Iris Prize 2021
Best British Shorts
When Alex wakes suddenly from a dream where she’s intimate with her best friend, her whole world is turned upside down.
Hi Emmalie thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you held up during these very strange times?
At the beginning of lockdown back in April 2020 and for months after, I wasn’t well at all. Panic attacks took over my life and it was hard getting through the days. But since overcoming them, things have been much much better.
Has this time provided you with any new creative inspiration or opportunities?
In all honesty, no. I think that like a lot of people, I took for granted what leaving the house use to do for my mental health. So when I was forced to stay in, I couldn’t think straight, let alone come up with anything to write or create. But since the world has opened up again, I’ve started writing again and now have a few projects in the pipeline.
Congratulations on having From A to Q selected for the Iris Prize 2021, how does it feel to have your film part of such an important LGBTQ Film Festival?
It’s absolutely amazing and I seriously feel so honoured that my film was selected. When my first film wasn’t selected back in 2019, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to make a film worthy of the Iris Prize film festival, so this is seriously a dream come true.
From A to Q is Nominated for the Best British Short 2021, what does it mean for you to get this type of recognition for your film?
I just can’t believe it. It means so much. When the nomination email came in, I was visiting my dad who I hadn’t seen in over 7 years. I was sat on his sofa and I remember almost crying, I was so excited. He asked me what had happened and when I explained to him how important this opportunity was and how much it meant that my film was liked enough to be nominated, he got so excited for me. And this came from a very religious Muslim man.
How did From A to Q come about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
I really wanted to tell a story of best friends falling in love but I also didn’t want to tell the same story that had been told hundreds of times before and that’s when I remembered that my first ever intense relationship was with my own best friend back in high school. Instead of telling the story exactly how it happened though, I wrote it how I wish it had happened instead, changing a few things here and there and adding in bits that had happened with other girls I had crushed on. The emotions that Alex feels in ‘From A to Q’ are definitely all emotions I’ve had before when figuring out my own sexuality. It was very important that it felt genuine.
What was the most challenging scene for you to film?
The nightmare scene (where our main character is talking to herself). I had a very different vision for that scene originally but had to make a lot of sacrifices due to budget and time constraints. We also shot that scene at the very end of the first day, which in hindsight wasn’t a very good idea. If our budget allowed it, I would have scheduled that scene for a completely different day, because it really needed that extra time to get it how i first envisioned it.
When writing a screenplay do you ever pull from your own life and experiences?
I do yes. I don’t think I could ever write about something I knew nothing about. I need to have experienced something at least once in order to be able to write about it. But when it comes to my characters, I don’t tend to base them on myself. When writing, I like to get lost in characters that, perhaps in real life, I would have liked to have been more like, so they tend to be quite different from me.
How important is it for you to make films that has positive lesbian representation, and do you think more films that feature lesbian characters should do the same?
It is SO important! I can’t stress that enough. It’s important for us lesbians to be represented on screen and we’ve simply not had enough of that yet. Yes, we have our bad days sometimes, just like others, but our lives aren’t filled with the sorrows that are way too often portrayed in the media. We laugh and love and live just like everyone else, so for me it’s very important to show the good sides of our lives and if no one else is willing to do it, I’ll do it myself.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I didn’t have the greatest of childhoods, so I use to write a lot to escape from reality. Unfortunately though, it wasn’t until I was 18 that I had the chance to go to school and learn how to make films (but as soon as that opportunity came, I grabbed it with two hands and never looked back). I don’t think there was ever a time I didn’t want to be a filmmaker, whether that was as a writer, director or editor (which is what I now do for work).
What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken from making this film?
Don’t rush things. For example, I finished this script at the end of 2019 and wanted to go into production in April. A good friend of mine told me that he thought it was a bit soon, but I wouldn’t listen. Fortunately (for the film), the UK went into lockdown the same month we were meant to film, forcing me to take a 6 month break, where in that time I; refined the script, raised more of our budget and got to build a better relationship with my DP and the actors, which was all extremely crucial for the film to come out the way it did.
"Yes, you can always shoot those extra scenes and get rid of them in post-production, but that’s a lot of money you probably don’t have."
Should LGBTQ+ filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the narratives they want to tell?
Yes, and never stop.
Do you have any tips or advice to offer a first time director or was there something you wish you had known before you started shooting?
Getting feedback on your anything you write is extremely important. My script was originally 27 pages, and that’s the length I wanted to shoot in April (only 4 months after finishing the script!), but after a lot of feedback from my DOP and friends who don’t even work in the film industry, the script was stripped back to 18 pages, which I now feel turned out so much better. Yes, you can always shoot those extra scenes and get rid of them in post-production, but that’s a lot of money you probably don’t have.
Also, schedule in rehearsal time. And I don’t mean on the day of filming. It’s very important that your actors know exactly how the character they’re playing is feeling and you won’t get that without rehearsing. This is a great time for them to ask questions or to get comfortable with one another if there are multiple actors in a scene. On ‘From A to Q’ I had 2 days of rehearsals. The first day was only with our lead Sophie, so that we could run through the characters’ past and what got her to where she is now. This gave Sophie the opportunity to ask me questions about the scenes, and for us to make final changes together. The second day was with both of the actors, running through more intimate scenes to make sure they felt comfortable. We had an intimacy coordinator there for that, which helped a lot. This meant that on the days of the shoot, they knew exactly where they should be emotionally. This was an extremely important step.
Lastly, trust your actors. They’ll soon tell you if something doesn’t feel right.
And finally what do you hope people will take away from your film?
I hope people take away that you don’t have to rush into labels and that labels don’t define you. Also, this is not a coming out story, but a story of self-discovery and if you’re in the process of discovering yourself, everything will be ok in the end.