A gothic fairytale following three generations of women struggling with the aftermath of a divorce.
Hi Leonora, thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for LSFF 2019?
I am indeed! Especially looking forward to screening at the BFI Southbank - it's a great cinema.
Do you ever get any nerves ahead of a festival screening?
Hell yeah. I'm always terrified the sound will be off or there’ll be some other unforeseeable technical catastrophe – though, course, I’m sure that would never happen at LSFF! But it is a strange experience, you just hold your breath watching your film that you've seen 100 times over, feeling the audience react to it in the dark. It's different every screening - the moments that audiences respond to.
Beast has already had an amazing festival run, has it surprised you to have gotten the reaction you have for your film?
We feel really lucky. I only wish I could have gone and travelled around the world with it.
How does it feel to be at the festival with Beast?
It’s so great to have Beast back on home turf and to show it to people who supported the film along the way.
Tell me a little bit about Beast & how did this project come about?
We wanted to make a psychological film that explores the impact of divorce on a child, but to tell it through the prism of a gothic fairytale. That way we felt we could explore some very dark issues but keep the story both cinematic and entertaining. We developed the script with the BFI & Creative England, who then funded the short film through their Emerging Talent Scheme.
What was the inspiration behind Beast?
A whole mix from friends’ own stories to Angela Carter’s gothic fairytales, as well as films like 'Pan's Labyrinth', 'Beast of the Southern Wild' and Haidzihailovic's "Innocence". I love that magical space where fantasy and reality collide.
"I devoured films as a teenager and then when I was 18, I got a job as a runner on a Merchant Ivory film out in China."
You have an amazing cast, was it easy to get them all on board this project?
Our incredible casting director, Clare Harlow, managed to get the project to Billie and Sinead. Finding Poppy, our seven-year-old lead, was more difficult – we must have auditioned close to a hundred kids before we found her.
What was the experience like working with three renowned actresses?
A dream. They gave me the benefit of the doubt which I was so grateful for considering all their experience. Billie is a really soulful presence on set and watching her work was enthralling.
What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing Beast to life?
Definitely the child acting hours. Poppy was only 7 and she had an incredibly demanding role. She was in almost every scene of the movie. Getting through the huge amount we had to shoot with limited hours was stressful, - definitely knocked a few years off my life. But it was fun as well, seeing how she made a game of it and so intelligently understood what we were asking for.
Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?
I think so, even if it took me some time to articulate it. I devoured films as a teenager and then when I was 18, I got a job as a runner on a Merchant Ivory film out in China. It was out there, enveloped in the magic and the chaos of a huge film, that I knew for sure this was what I needed to do.
How important is the collaborative process for you?
Hugely. It’s so important to be surrounded by a team you trust, to challenge each other, knowing that you’re all trying to make the same film.
How much has your approach to your work changed since your debut film?
Every time you complete a piece of work there is the temptation to do the polar opposite with the next film. To fix the flaws of the previous work. I'm moving in the direction of the magical and trying to move my camera much more than when I started.
Do you have any advice or tips for a fellow filmmaker?
What are you currently working on?
The feature version of this story and a project called 'Ex Sanguis' which we developed on a scheme called iFeatures. I'm doing it with two wonderful producers, Manon Ardisson (God's Own Country) and Chiara Ventura, and it's being written by the BAFTA - nominated Islay Bell Webb.
Finally, what do you hope people will take away from your work?
The feeling they are watching a really feminine, subtle, emotional work that captivates them and places them in a cinematic world.