Born and raised in California, Emily James completed her BA at UC Berkeley before moving to the United Kingdom to study History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University and then documentary directing at the UK National Film and Television School. In her films, Emily combines her interests in history, science, social justice, and film language with a wry sense of humor and a passion for telling human stories. She is known for her lightness of touch, experimental flair, and playful blending of traditional genre forms. 

While still at film school, Emily won the Kodak International ‘Best Student Film Worldwide 2000’ for her film Wag the Dogma, and sold the film for multiple broadcasts on Channel 4 and E4. The bold comic style of her graduation film A Brief History of Cuba, in d minor landed Emily her first TV commission for Channel 4’s ALT TV strand. The resulting film The Luckiest Nut in the World was greeted by rave reviews. The Guardian wrote: “Emily James is a genius, and will in time be revered as a television innovator, dead clever and a woman who really knows her nuts.”

In 2004 Emily conceived and directed a four-part series for Channel 4 called Don’t Worry, featuring a cast of blue hand puppets covering current affairs. The Observer described it as “A brilliant satire of the trend towards consumer affairs as entertainment.” That year Emily was singled out by Broadcast as one of the “Hottest Talents in Town”.

2005 and 2006 saw Emily executive producing a number of short and long form documentaries for Channel 4 with subject matter ranging from Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to the plight of migrant workers. In 2007 Emily returned to the United States to make Dallas Campbell’s Guide to the Impossible, for Discovery US, and to work with Morgan Spurlock on development of a satirical puppet show called GWANO – “The Global World Action News Organisation: when you hear the news, you know it’s GWANO!”

By 2009 Emily was moving into the world of feature documentary, serving as Executive Producer (and story editor) on the ground-breaking drama-doc The Age of Stupid. Her own feature directing debut, Just Do It: a tale of modern day outlaws captured a year in the life of the UK’s secretive climate justice direct action movement with unprecedented behind the scenes access. The film received a BFI release and screened in over 45 independent cinemas across the UK in Summer 2011, alongside a far-reaching community screenings program, and is now available on Amazon. 

In 2017 Emily completed production on her second feature film, Silk Road: drugs, death, and the dark web. Made for BBC Storyville and A&E (US), Silk Road is a beautifully shot, elegant, high-production-value drama-doc, capturing the story of the infamous online black market, often called ‘the Ebay for drugs’. With unparalleled access and eyewitnesses testimonies, Silk Road is a thrilling cat-and-mouse crime story for the digital age, bristling with intrigue, mayhem, murder, and moral quagmires, and Emily’s telling of it makes the most of each dramatic turn. 

Alongside her long-form work, Emily has developed a strong practice directing branded content, short-form, and commercials. She also continues to actively Executive Produce on a number of feature documentary projects.

As a ‘lock-down project’ Emily turned her hand to fully scripted comedy, show-running and directing Coronaville, a dark comedy web-series featuring 9 individual character-driven narratives intercut to form 3 half-hour episodes. Fictionally stylized as ‘found footage’ discovered on social media or snatched from video chats, the filming all took place with actors isolating in their homes and the crew using video conferencing to shoot with them. Emily recruited an entire volunteer cast and crew during the first Covid lock-down, combining the power of social media with her charismatic passion for confronting the challenges of life with creative expression. 

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