Short Film Corner 2022
My Baby Cries
May 7th, 2022
A painful struggle of a young couples journey into parenthood, exposing relationship fractures, isolation and despair. When a mutual friend's growing concern finally forces the couple to confront their painful reality and begin to process their grief.
Hello Faith, it’s great to get to talk with you, how have you been keeping after everything that’s been happening?
Hi Niger, thanks for reaching out, it's a pleasure to talk to you. I think everyone appreciates it's been a hard time the last few years, I’m just really grateful that things are moving in the right direction now and we are able to get back to some kind of normality.
What does it mean for you to be in the Cannes Short Film Corner with your film My Baby Cries and what do you hope to take away from this experience?
Well I’ve been attending the festival for 5, maybe 6, years now and this is the first time I’ve had a film in the SFC- I usually attend as an Actress, so I’m really excited to be attending primarily as a Director. I’ve seen the SFC have put on lots of workshops and events, which I’m hoping to attend to soak up as much information as I can. I'm also really excited to meet more filmmakers from around the world who are also taking part in the SFC program- Cannes always brings together an eclectic group of people I would never have normally have the pleasure to connect with otherwise!
As well as having My Baby Cries part of the Short Film Corner you started Yes She Cannes, how did this project come about?
Several years ago I saw there was a need for support and empowerment for women at Cannes in a fresh and exciting way, so I started Yes She Cannes to help celebrate, inspire and empower women at the festival- while encouraging more women to attend and creating a supportive community for them. We really wanted to create a fun group that people could be a part of and show their support for- we created these badges which so many people were wearing all over the festival, it became something really special people were excited to be a part of. I really hope we are able to grow in the years to come, to support more women at the festival in a variety of ways.
Few filmmakers at festivals like Cannes come from working class backgrounds, from your experience what more can be done to make the film industry and opportunities more inclusive?
Well it is a huge issue that effects working class people at every step of the industry, it often feels like the industry structure is built to keep us out. Its such a competitive and challenging place to succeed anyway, but when you’re also struggling to pay your bills and work out how you can afford to take unpaid/low paid opportunities (which will give you the experience and credits you need to move up the career ladder to better paid projects) it can get really difficult.
It’s easy to just suggest we “pay people better”, but from my experience as a Producer, I realise it’s not as easy or simple as that. New Producers are often working very hard to raise the minimal budgets they have, just to get things made.
I wonder if organisations can create grants that top up lower wages- but as with all of these things, they often end up extremely competitive, so just a handful of people actually benefit from them. It's an issue we need to improve on a wide scale and not just for a select few people who are “chosen”. Sustaining a career in this industry when you're also working minimum wage side jobs or supporting a family can be very difficult- and exhausting- and sadly many really talented people end up leaving the industry because they just can't afford to go on.
Attending Cannes for example, is quite a big expense for someone in my situation. I’ve often only just scraped enough money together to be able to attend myself. Through Yes She Cannes I’ve always wanted to be able to offer subsidised accommodation and also offer a loaning suite- where people can borrow outfits etc for the red carpet events. It’s my dream someday to be able to offer this kind of thing to filmmakers on a lower income, to take some of the financial strain off of people who struggle to be able to attend the festival. I'm sure theres much more that can be done on a global scale to make these opportunities more accessible, we really need to start having these conversations and start exploring ways in which we can help.
As a first time writer/director how much has your background as an actress and producer prepared you for making your move to the directors chair?
I’ve always been an Actor at heart, but when I started to want to improve the projects I was involved in, I realised I could help by Producing. Then I started to want more creative input and I realised what I wanted was not just to be steering the ship, but actually hands-on building it! My experiences working with a range of different Directors while Acting and Producing allowed me to absorb so much and to also better understand how the whole mechanism works- for example I understand from personal experiences how difficult it is when you're doing an emotionally charged scene and the Director doesn't give you time to prepare yourself- so I made sure to listen to my Actors (Oliver Asante and Megan Buxton) and give them the space they needed and ensure I was available and accessible.
When I first started Acting, I actually took on a lot of Supporting Artist work, not only was this much needed income, while I gained valuable on set experience, but I was also able to observe and absorb knowledge up close from some incredible Directors like Danny Boyle and Rowan Joffe.
At the time I was excited to learn from an Actors perspective, but now I realise how these amazing experiences were in building the foundations of my Directing career- I mean sitting in a chair next to Joffe, observing him directing Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in Before I Go to Sleep was a unique experience I would never have gotten from Film School!
I feel like I was naturally drawn to Directing. To be honest, I've never felt happier on set than when sat in the Directors chair, it felt like home to me.
My Baby Cries is based on you own true story, did you have any apprehensions about making such a powerful and personal short film?
It's not exactly my own story, but a mixture of true events that I went through. It has been a really challenging process though. I found it very emotional all the way through, from curled up to my laptop pouring my heart out onto the pages as I wrote the script, to sitting with my sister and painting some of the set pieces together, to actually crying real tears for my lost baby when we were filming the project. I cried a-lot making this film. There also were lots of personal items seen in the film, including the scan of my baby who I miscarried, the doll was also the same doll I cradled for comfort the week I miscarried too- so setting up the nursery was especially difficult. Drawing my own grief and trying to find a way to show that in a sensitive and honest way on screen was quite scary. I felt a-lot of responsibility to people who have suffered this kind of trauma, to be respectful and handle it appropriately. I was also quite anxious how people would interpret the film, but thankfully we've had amazing feedback from everyone who has seen it so far.
