Sajid Varda, is a British actor, producer and broadcaster with over three decades of industry experience. As Founder / CEO of UK Muslim Film Sajid champions diversity and authentic storytelling on screen and stage.
Sajid founded charity UK Muslim Film to combat harmful stereotypes, foster inclusivity and create opportunities for underrepresented talent in the creative industries.
He has contributed as a story consultant to major international film and TV productions, influencing representations of both faith and culture.
Through his production company Rendition Films, his credits include the award-winning US feature film "The Tiger Hunter," and British comedy "The Chop" which garnered over 54 international awards. He has played lead roles in both drama and comedy on film and television.
Sajid is co-chair of the BFI Screen Advisory Group and a full voting member of BAFTA.
Yeota is an experienced Assistant Producer with over 18 year’s experience in the media industry. She has successfully conceptualised, produced, and directed various genres of quality programming for TV and digital platforms. She stated her media career at Islam Channel and has gone on to work for Little Bird Films, BBC Studios, Boom Cymru, South Shore Productions and Yeti TV.
She is passionate about telling diverse, heartfelt stories that create change and conversation through a documentary format. In her own time, she is heavily involved with UK Muslim Film and very passionate about working to better the portrayal of Muslims and Islam in TV and film.
Saqib leads a global team to design, build and support video production solutions for the likes of Google, Meta, Burberry, Red Bull and more. He has extensive experience working in the video and broadcast industry.
Saqib works with UKMF to promote growth and representation of Islam and Muslims within the film and television industry.
He loves cinema, enjoys watching movies and is a self-proclaimed nerd for large format 70mm film!
Hadeed is an aspiring writer and filmmaker, with a huge passion and interest for Muslim-driven storytelling. His introduction to UKMF came through interviewing Sajid for his dissertation on the portrayal of Islam on film and television, and from there he became a member of the team running visual and social media.
Zahra is a Film and TV Production graduate. Starting as an intern for satellite TV station, involved with production and editing, she went on to producing their flagship talk show. The show was a great platform for Muslims making a difference both in the UK and around the world.
Zahra has been working as a PA for major streaming platforms such as Disney + and Apple TV.
Jen Smith is Interim CEO of the Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority (CIISA) responsible for developing its remit, operating model and governance structure. Jen led the creation and publication of the screen sectors’ first ‘Set of Principles and Guidance to Prevent Bullying and Harassment and Racism’ convening over 50 cultural organisations to adopt them, in addition inspiring additional editions tailored for the Theatre and Music sectors. Jen was responsible for a host of ground-breaking initiatives whilst working at the BFI, gaining international recognition for the BFI Diversity Standards, achieving Autism Friendly Status for BFI Southbank, partnering with Changing Faces on the impactful #Iamnotyourvillain campaign and ensuring that the full range of diversity data on who the BFI funds and employs is published annually. Jen is a member of the Institute of Regulation and an ACAS accredited mediator.
Sharon Sorrentino is a Casting Director. She has worked across all mediums of screen and stage on many award-winning productions. She primarily casts for screen now on television, independent films, commercials, short films and music videos.
Her film credits include: The Journey (multi-award winning), Jericho’s Walls Are Falling.
TV credits include: Murdered For Love? Samia Shahid; Queen Elizabeth I’s Secret Agents (RTS award winning and BAFTA nominated).
Amongst the multi-award winning short films she has cast are: Oblivious, The Outer Circle, White, Sticky, Grandfather, The Storyteller, The Chop, Crack, No Playground for Little Cowboys and Invisible. She has cast countless commercials and music videos.
Sharon is also a published author of a book of advice for actors ‘The Audition Room – A Down to Earth Guide’.
Asra Ali khan is Co-founder, Creative Director and Managing Director of Liquid TV, an independent BAFTA award winning creative content agency specialising in motion.
Since 1993 she has led the creative vision and strategy of the company from its inception through to industry acclaim. Liquid works across Sports, Documentaries, Drama, Light Entertainment and Corporate Communication markets providing short form motion content. She has originated numerous award-winning conceptual and branding solutions, coupled with an expertise in production spanning both live-action and animated filmmaking. She’s highly regarded within the broadcast industry as a trusted expert in broadcast programme branding and has a grown a dedicated blue-chip client base including the likes of:
BBC, Discovery Channel, Netflix, ITV, RDF, YouTube, NatGeo, UEFA, Channel 4, Viacom, Premier League, IMG, Viasat, Fremantle Talkback Thames, Tiger Aspect, Hat-Trick and BBC Films. Liquid TV has won many prestigious awards including:
Royal Television Society Awards
Gold BDA Award
Silver BDA Award
Silver Promax Global
Asra was a trustee of Missing People which helps find missing loved ones across the UK and has been a selected judge for BAFTA and Promax. She is now an advisor and jurist to both UK Muslim Film and the Muslim International Film Festival.
