BAFTA Breakthrough Runyararo Mapfumo discusses her directing work on sex education, the new Netflix drama KAOS, and her upcoming feature film Darkness Descends.
BAFTA Breakthrough is the arts charity’s flagship talent initiative, providing a springboard for creators working in film, games and television. Participants receive unique BAFTA professional development support, from coaching and mentoring to networking opportunities with BAFTA’s global membership for industry VIPs.
Below, Runyararo Mapfumo explains how it felt when she learned she had been selected for the 2022 BAFTA Breakthrough Initiative, discusses what she’s learned about sex education, and talks about her participation in the upcoming Netflix drama KAOS. Mapfumo also reveals a bit about what to expect from Darkness Descends, her first feature film.
How did you feel when you heard that you had been selected for a BAFTA Breakthrough Award?
I was over the moon to be selected for the BAFTA hack. It’s a great honor to be on this list of creatives – I’ve been very knowledgeable about the list over the years and people I really respect have been a part of it, so sharing is really, really exciting.
I think it’s really encouraging to be recognized by an organization like BAFTA or to be recognized by your colleagues in the film or television community in any way. I spend my time focusing on the projects and the work that’s being done, and that’s the most important thing, but it’s great to be able to step back and have this acknowledgment that the work you’re doing is communicating with people or is going to connect with people. I think that’s the hope we all have.
When you look back at your career — in sex education, in your films — was there ever a moment when you felt like everything was clicked for you? That feeling that you’re in your element, things are going well, are you on the right track?
Yes, of course. I think that feeling really comes through with the team I work with. The things you’ve worked on from the ground up, you might start out as a solo thing – with me alone in a room he discovered – and then start building this team around you. Get a chance to work with people So talented and lend their skills to tell your story, and get that collaboration too? To me, that seems like a real sign of success, being able to work with talent like the one I’m working with.
It’s kind of like with Sex Ed – it’s like a hit show, I think you can sometimes just feel when it’s working. The cast and team work hard to find the things people love about the show, but they really push it in a direction that doesn’t feel repetitive. When you have those creative hacks, when you feel like you’re finding something related to and evolving from the series, it’s always an exciting discovery.
Was there anything you feel you learned in sex education that you would take with you on future projects?
I think sex education is really different from anything I’ve done before: getting into pre-existing worlds really prompted me to find new and different skills that I hadn’t necessarily practiced before, [as did] Working with a team totally worked for me, even though they all worked together. When you step into an environment that you don’t build from the ground up, you step into it, and I think that was something really different again. I’ve gone from working with a smaller crew and more focused stories to working across multiple realities with a larger cast.
But as you know, the principle remains the same. It’s still all storytelling. I think that’s the thing – whether you’re doing short work, whether you’re making a TV series or a movie – the core of it doesn’t change, but I think the way you work is really changing, and that’s something that, even now, I’m still learning new ways of working.
Is there anything you can tell us about what you’ll be working on next?
Right now I’m working on Kaos, a Netflix show created and written by Charlie Covel. It’s a contemporary reimagining of Greek mythology – it’s got Charlie’s sense of humour, wit and flair. I loved the scripts once I read them, so it was incredible to be a part of building this world and those characters, you know, how this space looks and feels.
Then I got my first movie, Darkness Descends, which I do withilm4 and production company DessyMak. This is a personal study, set in the future, that follows a young black British woman who suffers a great loss – a meditation on loss and motherhood, and is inspired by African mythology. Again, very different from sex education, very different from Kaos, and I think that seems completely natural to me as a creator – I always want to do something completely different than I did before.
This year’s BAFTA UK Breakthrough talent pick includes director Alex Thomas (Yorkshire Cop: Police, Racism and Me), Dialogue Editor Alex Jones (Elden Ring), actor Ambika Maud (That’s Going to Hurt), director Chloeairweather (Death to Divorce), Cinematographer Diana Oliverova (Heartstopper), Principal Designer Emily Brown (Alba: A Wildlife Adventure), Writer/Executive Producer Jack Rock (Big Boys), Composer Jamal Green (TOEM), Producer Joanna Boateng (Uprising), Actor Leon Harrop (Ralph) & Katie), and writer/director Marley Morrison (sweetheart).
They are joined by lead artist Morag Taylor (Total War: Warhammer 3), actor Nell Barlow (sweetheart), writer, executive producer and actor Nicôle Lecky (MOOD), director Paul Sng (Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché), and actress Rose Ayling-Ellis. (Easter), director Roniararo Mapfumo (Sex Education), director Sophie Cunningham (Look Away), director Theo Williams (Terms and Conditions: Deeper Than the Drill), Co-Founders, Creative Director, Artistic Director Zachary Soares and Luciana Nascimento (Monglow Bay).
Meanwhile, the American cast includes director Alex Pritz (Territory), actor Amrit Kaur (College Girls’ Sex Life), actor Brandon Perea (NOPE), cinematographer Charlotte Hornsby (Master), and director Claire Knight (Back to Outback). Cinematographer Daphne Ken Woo (The Angry Black Girl and Her Beast), Director/Writer Elieomby (Ourather, The Devil), Game Programmer Meganox (SkateBIRD), Producer Melissa Adeemo (Eyimofe), Director Rebeca Huntt (Beba), Composer Robert Ouyang Rosley (Test model), and director So Yeon Im (Liquor Store Dreams).