What has been the most challenging aspect of making My Baby Cries?
I think the fact it's such a powerful and poignant story, on such a taboo subject, that made me feel a huge amount of pressure to make sure we got it right. When writing the script, with support from my Script Consultant James Alexander Allen, we were going down a darker more horror/thriller route initially, but as it evolved and grew, it became much softer and actually more powerful as a result. Theres still dark elements in there, but it didn't feel right to the story to push it in a direction that wasn't working.
Also, with this being my Directorial Debut, I've realised how much responsibility the Director has in shaping the film. I didn't really understand previously how many decisions were on my shoulders, but thankfully I've had an incredibly supportive team around me who have constantly amazed me with how talented and dedicated they are to the film and honouring the story, while also supporting my vision.
I have to say a special thanks to my right hand man during Production, Benjamin Thompson, our incredibly talented DOP. He did such an amazing job on set, he is so skilled with lighting and framing, I feel very lucky to have worked with him, he also really helped me find my voice. Also our fantastic Editor Emmalie El Fadli. She was so patient and understanding with me, going through post production for the first time for me had a-lot of unexpected challenges, but she was constantly supportive and worked extremely hard- even into the early hours several times- to help get the film finished. Having passionate and dedicated crew had a massive positive impact on the film. That kind of support is essential when you're coming up against huge challenges.
Through My Baby Cries you have started working with Mama Academy charity, how important has it been for you to establish this type of partnership?
My Co-Producer Leigh Trifari, initially reached out to MAMA Academy to see if they would be able to support our fundraising for the film. Through this we discovered they are actually a very small charity, run by bereaved parents who have lost babies themselves and despite the amazing work they are able to do, they have very limited funds. We realised that we were able to help elevate them and the work they were doing through our project and hopefully through that bring in more much needed funds to support their work. They specialise on educating Midwives and Parents on ways they can help their babies in pregnancy, to help more babies arrive safely into this world.
I feel very fortunate that we have been able to form a strong relationship with them and that we are able to support their charity and all the amazing things they are doing.
"Aim high, work hard...and surround yourself with talented people- who you love and trust- and whatever happens, you'll find you make something you can be truly proud of."
Looking back at the making of My Baby Cries what would you say has been the most rewarding experience you have taken from this whole process?
The most rewarding thing has actually been all of the amazing conversations I've had with people who have suffered this same grief. Miscarriage and Baby loss affects millions of people every year, not just the parents who experience it, but also their friends and family. It's been so beautiful being able to show people their grief is valid, their experience is understood and they are seen. Every time we have screened, I've had people sharing their own stories with me and expressing thanks that we are telling this story. Making an impact on peoples lives, however small, feels like the greatest reward.
So what is next for you and the film?
Well we have just started our festival run, having won Best Debut Film at London Independent Film Festival with our World Premiere last month and are going onto screen at BAFA Qualifying Carmarthen Bay Film Festival in Wales, Hampshire based festival Homebrew in May- and of course some of our team are heading out to Cannes for the SFC- where we are hoping to hold a market screening in the Palais. We have also entered more festivals we are excited to hear back from over the following year ahead of us.
For me, I am currently in Pre-Production for "Virus Detected", an Anthology feature film, of which I am Co-Producing with "Tripod-Productions" (Ellie Torrez, Jake Francis and Joe Riley). I am Co-Writing (with James Alexander Allen) and I'll be Directing our piece currently titled "Granny DJ". It's a very different vibe to "My Baby Cries", as it's a wacky, fun-fuelled horror comedy. I don't want to give too much away at this time, but it's going to involve a Granny DJ (and her highly-strung Daughter) battling a deranged and murderous Cyber-Punk Silent Disco crowd, to find her missing Granddaughter, while coming to terms with her own terminal illness, that she has been keeping secret from her family.
I'm also currently writing a feature script titled "Lost Bunny", which explores in more depth more the same themes of Miscarriage and Grief as "My Baby Cries", while also exploring the relationship of Mother and daughters love, through the eyes of a Bunny soft toy. I'm hoping to raise some finance for this as a Low-Budget feature, so we can shoot it sometime next year.
Do you have any tips or advice to offer future filmmakers?
I think the most important thing I've realised is to make a film you really care about. When you find a story that speaks to you and you pour your heart into it, you can create something truly magical. Aim high, work hard (you will find you have to work a thousand times harder than you ever expected!) and surround yourself with talented people- who you love and trust- and whatever happens, you'll find you make something you can be truly proud of.
And finally, what would you like audiences to take away from My Baby Cries?
I want our film to act as a catalyst to encourage conversations around baby loss and the grief that comes with it. It's still such a taboo subject that many people feel uncomfortable talking about, but I hope that those who have experienced it feel empowered to talk more openly about it. As well as those who haven't been through it themselves are able to gain a deeper understanding and feel encouraged to ask more questions and offer more support to those around them who have.