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MetFilm School Berlin Open Day

Metfilm School

MetFilm School Masterclass: Giulia Gandini (Shetland, My Time)

By Elise Czyzowska

29 February 2024

Last month, we were proud to invite MA Directing Graduate Giulia Gandini back to our London campus for a MetFilm Futures Masterclass. 

After graduating at the end of 2017, Giulia earned directing credits on the likes of Italian shows Shake, Cabala, and Jams, as well as working on Sky series The Lazarus Project as a 2nd Unit Director. Then, in 2022, Giulia joined the crew of the BBC One/ITV Studios fan-favourite, Shetland. 

Directing three episodes of the show’s eighth season, which garnered an average of five million viewers, and earned four-star reviews from Radio Times, iNews, and the like, Giulia returned to our campus to share her experience – from getting an agent, to pitching for television and working with actors…

Graduating & Getting an Agent

Thinking back to her first few years after graduation, Giulia highlighted two useful things she did. 

The first of these? To make another film.

I joined the School having never directed anything – a lot of my cohort had far more experience, but I was very green.

All the short films that I did during my degree were lovely, and I’m proud of them, but they weren’t my calling card.

I needed that extra time to produce a piece of industry-standard work.

Giulia GandiniDirector, MA Directing Graduate

The film, My Time, played at festivals around the world, winning Best Narrative Short at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, and earning a spot on the Oscar longlist for Live-Action Short Film. 

This buzz earned Giulia the attention of agents – but she held out, waiting for someone that she felt understood her as a director and shared her career ambitions.  

The second point was becoming her own PR Manager. After graduating, Giulia put together a list of 50 television directors whose work she admired – making sure to look for people 5-8 years ahead of her in the industry. 

‘I contacted all 50 of them, asking for coffee. Around ten replied, and of those ten, five actually met me – and two of them ended up introducing me to producers who gave me an opportunity to direct.’ 

‘What I mean to say’, she summarised, ‘is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint’. 

It was only in 2022, while working on The Lazarus Project, that Giulia found her current representation at Independent Talent Group. The initial connection was made by a mutual friend in production, and, Giulia added, having had time to build both her portfolio, and her network, ‘it felt like the right time to have representation’. 


Pitching for TV as a Director

The art of the pitch is something that all directors – and in fact, nearly all creatives – are quickly forced to get used to. While there is no ‘one right way’ to pitch for film or television, Giulia shared the process she typically sees for UK television, including her journey to directing the second block of Shetland. 

For Shetland, it all began with the producer receiving the names of 200-250 directors, which they then narrowed down to around 50. The producer then got in contact with those 50, to chat more about the show. 

If that initial call goes well, you’ll almost always receive the pilot of the show, and using this, you prepare your pitch deck, as Giulia did for Shetland. 

‘I tend to overprepare’, Giulia said when thinking about her Shetland pitch deck, the construction of which included three key steps: 

  1. Analyse the script scene by scene, figuring out what you like, and what you don’t like 
  2. Then you start the visuals – for Shetland, Giulia put together around 15 pages of moodboard visuals, including references from similar shows, and specific shots she thought might work 
  3. Make sure you have a strong opinion. Don’t try to guess what the producers want you to say – make it clear you love the show, but demonstrate your critical approach (gracefully!) 

Reflecting on this process during the session, Giulia added, ‘I was lucky enough with Shetland that, if I were to share my pitch deck alongside the final result, you’d definitely see the similarities in my visual aspirations.’

‘If you’re a director, Shetland is definitely a series to have your eye on… they take a chance on emerging and up-and-coming directors in their second block.’ – Giulia Gandini

Directing Actors: Giulia’s Shetland Experience

For Giulia Gandini and co–director Andy Newbery, joining the eighth season of Shetland brought a unique approach to directing their cast. 

On the one hand, the show has been on air for a decade, keeping a consistent and established cast. 

But on the other, the beloved Jimmy Perez (played by Douglas Henshall) had departed the show, and DI Ruth Calder, his replacement, was a new character, seeing Ashley Jensen join the cast. 

Answering a couple of questions from our students about working with talent, Giulia highlighted the importance of adaptability. ‘I like to think I’m friendly but precise when it comes to what’s working – or not working – in a performance’, she explained:

I tend to avoid words like “more” or “less” as much as possible. Try to use visuals – I might say, “that delivery punched her in the gut, you need to caress her with that line” instead of “deliver it softer”.

I like to give a direct image to the actor – but every director has their own tricks!

Giulia GandiniDirector, MA Directing Graduate

While she would always prefer to have as much time as possible to talk with the talent ahead of a shoot, Giulia adapts her style to the time constraints of television production, letting her actors know that, if they need anything, or don’t agree with any of her suggestions, they can talk to her directly. 

‘Once you’ve won their trust’, Giulia summarised, offering a final piece of advice to emerging directors, ‘the process is usually quite smooth’.