Q&A with Hamlett Films’ CEO Sian Hamlett

Following training as an analyst and teaching, CEO and founder of Hamlett Films, Sian Hamlett discovered her passion for storytelling, filmmaking and finding out what makes people tick. Committed to the belief that education brings about change, Sian founded the multi award-winning Hamlett Films sixteen years ago.

What has the effect of 2020 and Covid been on you and Hamlett Films? How do you think it might alter the industry?

We’ve had to adapt as a team and we have found new agile technologies to consolidate communication using Trello, Kanban and Frame io. This has proved a really positive way to take projects through the production process. Then new approaches such as filming and editing remotely have worked very efficiently. For the future, I think we will have a mixed approach. Some of the time we will embrace coming into the office and for the rest of the time, people will value working from home which benefits certain activities.


A Hamlett Films shoot for the Open University

What actually brought you to film making and how did Hamlett Films come about?

My mother was an inspirational storyteller. And I’m very inquisitive, or maybe just nosey! I have a real interest in people, their perspectives on the world and how those perspectives affect their decisions and actions in society and why. I believe education can be a real driver for change and progression in the world. Online learning can provide such brilliant opportunities to improve accessibility for many. I firmly believe that when all people have access to training it leads to a progressive society.

What has been your biggest success and challenge so far as a CEO?

Delivering ambitious work has led to the growth of the company. It’s very gratifying to have received recognition by winning industry awards for our clients. 

Having a top team with a strong spread of skills is the way to achieve this. The challenges are running multiple projects and always innovating within educational filmmaking, keeping fresh and ahead of the game.


The MEDEA Awards

How do you see the company changing in 2 years and how do you see yourself and the team creating that change?

We will continue to reach a wider range of specialist audiences. We will also pursue a particular interest in training films, as well as exciting opportunities in the children’s sector. We are further exploring bringing our films to a more mainstream audience and communicating specialist subject matter in accessible ways across broadcast opportunities.

What are the key elements for great educational film content these days? 

Close collaboration with commissioners, writers and academics is key and leads to the production of highly effective educational content. Education films must bring to life the learning materials and be suitable for the learner at each stage of their learning journey and offer challenging perspectives. Never underestimate what your audience can deal with – contentious and difficult subject matter can be explored, you just have to explore it in the right way. A good example is our recent BBC Bitesize GCSE Drama films. Issues such as racism and FGM are tackled in crackling new play texts within the films.


Still from BBC Bitesize Drama

What other figure in the industry do you tend to look up to?

I continue to be inspired by production companies and agencies working across the educational and training sectors.  Some terrific work is being made about sustainability, social welfare and diversity by the likes of Media Zoo, The Edge Picture company and Plastic Pictures. My peers in the sector are a continued source of inspiration.

What determines cultural fit when you’re hiring for your company?

The members of the team don’t usually come from traditional routes into the industry and have worked in other related areas such as academia, documentaries, advertising, journalism and features. I find this hugely exciting as our diverse backgrounds lead to the creation of exciting and unique films.

What unites everyone though is a passion for education and storytelling as a way to do this bring about change as well as understanding the importance of close client collaboration.


The Language of Protest, Hamlett Films

Give us a few words that would describe you the best

Creative thinker – whatever the situation or challenge. 

If you had known you would become an entrepreneur quite early on, what would you have told your 18 years-old self?

Don’t worry about knowing what you want to do – just try all things that appeal. It’s okay to follow different routes – those experiences will all make what you do finally much richer. Take more risks, ask more questions. Don’t worry if you don’t fit in any of the pigeon holes people want to place you in. It’s okay to be different – embrace it!