’12 year old lifer’, Zara Hayes and Will Pugh


After outlining the reasons as to why I enjoy crime documentaries using ’12 year old lifer’ as an exemplary piece I began researching the people behind the programme. I thought the way in which the documentary was edited and footage used was so poignant and effective the creative minds behind it must be worth discovering. It may also point me towards more interesting programmes by the same people.

The director of the hour long documentary was the clearly talented director and filmmaker Zara Hayes. Zara has directed narrative documentaries for a range of broadcasters and audiences including Channel 4, BBC4, and Tate Modern and has also worked extensively in development for independent production companies including Tiger Aspect, Blast! Films and Somethin’ Else. Admittedly none of them ring a bell aside of course from the British television channels but nonetheless. More recently Hayes co-directed ‘Battle of the Sexes’ with James Erskine (Torchwood, Robin Hood), which is set for cinema release later this year and is produced by Victoria Gregory, the producer behind that great little documentary, ‘Senna’, you know the one! Hayes is also a guest tutor at the Met Film School, based at the Ealing Studios. So overall, the woman basically knows a lot about documentaries and how to craft together a shiny looking film!

Zara Hayes and Rachna Suri also a London-based filmmaker founded PEEK. PEEK combines expertise in documentary filmmaking and online video content to bring innovative ideas and untold stories to the screen. So what do they do exactly?

“We partner with broadcasters, brands, agencies and traditional media outlets to tell stories that excite and inspire. Working across different genres, we bring together the right team for each project, drawing on our network of collaborators from cinematographers to specialist researchers to motion graphics designers. As well as generating our own ideas, we also work with our clients on video strategy. We have recently been commissioned by Channel 4, Christie’s and The Independent.”

To find some more information regarding Hayes projects and other films I headed over to their ‘films section’ on the PEEK website. I couldn’t find any more information in regards to ’12 year old lifer’ but did stumble upon a wide range of Hayes documentaries. It’s clear PEEK are focused on building knowledgeable, creative and varied teams in order to create such thorough and exciting films or programmes, evident in ’12 year old lifer’. I did, however, find some interesting articles in the Press section regarding the case.

I then wanted to learn more about that artistic eye behind all of the shots in the ’12 year old lifer’. The director of photography was Will Pugh. Pugh who studied painting in Bristol (BA hons Fine Art) began his career by making experimental Super8 films then moved into the film industry sixteen years ago where he served a six year apprenticeship as a camera assistant. Despite, the immense amount of time Pugh has dealt with cameras and film; it’s his painters’ background, which I feel makes his work so poignant.

I browsed through Pugh’s collection of images from each of his documentary projects on his simple website. Rolling down the screen it’s vividly clear that the use of colour and the quality of images is highly important to Pugh. Each project has its own colour schemes thus creating a separate tone for each documentary. And that use of colour and that steady flow of beautiful shots are more then evident in his latest work ’12 year old lifer’. The palette is neutral and grim: greys, pale blues and whites dominate the entire film all reinforcing those harrowing feelings of tragedy and lifelessness.

After researching those behind the two things I loved most about ’12 year old lifer’ I learn the importance of finding inspiration from things you love and know about. Pugh, with his passion and understanding for painting, aids him in knowing how to create colour schemes in order to convey certain emotions and tones within film and photography. Meanwhile, Hayes understands the importance of working with various minds and creative in order to form a thorough and interesting programme or film.

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