26th Raindance Film Festival 2019
Hurt By Paradise
A film about a poet and a girl with big hair. Together they find friendship as the possibility of their dreams dwindles.
Hello Greta congratulations on your nominations for the Michael Powell Award & Best Performance in a British Film at EIFF, what do these nominations mean to you?
I wanted to premiere my film at the Edinburgh Film Festival because of it's an incredible history of supporting British indie cinema. To be nominated for the Michael Powell Award however is a happy shock- I was obsessed with Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes as a child so to be mentioned in the same sentence as he makes me want to dance across the room. Michael Powell Award has been previously won by some of my favourite directors such as Derek Jarman for Blue in 1993, Shane Pawel Pawlikowski for My Summer of Love, 2004, and Francis Lee for God's Own Country in 2017. So I feel very privileged and humbled to just be nominated.
When you're about to screen your films at a festival do you ever get nervous or are you able to relax and let it all take its course?
It’s incredibly nerve-racking because you feel so close to it. I’ve basically spent the last 6 months in a dark room editing it all together. So when its finally on the big screen it feels very surreal and you just hope people enjoy it and take something away from it.
Has the reaction to Hurt By Paradise surprised you?
The reaction has been really supportive so far. I’ve had quite a few people watch it and say that they “don’t even like poetry, but loved the film” which has been great. It was also really nice to watch people laugh because we wanted the humour to be a kind of subtle under-layer of these women’s lives, rather than apart of their characteristics.
Can you tell us a little bit about Hurt By Paradise, how did this film come about?
The film follows Celeste a young poet and single mother- we see her comical unsuccessful attempts to get her first book published and find her father and her co-dependent friendship with her babysitter Stella- a struggling actress captivated by an online love affair. I wanted to make something which was more of snapshot into the lives of these two women, whom both can’t seem to make any of their dreams happen but in the end, they discover they have each other. I wanted to make something that felt very human. That we are all powered by our dreams but actually life is complicated and harder than what is often portrayed.
I also wanted to create a world that incorporated poetry inside of it without being a burden on the story. A big part of doing that was to have the poems as poetic monologues inside Celeste’s head. We wanted the audience to feel closer to Celeste through her poetic view of the mundane. I also wanted to show motherhood as something which is a part of Celeste’s life but not the defining factor, especially as she is a single mother, which is often presented negatively in cinema.
"I used to write plays for Hampstead Theatre and loved the process of developing the characters."
When your thinking or writing a project do you ever draw from your own experiences?
I co-wrote the screenplay with a writer called Sadie Brown. We wanted to draw on the comedy of real life and how we are all pretty much just getting through life one day at a time. In the film, the character Stella says ‘A winner is a just a loser who tried one more time”… this is basically a reflection on success not being this ready-made thing.
What was the hardest scene for you to film?
Each scene kind of had its own challenge but I think the hardest bit was trying to find as much time as possible with each scene. Especially because we were working with a low-budget so some days we only had 12hours to shoot two major scenes. So it required everyone to be giving their full attention to what they were doing at all times which was sometimes challenging.
As well as writing and directing Hurt By Paradise you also play Celeste how do you manage all these roles on a project like this?
We were quite untraditional in our approach to making the film. From very early on we said that we wanted the crew to be just as creatively involved as the director and the actors. I was able to trust the decisions of the team both creatively and technically because everyone was a part of the creative dialogue which made it easier to step into my character role. Also, my creative partner and husband artist Robert Montgomery produced the film and also sort of guided me from the monitor which meant that the process of acting and directing become much more fluid. And when we played back the rushes we could sign off on a shot much quicker because both us share a similar vision.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I started acting in films quite young and have always been writing simultaneously. At secondary school, I used to write plays for Hampstead Theatre and loved the process of developing the characters. I’ve always felt most feel free when performing and I think it comes out of this feeling that I’ve always been fascinated with the technical process of cinema and how I could evolve both as an actress and writer by learning its process. So I think in that sense it has been a very organic journey. I made my first feature documentary a few years ago about the decline of the British library system called the “Safe House: A Decline of Ideas”.
Has there been any advice you've been given that has really stuck with you?
To always remember that there is no right way to make a film. It's about finding the most effective way to tell the story.
Do you have advice for any fellow filmmakers?
I think you should write about what you know and what you are most passionate about and then you will hopefully have something unique which has a heart.
And finally, do you want people to take from Hurt By Paradise?
That life is complicated but you can get through the unexpected heartache with the help of friendship and laughter. And that actual paradise is closer than you think, but it is also okay to have dreams because these are the things which make the world a freeing and exciting place. That the private world in our heads is a magical kingdom, often poetic and surreal but also vulnerable and complex.