Introducing the 2023 Breakthrough Leaders

The highly praised industry initiative launched by The TV Collective (TVC) in 2021 runs in partnership with Fremantle, Indigo Talent and Remy Blumenfeld’s Vitality Guru. Today, it announces its 2023 cohort of 53- top Breakthrough Leaders across the UK TV landscape, who will also be part of the first ever ‘Breakthrough Leaders Visionary’ Festival later this year.

Since it was established, the programme has selected 154 people and paired them with over 100 industry-leading executives, such as Jay Hunt (Creative Director, Europe, Apple) and Pat Younge (Managing Director, Skin in the Game Studios) to provide mentorship, career guidance and support. A survey conducted by TVC last year found that 78% of cohorts believed being a Breakthrough Leader has helped raise their profile, and 87% said being a leader has progressed their career, whilst 100% expressed the programmme has improved their confidence.

Breakthrough Leaders was established to celebrate the best talent of Black, Asian and ethnic heritage talent working across all levels of TV and production. It sees nominees selected by industry peers and highlights them as future leaders who will help shape and redefine leadership in TV and act as a proactive catalyst for positive change.

For the first time, the ‘Breakthrough Leaders Visionary’ festival will take place this Autumn and be an extension of the initiative’s ethos by bringing together thought leaders, pioneers and visionaries from Black, Asian and ethnic origins who are helping to redefine and challenge the industry status quo. Names joining the festival include Femi Oyeniran, co-director and executive producer of the RTS winning, The Evolution of Black Music, award-winning journalist and writer, Afua Hirsch, musical director Siddiq Babz Bey, as well as Junior Okoli and Chas Appeti, the creators, and directors of Bafta- winning Jungle on Amazon Prime. Further details will be announced at a later date.

Amelia Brown, CEO, Fremantle UK said: “Having had the opportunity to hear from some of the previous Breakthrough Leaders alumni, it’s clear to see that this initiative is making a real difference to the careers of the senior leaders selected, and a real change in our industry. I am proud to be continuing our partnership with The TV Collective and am looking forward to working with another impressive intake of Breakthrough Leaders for the year ahead.”

 Simone Pennant MBE, Founder of The TV Collective and Breakthrough Leaders, adds: “It’s an absolute honour to introduce our new cohort from the third year of Breakthrough Leaders, thank you for all the nominations; I cannot wait to see what they achieve.

This year as an extension of the programme, we will also host our first one-day festival crammed full of masterclasses, panels and networking events curated by our leaders, that brings a host of content creators, execs, influencers and onscreen talents of colour together all in one place; to explore the current issues impacting the industry from our unique lens.

As we know, talent of colour is often overlooked, with recruiters citing that they can’t find them or don’t have the right experience as an excuse. Breakthrough leaders have supported over 150 senior TV professionals to raise their profiles in just two short years. They have seen people go from Series Producer to Executives to Heads of Departments and even our first Director of Content. And as I say, every year – the quality of talent of this programme speaks to the abundance of talent of colour that already exists but is often underutilised within our industry.

I am extremely proud of what the Breakthrough Leaders programme, with the generous support of Fremantle has managed to achieve so far.”

2023’s Breakthrough Leaders (which can be viewed in full here) include:

  • Janine Thomas – is the Commissioning Editor in the Channel 4 documentaries team, focusing on talent-fronted docs. Alongside this, Thomas runs First Cut Strand, giving opportunities for first-time factual directors.
  • Cassie Quarless – is a Producer Director with a background in documentaries. He recently directed a documentary for the BBC about the late Louis Vuitton designer Virgil Abloh. His first BFI-funded feature-length film ‘Generation Revolution’ was released in cinemas in the UK – he has also developed documentary feature projects about Stokley Carmichael, Malcolm Shabbazz, and the history of Black British Music.
  • Kiki Yihui Wang – is an Assistant Producer currently making social content for BBC Earth as a digital producer, she has multiple AP credits across Documentary, Factual, and Factual Ent with BBC Studios, Pioneer Productions, and Lion TV.
  • Faith Musembi – is a Producer Director based in Bristol. As one of the few Black women working in natural history programming, she is drawn to telling meaningful and masterful narratives. Her credits include Queens and Chasing the Rains.

Symeon Brown, Channel 4 News Correspondent and Commissioning Executive, comments: “I was drawn to Breakthrough Leaders by the programme’s honest assessment about the state of media representation and, in turn, the questions it asked of me: ‘What contribution can I make, what work do I want to do and ultimately who do I want to be?’ It is easy to lose confidence in the possibilities of this industry. I appreciated the lack of pretense and renewed focus it has given me on what really matters.”