TNC Film Interview
An inquisitive girl is convinced her dead father will soon be resurrected; certain he has died to test their love for him. However, when the corpse begins to rot, the girl is forced to reconsider the situation.
Hi Andrea thank you for talking to TNC, how are you holding up during the lockdown?
Hi, thank you for reaching out. All things considered, I'd say I'm holding up pretty well thanks!
Is this time offering you with some new creative inspiration?
Yes and no. Most of my work before the pandemic hit involved screenwriting, so I'm used to spending a great deal of time shut off from the outside world, working alone from home. Nevertheless, having to stay indoors almost 24/7 for weeks at a time is a very different matter. For me personally, "self-isolating" is fundamental for being able to stay focused and work effectively, but only if there's an outside world that acts as a counterbalance!
You need to get out, see people and do things because that recharges your batteries and helps you maintain a healthy state of mind in which you can create. Right now, not only is it very difficult to have much of a life outside of home, but there's a lot of fear and anxiety going around, which is poison for creativity. But it's very hard to avoid when you're surrounded by it, from the news, to social media or even just during a trip to the supermarket. Nonetheless, like many I've found that by managing and limiting my exposure to these things and by exploring ideas that don't just revolve around the Coronavirus I feel a lot more inspired! I recently made a short film (in lockdown of course!) for the Roger Corman Quarantine Film Festival, which was a lot of fun.
Your 2016 graduate film Home Education part of the LFS Grad Film Festival, what has it meant to you to have the audience get another chance to see this film?
It's great to have any audience for your work, especially for short films! I'm grateful for any opportunity to get it out there, especially as you never know what might come from it.
Before you started your course did you have any bad habits as a writer/director that you knew you needed to break?
Probably how I worked with actors. I used to talk about scripts and roles much more intellectually. I've since learnt that simplicity is a much better approach. Giving an actor an intention or something to feel during a scene is much more effective than talking for half an hour about who their character is.
What was your experience like being part of London Film School?
Personally, I loved it. The LFS is a chaotic environment, but there's a raw energy, creativity and passion that's hard to find anywhere else. For me it was a space to grow, experiment and meet some great friends and collaborators.
Looking back at your time at LFS what would you say was the most valuable lesson you took away from your time there?
That trust and creative collaboration are fundamental when making a film. Without mutual trust no one gives their best, and without collaboration you're shutting yourself off to new ideas and ultimately making a better film. The key therefore is always making sure you're working with people you trust and who's input you respect and admire!
Home Education had an amazing film festival run, did you ever expect you would get this type of recognition?
No not at all! At 25 minutes it's a LONG short film and there's a lot of dialogue, both things that you're always told will prevent shorts from getting into festivals. But somehow we got lucky and the film did well, although being a psychological horror definitely helped as it's a very popular genre. Even past it's festival run it was acquired for distribution by various channels and now has well over 1.5 million views online. I never thought that many people would see it.
Tell me a little bit about Home Education, what was the inspiration behind this film?
I love stories about belief and perception and how one can influence the other. The short is actually based on a feature script I wrote and have since rewritten, which was based off a brief newspaper article about a woman who had kept her husband's corpse for years after his death, convinced that if she looked after him and prayed for him to resurrect, he would return.
What was the biggest challenge you faced bridging Home Education to life?
Probably figuring out how to make a short out of the feature concept. Like many, I find it much harder to condense rather than expand, and I wrote a number of different versions of the short before settling on the one we shot. It was challenging to make something that could be a proof of concept for a feature that leaves some questions unanswered and hints at a much larger world, as well as delivering a self-contained story that works in and of itself.
As a writer/director is it hard to let go of a film and hand it over to audiences?
I think it's only difficult if you aren't happy with or are embarrassed by the end result, because inevitably people judge your skill and voice by it. If you're being judged by something you're happy with and which you feel expresses what you wanted, then that's great, even if there are people who inevitably don't like it. It's tougher when you put something out which doesn't reflect your intentions or which you know could have been much better.
How much has your style and your approach to your films changed since your debut?
I've only been able to make one short film since leaving school because it's so damned expensive and time-consuming, and in the UK, there's very little money funding available to make shorts, let alone features. Nevertheless I've been lucky as I've been able to get work as a screenwriter, which is mainly what I've done over the past few years since leaving school. The biggest change in approach for me has been writing with a market in mind and with the awareness that some ideas are just harder to sell than others, regardless of quality or originality. At the same time it's also important to write material that stays true to your voice and integrity. So the challenge is always finding a balance between projects that bring in money and hopefully exposure, but which might not completely reflect who you are, and writing things that you're more passionate about, but which carry a higher risk of never going anywhere. Either way, if you can find a healthy balance, both are just as valuable and can create new opportunities as long as you give your best.
What inspires your work?
Anything from a newspaper article, to a conversation, to a journey on the tube. More often than not though, it's just a case of writing every day and working through all of the many bad ideas to get to what works and then refining that.
"Always moving forwards is really the best way to stay sane, productive and carry on working."
What has been the best advice you've been given?
Our old LFS director, Ben Gibson, told me something after our one of our end of year film screenings, which has always stuck with me, "whether you make a great film or an awful one, the most important thing is that you always move relentlessly forwards." It's particularly pertinent advice for working in film as it's such a fast-moving, competitive industry that's just as much about what you have planned for the future as it is about what you've already done. It's also an industry where you can go from 0-100 - and vice versa - almost overnight. I know it sounds trite, but If you focus on your failures you become depressed, anxious and stuck, and if you focus on your successes you become complacent and risk losing momentum. Always moving forwards is really the best way to stay sane, productive and carry on working.
And finally, for anyone thinking of going to film school do you have any advice or tips you would offer them?
Personally I'd say use that time to experiment and hone your voice. Once you're out of film school it's much harder to find the time, money and space in which to freely experiment, take risks and fail, but that's the best way to learn and find your voice.