Head of the Department of Media, Culture and Creative Industries, City University of London.
Professor Matias Frey
Head of the Department of Media, Culture and Creative Industries, City University of London.
Professor Mattias Frey is Professor of Film, Media and Culture at the University of Kent. His approach to film and media culture attends coequally to institutions as to human agency and cooperation, concentrating on what were once considered periphery phenomena: criticism, distribution, marketing and promotion, regulation and other cultural intermediaries.
In his recent and ongoing research, Professor Frey has taken a critical media industries approach to film (esp. distribution, regulation, exhibition); film and media audiences; promotional media and cultural intermediation (esp. film marketing, criticism); and digital culture (e.g. algorithmic recommender systems).
Professor Frey received his academic training in Heidelberg, Mannheim and Berlin as well as at Harvard University, where he earned his bachelor and doctoral degrees and taught in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies. In 2008 he joined the University of Kent. In addition to his research and teaching, he has served as the Director of Internationalisation for the Faculty of Humanities, Director of Learning and Teaching for the School of Arts, Director of Internationalisation for the School of Arts, Director of Recruitment and Marketing for the School of Arts, Head of the Film department, Acting Associate Dean for Research and Innovation for the Faculty of Humanities, Managing Director of the Centre for Film and Media Research and in a variety of other roles.
Professor Frey’s most recent monograph is Netflix Recommends: Algorithms, Film Choice, and the History of Taste. It will appear in June 2021 with the University of California Press.
Elizabeth is Co-Director of SCREENCRAFT WORKS, a career, learning and advocacy network supporting under-represented ‘behind-the-camera’ talent for a culture-shift in local and international film, TV & online production.
With a career across conference, exhibition, commissioning and documentary filmmaking, Elizabeth’s work includes curation for OKRE, a Wellcome Trust-supported story ideas platform, and consultancy for ProQuote Film Berlin (UK and Irish speakers). Previous positions include Director of Sheffield Doc/Fest, Head of Masterschool Documentary Campus and Head of Production & Development (UK Factual) for Discovery Networks International, where she commissioned single films and series for local and global markets, including You Have Been Warned, The Great White Silence and Inside the Gangsters’ Code. Documentary credits include The Lost Children of Berlin for Steven Spielberg, Dangerous Love (BBC), No Place Like Home (BBC) and Five Steps to Tyranny (BBC).
Advisory roles include UK Muslim Film and, formerly BAFTA TV/Learning, Inclusion & Talent committees and WFTV trustee. She contributes to mentoring and masterclass programmes such as Wonder Women and ScreenSkills. Elizabeth is based in Germany and the UK.
As Director of Digital Distribution at Studiocanal, Imrun is responsible for leading and executing the Transactional, Subscription and VOD distribution strategies for UK and Ireland. Imrun is also a leading voice of Diversity and Inclusion matters as co-chair of Studiocanal’s first Race Equality Network.
An experienced senior leader specialising in Film and TV content distribution for all VOD rights, and Account Management for digital platforms, she started her career in scheduling for The Disney Channel, quickly moving into sales and distribution at Content Media.
After a few years at Disney Media Distribution, negotiating and managing key TVOD/EST/SVOD distribution deals, Imrun now manages the Transactional and SVOD business for the UK and Ireland for Studiocanal.
Raisah is a Scottish Asian Muslim Writer/Director based in Glasgow with two features in development, with the Scottish Film Talent Network and Film4. Her first short as writer ‘Last Order’, was commissioned through Second Light and supported by Creative Scotland, Pinewood Studios and Barbara Broccoli. Her first funded short as writer/director, ‘Meet Me By The Water’, was commissioned by the Scottish Film Talent Network (SFTN) as part of New Talent Shorts 2015 and premiered in competition at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2016. The Feature Script for ‘Meet Me By The Water’ was developed through Screenwriting residencies with Playwrights Studio Scotland and Binger Labs Amsterdam in 2011, under mentorship of Olivia Stewart, it was shortlisted for the Sundance Writers Lab 2015. Her first film as a writer/director, Magda, premiered in competition at the Glasgow Short Film Festival 2015.
