Short Film Corner 2022
May 9th, 2022
Three young girls with a monstrous secret start to unravel in the English Fens.
Hello Helena, it’s great to get to talk with you, how have you been keeping after everything that’s been happening?
I am doing well, learning to accept the new reality we’re all living in!
Have you been able to remain creative at least?
I’ve been very lucky to be able to remain creative during the past couple of years. I’m incredibly grateful to work with brilliant producers and teams who have managed to keep my films pushing forward despite a lot of challenges.
What does it mean for you to be apart of the Cannes Short Film Corner with your Blood Rites and what do you hope to take away from this experience?
It’s great to have Blood Rites as part of the Short Film Corner. I hope people get the chance to watch our film and feel inspired by it in some way.
Can you tell me how you got involved in Blood Rites, what was it about Polly Stenham’s screenplay that interested you so much as a director?
Our producer Tobi sent me the script in late 2019 and as soon as I started reading it I knew it was something I wanted to direct. In fact it was the exact kind of thing I wanted as my next short narrative project. Polly’s screenplay was so intriguing, it is of course brilliantly written and also full of dark humour that I really connected with. It felt like another world that I knew I wanted to be a part of and help create. I could immediately see ways we could develop the script further and we worked together to do this - we actually wrote a whole new ending once I joined the team as I really wanted to push for an ending that fits undeniably within the horror world. I could also see very early on the potential for the short to be developed into a feature.
"It’s the first time I’ve directed a narrative film that I haven’t written so it was a totally new experience and something that I really loved and absolutely want to do again."
As a director when working with a script how close do you like to keep to it, do you allow yourself or your cast much flexibility?
I just allow what works. I let actors bring their own selves to the story, and then we adjust as we go. I just want actors to feel safe and comfortable to let themselves go, which was definitely needed in some of the scenes in Blood Rites. Polly was also really supportive of me throughout and told me before we shot that we can change things on the day if something wasn’t quite working. Her script was so great we didn’t need to change much at all on the day, but things inevitably shifted and moved and ultimately we all just allowed each other to make the best film we could.
What has been the process like for you working with Polly and your producer Tobi Coventry on this film?
Blood Rites has been a truly collaborative experience from start to finish. Polly and Tobi are both such rare creatures who have dizzying levels of talent but are also just wonderful people who trust me and support me completely. It’s the first time I’ve directed a narrative film that I haven’t written so it was a totally new experience and something that I really loved and absolutely want to do again.
Was there any scene in Blood Rites that was really tricky to film?
The final scene was hard to get right because it features an animal and lots of retching… but I don’t want to give anything away!
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I’ve always had a passion for storytelling and that evolved into filmmaking as I got into my teenage years. As I grow as a person and director I realise how much influence my mum had - she would show me films as a teenager that I would otherwise never have watched. Incredible films from the UK and around the world like The Edukators, Easy Rider, Fishtank, I’ve Loved You So Long. The horror films, however, I discovered on my own… I watched John Carpenter’s Halloween when I was working as a babysitter in my late teens and I fell head over heels in love.
How different is your approach to your narrative short films compared to your documentaries?
Whether it’s a documentary or narrative film, I always put character first. I love people and, whether they’re actors or not, my priority lies with them. It doesn’t matter how good your story or plot is, the people in the story make it what it is.
Are there any other genre of films you keen to produce?
I am really keen to make a crime drama.
What would you say have been the most valuable lessons you’ve taken from making Blood Rites?
This was an ambitious short film and we had a tight schedule so we had to be really specific with what we shot. Myself and Simona Susnea, our incredible DOP, worked together to create shots that showed a lot of the action happening in one shot so we didn’t waste time resetting. We didn’t shoot this in the traditional way of wide, mid and close coverage. We let the action play out as much as we could in one take, and then we’d pick up another angle only if we absolutely had to. It’s obviously a bit more risky but I think we pulled it off.
Do you have any tips or advice to offer future director?
Try and find your tribe as early on in your career as you can. Find the people that support you and truly believe in you, and do the same for others. You can’t make a film on your own. I mean you can try but it will probably be a very lonely experience and the film will probably suck.
And finally, what would you like audiences to take away from Blood Rites?
Embrace your wildness!