Jo Southwell, film and TV writer and director, has been selected as a Female Founder by Creative UK. The 2022-23 cohort of Female Founders will take part in a programme to help them grow their skills and confidence and future-proof their businesses. Jo’s company Aston Productions was also selected by Creative UK to receive training in business growth during the pandemic. Jo, who’s written and directed for films and TV shows including BBC’s ‘Doctors’, is also founder of Aston Management, and as a talent agent she represents many successful actors. She spoke to us about why business acumen is so important for female filmmakers, how to surround yourself with the best people, and the new film that’s particularly close to her heart.
You’re part of the new cohort of Female Founders – what does that feel like?
I’m so happy, honoured and humbled to be part of the 2022-23 cohort of Female Founders. I still can’t believe it! There are only 14 women selected this year, all of whom are working towards creating innovative stories through moving images. Developing Aston Productions for growth as a media company – to make films and walk down that red carpet – really is the dream. This feels like a step closer. I’ve always believed that creative people who make films do it because they love film, they love to create, and are utterly committed to telling visual stories. As a Female Founder, it feels even more important for me to continue to make films, to find a way to raise the finance needed, and create something magical for audiences to watch.
How did you get involved in the programme?
I applied to Creative UK in early 2022. During the pandemic, Aston Productions was selected for business growth and I was able to attend a Zoom training course that really supported my growth as a company – this is the next step and still feels quite amazing.
Who inspired you to apply for Female Founders?
A producer called Sara Gibbings at Troy TV encouraged me to apply. We are currently producing a short film called ‘Echo’ together. The film is inspired by miscarriage and loss – it is a passion project for both of us, but also a very ambitious film for the short film market. There is an element of underwater filming, too, which is not only very technical but also costly. Sara’s commitment to my script has been unshakeable – her faith in my creativity gave me the confidence to apply.
What does it mean to be a part of the programme?
To be recognised as a female creative businessperson is really quite special. Those who know me, know how passionate I am about what I do. This programme feels like the perfect springboard to the next steps for my company. As a film and TV director, I am passionate about original IP – whether that is under Aston Productions or something I direct for another production company. Being part of the programme has already made me evaluate how I can achieve this, how I can continue to create and support my career ambition with a solid business foundation. It is not enough to be creative – to even be a super talent in our industry – business strategy is key to success. Creative UK is really pushing the boundaries to give the opportunity of business growth to the creative sector. I’m working closely with Erica Wolfe-Murray and I’m already looking at the industry and my place in it with fresh eyes.
What’s your advice for women in business, especially showbusiness?
The best bit of advice I can give is: know who you are and be true to the type of films or TV that you want to create. We all have our own unique journeys and can therefore create unique stories that audiences want to see on their screens. Don’t take no for an answer and find your best team to work with – those you enjoy working with, creating with and respect. Then go do it !