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Directing is a 'natural progression' for Reggie Yates

NEW DIRECTION: Reggie Yates' move into filmmaking is full of promise

WHEN I encounter a beautiful short film, short story, interlude or outro I’m always left longing for more of the same. Maybe it’s a consequence of the digital age where you can endlessly satisfy the desire for information – both useful and useless – or maybe it’s just my insatiable hunger to indulge in what I love. With this in mind, I’m happy to hear that Reggie Yates’ short film Shelter exists in feature length – even if in script form only.

I hope he makes it soon though as Tosin Cole, the lead, is undoubtedly destined for great things, and if his career takes off in any way similar to that of Daniel Kaluuya’s, who also stars in one of Yates’ shorts, a comedy called Date Night, all hopes of a full length Shelter will likely be long gone. Cole has successfully sought opportunities in the US – he was cast in Gerard McMurray’s Burning Sands – and is part of the new Doctor Who cast.

SHORTS SCREENING: Reggie Yates talks to Edith Bowman about directing

His performance in Shelter and the film as a whole has been on my mind since I saw it at a screening of several of Yates’ shorts as part of the BFI’s Future Film Next Gen Talent event last week. The film is impressive both visually and conceptually. It plays on stereotypes, explores microaggressions and is partly-inspired by Yates’ only experiences all in the space of a few minutes.

Also screened at the event was Patriarch, a powerful black and white short about fatherhood and absent fathers, Date Night, a comedy where three characters chart the complexities of dating and Roadkill, starring Cole, Cornell John and Ani Nelson, which sees a middle-aged prisoner reflect on life in prison and the circumstances that surrounded his incarceration.

From children’s TV to award-winning factual programming, Yates’ career has been full of twists and turns and while a move into film might seem as a shock to some, he says it “felt like a natural storytelling progression” and is “where I want to spend the majority of my time going forward”.

Tired of being “Nathan four times” in his acting days, Yates was driven to “write roles for other people who were tired of being Nathan too”. He feels that there’s a responsibility to create work that is more representative and gives opportunities to tell stories of those who look like him.

While it seems his acting days – a profession he says he fell into because “I couldn’t see directors that looked like me” – are well and truly over, his days behind the camera are only just beginning.

The 35-year-old says he’s still having to work to be taken seriously as a filmmaker but with projects like those screened last week, it’s very possible that that won’t be the case for much longer.

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