The future filmmakers – how the next generation is breaking through.

Embracing challenges, collaboration and moving beyond the gatekeepers, young creatives Ashleigh Jadee, Jack Harries and Irene Cruz are pushing the boundaries of film.
Canon filmmakers c70
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“It’s really exciting when you look at the development of cameras,” says content creator and documentary filmmaker Jack Harries. “Every year they get smaller and cheaper, but higher quality, and that’s exciting because it makes filmmaking more accessible. Now anyone can pick up a camera and tell a story. That is so powerful.”


It’s a time of huge change for the filmmaking industry – and those emerging as the filmmakers of the future are keen to embrace that change, making the most of the challenges ahead.

Growing up, director Ashleigh Jadee used to love watching music channels. “I didn’t really watch cartoons, I’d watch MTV,” she says. “I’d watch the making-of and think, ‘When I’m older, I want to do that’.” Today, she’s carved out a niche in the UK music scene directing videos for the likes of Skepta and Giggs, as well as working on campaigns for brands such as H&M.

When Jack Harries decided to post some videos on YouTube during a year out, he had no idea that JacksGap would launch a career which has since taken him from Greenland to the jungles of Borneo, covering the human impact of climate change. The content creator, documentary filmmaker and activist has also recently launched environmental platform Earthrise.

For Spanish cinematographer and visual artist Irene Cruz, who has made two feature films, a series, commercials and video art, film grew out of her photographic work. “Since I was little, my way of interacting with the world was through drawings or photography,” she says. “It’s my native language. Filmmaking came naturally from this.”


Working across very different fields, these three young filmmakers all share commonalities in their journeys – from harnessing the power of social media and technological developments through to embracing the many challenges that come their way. This next generation of filmmakers are both capitalising on and driving the changes in the filmmaking landscape.

Here Ashleigh, Jack and Irene share what is pushing them on in their creative filmmaking today.

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Embracing challenges

“One thing I learned in my early career is that when something is difficult, it’s going to teach you something,” says Irene. That was certainly the case on her favourite project to date – her first feature film, Diana.

“Normally people start off with short films, but I made my first feature film straight from making video art,” she says. “It was challenging entering cinema with a big project.” It’s a challenge that’s paid off, allowing Irene to develop her skills as a DoP on larger productions while continuing her career in contemporary art.

Jack faces challenges through the tough subjects he tackles in his work. “I see climate change as the greatest storytelling challenge of our time,” he says. “This moment requires us to tell a new story, and that just intrigues and excites me as a filmmaker.”

“I’m always challenging myself to be a better director,” says Ashleigh. “What draws me to a project is, ‘Is it going to be different? Can I create something new?’” After transitioning from shooting to directing, Ashleigh is now looking to diversify into more artistic music videos, scripted content and eventually film and TV. “I feel like I’ve had a really successful run within the UK music scene and it’s vital to be able to hand it to the next generation and move on to other things,” she says. “I’m going back to square one and taking the same steps.”


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“Telling stories with images behind the camera makes me feel complete,” says Irene. “Every challenge that I face makes me learn – and that makes me truly happy. I always love to learn.” © Irene Cruz


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“When you’re unknown, social media allows you to do your own marketing and put yourself out there,” says Ashleigh. “I used to think people might not take me seriously if I posted pictures of myself. I used to hide myself a lot, but people like to connect with a person.”

Harnessing social media

“I’m a filmmaker who got my start on social media,” says Jack (@jackharries), who has 3.7m subscribers on YouTube and 1.4m Instagram followers. “I’m totally indebted to social media for having any sort of career and I think it’s an incredible tool when harnessed properly. What I loved about creating a YouTube channel and making films on social media is having that direct relationship with my audience. Being able to get direct feedback and converse in a way feels more informal than an audience – it feels like a two-way relationship.”

Since getting his start on YouTube, Jack has continued to explore the constantly evolving social space, most recently launching environmental advocacy organisation Earthrise on Instagram with the goal of making climate activism accessible. “In the past two years, Instagram has really transformed from showing photographs you’ve taken hanging out with your mates, to becoming a space for activism and education,” he says. “These are the tools that are at our fingertips as the next generation of filmmakers.”

Ashleigh (@ashleighjadeeee) is a big believer in creating an online brand for yourself. “I’ve noticed that a lot of creatives, especially women, hide in their Instagram,” she says. “They just post their work. It’s important to show your personality and build a personal brand as well, because people like to buy into the person. I’ve 100% got work from social media, because you’re at the forefront of someone’s mind. It’s a reminder, ‘Look, I’m still here’.”


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“I think as a storyteller, you should ask yourself, ‘What is it I’m passionate about? What are the stories that I want to tell? That will drive you forward in terms of your career,” says Jack, pictured on the Pacific island nation of Kiribati with his Canon EOS C300 Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS C300 Mark III). “I’m really excited about collaborative storytelling and finding new and innovative ways to highlight the voices of people who are so often marginalised in the climate conversation.” © Jack Harries


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“Representation is important,” says Ashleigh. “When I was coming up in this game, I didn’t see anyone that really looked like me. A lot of girls that I mentor say, ‘I’ve never seen a female director,’ and appreciate being able to talk to me as a young woman.” © Ashleigh Jadee


Collaboration & mentorship

“When I was first starting out, I didn’t see the power of collaborating with people, but that’s how I got my big break,” says Ashleigh. A chance conversation on set led to the opportunity to co-direct a music video for one of her favourite artists – which made her name.

