how a documentary is made, but don’t be too proud to take a runner job to start with.

2. Most jobs come from people you will have connections with - try to meet as many people as possible. Email them every few months to remind them that you still exist and you’re still making films.

3. Watch as many documentaries as possible - but not just indies. Check out what’s doing well on iPlayer and 4OD, and try to watch things you normally wouldn’t.

See more work from Holly and Hey Sonny Films.

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