Supporting London's film and TV industry - Hester Ruoff case study

Latest 4 Mar 2024

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I owe a lot to Film London. The programme really taught me how to go and get the help I needed, whether it was from a studio or from an individual.

Hester Ruoff, actor and producer

The Mayor of London supports film & TV as part of his Creative Economy Growth Programme. Hester Ruoff was selected to be part of Film London’s Production Finance Market (PFM)'s New Talent Strand in 2019, which supports emerging filmmakers from the UK and abroad, seeking funding for their first or second feature projects.

About Hester Ruoff

Producer and actor Hester Ruoff has cultivated a promising career in film, both on and off screen. She studied Acting at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. A summer spent on the British comedy film ‘Convenience’, working hands-on as an executive producer in its distribution, changed the course of her career forever. “I learnt so much just helping out behind the scenes. That opportunity opened the door for me in producing, which I'd never ever dreamt of doing before.” she says.

Breaking the fourth wall for the other side of the camera, Hester went on to produce her first short film, ‘Gerry’ – a BAFTA-longlisted introspective drama starring Dame Joan Collins. “We went to her with this completely outside-of-the-box idea. We wanted to take her makeup off, give her a grey wig and age her up a bit. Everyone’s used to Joan as this really glamorous figure, which she is. She was amazing and the film did really well.”

Working with Film London

On being an independent filmmaker, Hester admits: “I think it’s incredibly hard. Where the heck do you start? Who do you go to, to get support? These are the questions you ask yourself.” Enter Film London: the agency on a mission to nurture talent in the film industry. With support from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, as part of his Creative Economy Growth Programme, Film London is helping to drive growth and jobs in the capital, further cementing London’s status as a global incubator for film, TV and animation production.

“I owe a lot to Film London. They have a programme for new, as well as established filmmakers. The great thing is, you're there with lots of other young filmmakers, so you're all in the same position, you're all learning together.” She pauses to reflect, before adding with a laugh: “I was obviously the new filmmaker, because I went to all of the training sessions. I learned how to elevator pitch and how to talk money and investment. It really taught me how to go and get the help I needed, whether it was from a studio or from an individual.”

It was during one pitching session that she landed interest in ‘Boiling Point’, a ground-breaking, one-shot drama starring Stephen Graham. The film went on to receive four BAFTA nominations, including one for Hester herself, as ‘Outstanding Debut Producer’.

Working independently in film

“As a producer, I'm not making this by myself” she continues, noting the importance of community in her industry. “As producers, we can't do anything just by ourselves. We rely on the goodness of others, on their talent, on people leaning in, stepping in, saying yes! And trusting in your vision. And it's only because of that, that I am where I am. However, it is important to always lead by example, showing integrity and respect to anyone who joins your journey as a filmmaker."

For Hester, filmmaking comes with its own set of personal challenges. “I think being a woman in the industry is incredibly hard in itself. It’s still a bit of a boys’ club deep down, and I don’t think that has changed as much as people think it has.”

Despite this, one thing remains a constant for Hester throughout her experience. “My biggest, most important thing in this industry is showing integrity. When you are on set, make sure everybody is given equal respect. For me as a producer, it's about building your team, having your tribe who you can trust. Whether you're the director, or the lead actor, whether you’re a runner or someone doing COVID tests. Whatever it is you do, you’re important and a vital part of the body.”

Hester's tips for upcoming filmmakers

Hester’s biggest tip for aspiring filmmakers? “Start by making shorts and indie feature films. Get your friends together and just start! It's vital in your journey. You need to know how to make things on low, or basically no budget and be able to fix problems when they arise by thinking outside the box. You need to learn how to really read people; know what it is they are looking for. You have to graft and graft, and you have to be brave. I think it's really important that people do that. And there’s real opportunity to do that here in London.”

With the capital remaining a crucial part of Hester’s past, present and future as an independent filmmaker, she says “I’m a Londoner. I was born overlooking the Thames at St. Thomas’ Hospital, so I'm as central as you can get.” she laughs. “I love London, and I love the film industry in London. I shot my latest film, ‘Gassed Up’ – on Amazon Prime soon – in Camberwell and south London, and ‘Boiling Point’ in Dalston. I have no plans to move to Hollywood, because I think the industry over here is fantastic and thriving.”