“The DoP shooting with me, Luke Biggins, had a shoot straight after with Roddy Ricch, who I was a big fan of,” she says. “I was like, ‘I love that guy,’ and Luke said, ‘Come and co-direct it with me.’ I don’t think he understands how big a deal that was, but it changed my life. When I released that video, everyone looked at me differently as a director.”

Ashleigh brings her own mentees onto shoots whenever she can, as directors, producers and BTS-shooters. “That means they’ve got a showreel with well-known artists,” she says. “Working with someone with more of a name is a way to get your foot in the door, so that’s what I try to offer to my mentees.”

Irene (@irenecruzfoto) was focused on photography until one of her professors, video artist Eugenio Ampudia, encouraged her to explore video installations and art during her Master’s degree in Madrid. “I discovered a new world of expressing myself,” says Irene. “I got started in film because I had someone who believed in me.”

“I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last few years about filmmaking is that’s a collaborative process,” adds Jack. “When I started making YouTube videos, the only reason we were able to grow the channel and build an audience was because we could collaborate with other YouTubers.”

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“What I love about the Canon EOS C70 is that it’s both a high-quality cinema camera and is also amazing for social media,” says Jack. As well as offering 4K at 120fps, 16+ stops of dynamic range and in-built ND filters, the EOS C70 has a tripod thread on the side as well as the bottom, making it well suited to shooting social-first vertical video. “I love that it’s got that small form factor, but it still can deliver that cinematic picture quality. In a way the EOS C70 is the ultimate modern-day camera.”


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“It’s very important to me to be able to trust my camera, and with Canon, I have that trust,” says Irene, who often shoots with a Canon EOS C300 Mark II. “I fell in love with the camera because of the image quality and the EF lenses I knew from photography. The Canon colour profiles are also great. Canon Log 3 gives me the opportunity to really build the images I want.” © Irene Cruz

Accessible kit

“Changes in technology are making filming more accessible,” says Irene, who shot her first feature film and a recent documentary on her Canon EOS C300 Mark II. “Filmmakers in the ’50s needed a big team and a lot of money. Now with creativity and a minimal team, you can do very interesting things.”

“If you are a self-shooter with a DSLR and a stabiliser, you can shoot so much right now,” says Ashleigh, who taught herself to shoot video on a Canon EOS 60D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 90D), which in turn led her to directing. “I loved how versatile it was. It built me up as a really rounded creative, because I could switch from photographer to videographer in seconds.”

Jack’s workhorse in recent years has been the Canon EOS C300 Mark II, which has seen him through sandstorms in Somaliland and shoots in the frozen Arctic, as well as across the waters of the South Pacific islands.

“Canon cameras have been really important to me in my filmmaking career. I started with a Canon EOS 7D, then moved on to an EOS 5D Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV), then graduated to the EOS C300 Mark II, and now the EOS C70,” says Jack. “In a way, the development of Canon cameras has sort of mirrored the development of my own filmmaking career, and that’s been an amazing relationship to have.
“The EOS C70 is really exciting. For me, it’s kind of the perfect camera, because it combines so many features that I want. It’s small, but it has the same power as a cinema camera. It has an incredible autofocus, and it has a tripod thread on the side, so you can mount it vertically, which is great for shooting vertical video for Instagram.

“What I love about Canon cameras is the accessibility and build quality,” Jack adds. “The fact that they combine form and function perfectly allows you, as a filmmaker, to just get the job done.”


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“Everyone’s seeing the importance of doing a behind-the-scenes video on their shoots now,” says Ashleigh. “Even directors are putting out videos and having an online presence. When Covid-19 hit, we couldn’t go anywhere. All people did was watch content, and that’s all we do now – so it’s super important to have an online presence.”


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“One thing I’ve noticed is that young filmmakers are producing lower budget productions, but with a lot of creativity and quality,” says Irene, who sees the future of filmmaking in “combining different platforms”. © Irene Cruz

Moving beyond gatekeepers

“Previously, you had to go to a channel and they would distribute your work, but you can be across the entire process now,” says Jack. “Social media means that anyone can build and reach an audience, which means that you can surpass the traditional gatekeepers. Being able to have that control and freedom is a huge privilege. It means that storytelling is democratised. Hopefully stories that need to be told, that traditionally haven’t, will be heard.”

Irene has also been harnessing social media alongside traditional TV work in new multi-platform delivery formats. “One of my new projects is a regular five-episode series with Amazon, with extra paid content available through Twitch,” she says. “I think the future will combine social media with regular filmmaking.”

“We’re seeing a new genre of filmmakers who are multi-skilled,” adds Jack. “People who produce, shoot, edit, do special effects and run their own distribution. Although it can be quite overwhelming to be across that full range, it’s really beautiful to have that much control over the filmmaking process.

“There are many different filmmaking paths. If you want to make films, I would say just grab a camera, tell the story you want to tell, and share it with the world.”




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