Award-winning former Burnley writer reveals joy after making directorial debut

Talented writer Joy Wilkinson, who has produced scripts for BBC's Dr Who, is now excited to make her directorial debut with "Ma'am".


The ex-pupil of Habergham High School was given the opportunity to direct the short film, which offers a snapshot of Queen Victoria as you've never seen her before, thanks to a £20,000 grant from the international Bumble Female Film Force initiative to address inequalities and boost the number of female filmmakers in the film industry.

A poster promoting the film

A poster promoting the film

The film, which launches at an industry screening this week and then to film festivals all around the world, stars Jessica Regan as Queen Victoria, David Ricardo-Pearce as Prince Albert, Adam Gillen as Doctor Snow and Ebony Jonelle as Mhairi.

Speaking about the production, Joy (44), said: "MA’AM is Queen Victoria as you’ve never seen her before – a middle-aged mother of nine juggling marriage, a demanding career, and the small matter of post-natal depression. When the doctor warns that Victoria can’t have any more ‘fun in bed’ in case it leads to a tenth baby, Ma’am spirals, and then plummets as Albert proposes a photo-shoot to show the world their perfect family. Will Ma’am be consumed by the darkness? Or can she find a new way through it, to find herself again?"

Despite international fame, mother-of-two Joy has always been true to her Burnley roots and although she's been spending a lot of time in Devon, where the film was shot, she coincidentally found herself working alongside a hair and make up artist who also hailed from Burnley. Joy explained: "As part of pre-production, we were struggling to find the right hair and make-up artist. As it’s a period drama, we needed someone with very particular skills and experience to make it look great on a tight budget and time frame so it was quite a challenge. Finally, we tracked down a HMUA called Eve Wignall, in Newton Abbott, and once we got talking, it turned out that she is from Burnley and attended Burnley Girls’ Grammar! What are the odds of that!"

She added: "Because we’re both from Burnley and have worked our way across the country in this unusual industry, we had a lot in common and it was lovely to have someone from ‘home’ on set with a down to earth attitude and sense of humour."

(L-R): Producer Jude Goldrei, Joy Wilkinson, Eve Wignall, Producer Rebecca Wolff and Production Manager Daria Nitsche.

(L-R): Producer Jude Goldrei, Joy Wilkinson, Eve Wignall, Producer Rebecca Wolff and Production Manager Daria Nitsche.

Speaking about her passion for period drama, Joy said: "What I love about period drama is that it can give people an escape but the story will always relate to today's world. When I was researching the Victorian Era I saw this photo of Queen Victoria with Albert and her children soon after their ninth baby. I read she had postnatal depression and it seemed like a way to tell a story about how we live now. We post pictures on Instagram of our perfect lives, and yet levels of anxiety and depression are increasing."

Joy's journey towards success began at Burnley Youth Theatre, where she was a member and next month will see her return to the theatre for a writing masterclass for anyone with an interest in writing, film, theatre or TV. For more information or to book on March 7th, log onto https://burnleyyouththeatre.org/whatson/audience-with-joy-wilkinson/

Joy went on to do film studies at college before switching to journalism at university. Although she's always had a career in writing, it wasn't until she had children that she turned her love of fiction into a job, meeting female film-makers for the first time. And when Joy began sending off her plays to competitions, she landed a place in BBC Academy, where she worked on TV show, Doctors. She then wrote an episode of Dr Who, which was screened on BBC last year, and other credits include Land Girls, Casualty, Nick Nickleby and Holby City.

A sneak peak of Ma'am can be viewed on this website.

Hair and make-up artist Eve Wignall who is originally from Burnley

Hair and make-up artist Eve Wignall who is originally from Burnley