Women’s History Month: Leyla Pope


After six years living in Geneva and working for the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, Iranian-born Leyla Pope returned to the UK and completed an MA in Scriptwriting at the University of Wales.

Her graduation short “Bubbles” won the Ffresh Film Festival award for Best Post-Graduate Fiction Film. Following this she was selected to direct an It’s My Shout short film, “Love Struck” based on a poem from the Mabinogion. The film was screened at festivals worldwide and she was named “One to Watch” by Moviescope Magazine. 

After taking maternity leave for the birth of her second child, Leyla co-directed a short film shot entirely in a lift starring Anita Dobson. Leyla’s first feature script “One Last Holiday” was selected for SKY Drama’s Table Read scheme for BAME scripts with additional funding from BFI.Network. In 2020 Her short film “Out of Breath” about two Iranian siblings growing up in Newport was awarded a Ffilm Cymru Beacons development grant.

When was the first time you realised you wanted to make films?

I was 18 years old and it was the day before my birthday. I had just resigned from a job I really didn’t enjoy. I went and watched 3 Colours Red by Krystof Kiewlowski alone in the cinema. Although the film is set in Geneva, something in it really made me miss my grandfather in Iran who I had not seen in a while. I also felt that the film had accessed my inner thoughts and I felt so much lighter after watching it. I was comforted by knowing that others struggle with the same issues as I do. I think the ability of cinema to access deep buried emotions, to make you feel safe enough to go to places we usually run from, is really what motivates me to make films.

What was the last project you worked on / made?

I directed a trailer for a short film called “The Pit” with a Ffilm Cymru Beacons Development Fund about a Syrian refugee going on a trip down to a mining museum. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to 2nd unit direct on “Dream Horse” with Euros Lyn.

What are you up to now? 

I’ve another short film with Ffilm Cymru Beacons “Out of Breath”, and I have been on BBC Writers Room Wales “Welsh Voices” scheme for 2019-2020 with my co-writer Emily Burnett. Emily and I are developing a series together and I have a couple of feature projects that I have been working on.

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Check out the many other female filmmakers telling unique stories in Wales here.