She is alumni of the EIFF Talent Lab 2014 and a Creative Scotland Artists Bursary awardee for the development of her second feature project ‘Safar’, a female road trip film about two sisters that drive their elderly Gran from Scotland to Pakistan. Safar was shortlisted for the Sundance Writers Lab 2018 and is in development with Producer Zorana Piggott and SFTN.
Her third feature project ‘Half-Moon Camp’, a WW1 film about Muslim Allied Forces Soldiers, began development on the Adapt to Film scheme at Broadway Cinema Nottingham, Skillset & The BFI and is now in development with producer Zorana Piggott and Film4.
Raisah has written for Cbeebies shows ‘Feeling Better’ and ‘Molly & Mack’, she has also shadowed the directors on ‘Molly & Mack’. Currently she is writing for the new season of ‘Molly & Mack’ and has written a phone drama for ‘BBC The Social’.
Sheila Nortley is a writer/producer from London, with a scope of work that extends internationally across film and television.
Her film work includes producing the independent feature film Sable Fable, which went on to win Best Film at the prestigious American Black Film Festival awards in Miami, Florida; and Limbo, which was filmed in Virginia and selected at various international festivals including Cannes Pan-African Film Festival. She also recently directed the short film Moon Over Aburi, which has been selected at Rhode Island International Film Festival 2023, Joburg Film Festival and PAFF 2023 in LA.
Sheila’s writing work includes the short film Sometimes I Feel, which was selected for the Oscar Qualifying PAFF festival in LA 2020. She has participated in multiple writers’ rooms, including for two dramas being developed for Netflix and Channel 4 and the new upcoming drama A Town Called Malice, for SKY and Vertigo Films which will premiere on SKY in 2023.
In 2020, Sheila secured an unprecedented development deal with SKY to develop new television series, and was also selected to join the BFI Network x BAFTA crew 2021. Her directing credits include I Am Mary, short films Joy, Sacred Knowledge and music videos for Too Bold and We Roll by Shingai.
In 2021, working with Red Production company, Sheila produced Netflix’s global hit drama Stay Close, starring Cush Jumbo and Richard Armitage.
In 2016, Sheila won the Woman of The Future award in Arts & Culture for her work in film, and in 2018 she became an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society.
Lena is a Canadian American writer and director. Her first feature film, THE TIGER HUNTER, recently released in over 60 cities nationwide and garnered effusively positive reviews from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and more.
With a background from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and experience at noted production companies such as Participant Media, Lena spent years directing short films, commercials and music videos before embarking on her first film. Lena and her work have been profiled in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Teen Vogue, USA Today and The New York Times. She was also listed as one of the 25 Screenwriters to watch in MovieMaker magazine.
In the last year, Lena has sold a television show, is overseeing development by a prestigious (and delightfully kooky) writer for a screenplay she will direct, and began production on a comedy for Disney entitled FLORA & ULYSSES.
Mehwish Hayat is one of Pakistan's leading actresses. Coming from a well-known show business family, she has been acting from a very early age.
From playing a dancer in her first film, to a simple Punjabi girl in her last movie, she is known for pushing the boundaries and taking on challenging roles. Not only is she the most commercially successful actress in Pakistan she has also shown herself as a major acting talent by appearing in unconventional roles in several award-winning short films.
She is also an accomplished singer, having sung several popular songs for television including appearing on the prestigious Coke Studio and she has undertaken several sell-out music tours in the US playing to arenas across the country.
In 2019, she was honoured by the President of Pakistan with a National Civil Award, the Tamgha – I – Imtiaz (medal of excellence) for her contribution to the Arts and Pakistani Cinema. That year, The Muslim Vibe, recognised her as one of the top 5 most influential Muslim women in the world.
She sits on the board of the Pakistan National Council of Arts and is a member of the official Oscar selection committee in Pakistan.
Mehwish is one of the most socially active celebrities in South Asia and the Middle East. Fearless and bold, she has spoken out on global media outlets about human rights abuses and has been particularly vocal about the representation of Muslim and Pakistanis in mainstream media. She has been championing the cause of diversity and inclusivity in the media for many years.
UK Muslim Film is a charity registered in England and Wales (charity registration number 1174457)