Guiding Lights 9 mentee – Nicky Lianos. Photo by Zoe Manders.
Guiding Lights 9 mentee – Nicky Lianos. Photo by Zoe Manders.


26 September 2017

Throughout the ninth edition of our film mentoring programme, Guiding Lights, the mentees are writing about their journeys and experiences. In July, the group went to Galway Film Fleadh where they took part in industry events, a masterclass, and pitched projects at the Marketplace. Award-winning director Nicky Lianos tells us about her experience.

Guiding Lights 9 mentees at Galway Film Fleadh
Guiding Lights 9 mentees at Galway Film Fleadh

Nicky Lianos:

I’m going to be honest here, when I was first asked to write a blog summing up my Galway Film Fleadh trip I thought sure I could do that, I could write about how fun and friendly the festival was, or my millions of ace meetings, or about bonding with my fellow mentees, or even about mastering the art of the Irish goodbye at 3am in the hotel bar. But then I realised something more important happened to me whilst I was out there and I have all of the above to thank for it.

It all started a few months back when, for reasons out of my control, I lost my first feature film deal – it felt like the lowest moment of my career and forced me to ask myself ‘why the hell am I doing this?’. It’s a big question and one that I’m sure many people in this business have asked themselves at some point in their careers. But I didn’t have the answer. So I took a few months off from the biz to go in search for it. Three months later, I still didn’t have an answer but I was fortunate enough to be given a spot on the Guiding Lights programme. At first, I felt honoured, but angst quickly set in when they said they were taking us to Galway to pitch our films to a whole bunch of film executives from around the world. As a Galway Marketplace virgin, I was instantly mortified and looking for the nearest bucket…

…I had to suck it up! And when we arrived, I’m not quite sure what came over me, someone must have slipped a four leaf clover into my drink or something. But when I sat down for my first meeting, I realised just how much I loved the stories I wanted to tell and it all just came spewing out (and not into a bucket). The response was positive and my confidence was making a comeback.

After all the scary meetings were over, we all went to a screening of Nick Kelly’s first feature film The Drummer and The Keeper. It was a low budget Irish film about a young bipolar rocker who strikes up a friendship with a boy with Asperger’s – sounds cheery right? I laughed and cried throughout the screening! At the end, there was a standing ovation. The cast and crew came out for a Q&A and a woman in the audience stood up, thanked the director and said ‘I’ve worked with people with mental disorders all my life and no other film has come close!’ And that was it! It was at that moment I was reminded ‘why the hell I am doing this’. It’s not to impress other film makers or execs with predictable formulaic stories or fancy VFX, but to entertain and connect with truth and humour, with people like that – the audience.

So thank you Galway Film Fleadh for finding the answer to my question and for teaching me how to do a proper Irish goodbye.

First launched in 2006, Guiding Lights is the UK film industry’s leading mentoring scheme, supporting emerging film talent through high-level mentoring and a range of training and networking activities. Read more.

Find out more about the mentees taking part in Guiding Lights 9.



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