top of page

18th BFI Future Film Festival, 2024

"Working with a sibling is such a luxury when shooting because you already have a shorthand that just cuts through everything, and thats a huge timesaver."
& Natasha

Whilst Zoey spirals and does everything she can to distract herself from waiting for his reply, an oblivious Miles laughs and plays video games with his friends. A fun, comedic take on the anxieties of modern dating.

Hi Beth & Natasha, thank you for talking to TNC. Seeing Read is part of FFF 2024 and had its National Premiere at the 2023 Norwich Film Festival and is now enjoying its film festival run, what was it like for you both to sit with an audience for the first time to watch your debut narrative short as directors?

Really nerve-wracking. Initially, we were just so excited to be able to get to premiere our film in Norwich, which, being so close to Lowestoft where we grew up, is essentially a second hometown. But when we were actually sitting down waiting for it to come on, we were both terrified because with comedy, you always know whether people like it or not. If you get a laugh, you always know you’ve done your job. It’s a blessing and a curse that way.

How important are festivals like Future Film Festival in creating a platform for short films and emerging filmmakers?

The Future Film Festival is so important for young filmmakers. Not only is it very accessible in terms of application fees, but the support you get from the BFI if you’re selected is incredible. They set up interviews with journalists, facilitate networking time with industry bigwigs and set up opportunities for you to pitch your ideas. We’re used to constantly scrapping around, and making our own luck, so having the BFI’s support has allowed us to take a pretty grateful breath.


What more can be done on a local/national level to offer short films more visibility to audiences outside of the festivals circuit?

Cinemas showing the films in their ad sections would help to give short films and their makers better exposure. As would streamers taking the initiative to spotlight new talent. A lot of them have shorts channels but they’re not very well publicised - they all could be doing a lot more to shout about new filmmaking talent.

Can you tell me how Seeing Read came about, what inspired your screenplay?

Seeing Read is a proof of concept for a feature length rom-com we wrote called IOU. That script came about as a result of our desire to write our own iconic romcom, having grown up on a diet of When Harry Met Sallys and 10 Things I Hate About Yous. The specific scene that we adapted to make Seeing Read is pretty painfully autobiographical: at various points in our lives, we’ve both anguished and languished waiting for a text back from the person we fancy, so we wanted to make a film that spoke to that universally relatable experience. We wanted people to sit in those horrendous feelings and get some catharsis from it. Seeing Read is basically a horror movie and a documentary inside a comedy.

Were you able to give yourself some flexibility with your screenplay and directing once you started shooting?

We stayed pretty close to the script as we didn’t have much time - and in this industry, as you have to learn pretty brutally, time is money. We would love to have enough of a budget to work like Richard Linklater, getting a house for our actors to live in for a bit to hang out and build a really real sense of trust and camaraderie. But that is a way off in terms of the resources we have.

That said, we really lucked out in the sense that our stars Tessa and Isis were close friends already, so the chemistry and comedy was already there.

As sisters and co-writers/directors/producers on Seeing Read how essential was the creative collaboration between you both when you started to shoot this film?

Oh my god, it’s totally essential. If you don’t work together, it all falls apart. There’s a reason so many famous filmmaking duos are siblings. Working with a sibling is such a luxury when shooting because you already have a shorthand that just cuts through everything, and that’s a huge timesaver. Not to mention the fact that we’re not afraid to tell each other when an idea is bad or could be done in a better way. If we disagree, we’ll just have it out and forget about it because there’s already so much trust there. As people, Natasha is very organised, a natural planner and has an incredible attention to detail; Beth is passionate, a performer and a good, clear communicator. Together, we joke, we make one fully functional filmmaker.


"Make exactly what you want to make, not what you think you should make; make the thing you want to watch because its ultimately your unique way of seeing the world that makes you interesting."

What’s been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken from making Seeing Read?

That we are capable of doing this. Directing a film is wild; you’re a project manager, an interior designer, a writer, an actor. You wear a million hats and it’s super stressful, but the experience showed us that this is exactly where we want to be.

We also learnt how supportive the film community can be. Seeing Read almost didn’t happen if it were not for the help of someone Natasha had only worked with for three nights as a Covid Marshall.

With Seeing Read being a proof of concept for your feature script you’ve written how did you go about selecting the parts of your screenplay you wanted for the short?

We picked this sequence as it feels pretty self-contained - we had to adapt it a little to turn it into a short, and establish basic context to set the story up. We also liked that, as short as it is, the film has a beginning, middle and end. You really go on a journey with poor Zoey.

On a practical level, as our budget was so limited - we Crowdfunded and self-funded the project - we felt that it could easily be shot in two days in one room (Beth’s living room) with a set dressing change overnight. The film takes place in three rooms, all of which are in the same house.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

Our dad is obsessed with movies, so it really started with him. When we were little, whenever we had friends round he would do his “initiation”, which involved making them sit in front of the train sequence from Mission Impossible 1, blasting it out in surround sound. It’s so funny to think of this parade of little girls coming through the house having to do this bizarre ritual. Beyond that, both of our parents have always been totally invested in fostering our passion; we’re just really grateful that this is the atmosphere we grew up in.

How vital was the experience for you both being able to shoot BTS for both Luca Guadagnino's HBO show We Are Who Are and Lena Dunham's feature Catherine, Called Birdy?

We Are Who We Are really cemented our will to direct. We essentially got to direct every day, five days a week for six months and were granted pretty much complete access to Luca, so got to see every part of the filmmaking process - from pre-production to editing. We didn’t go to film school, but this was definitely it for us.

Catherine, Called Birdy after that was amazing because we got to see Lena Dunham directing comedy, which, as people who want to spend a lot of our time directing comedy, was invaluable. There was a lot of improv, so seeing how that worked, in particular, was really helpful.

Doing BTS work also made us really comfortable communicating with actors, knowing boundaries and limits so that is something we’ve been able to take forward when directing. We met both the leads of our short films (Isis Hainsworth for Seeing Read, Jack Dylan Grazer for the upcoming So Far, So Good) on these projects.


Did they offer you any good advice ahead of your shoot?

They didn’t, but Liz Watson, who was Lena’s producing partner on Birdy, has become a bit of a mentor for us, and incredibly helpful not just creatively, giving feedback on the script etc., but also in terms of advising on the practicalities of producing. That is the aspect that was the most foreign to us and watching Liz work on Birdy and having chats with her about the prep was invaluable. Our DP Jon Nazareth was also an incredible support in getting the film made. He is truly the biggest cheerleader and best partner in movie making crime imaginable!

We knew from watching endless comedies, both film and TV, that editing was crucial to getting the right flow and rhythm of the comedy. So we cold-emailed some of the editors in TV sitcoms that we looked up to most (New Girl, Veep, Fleabag and Broad City). To our profound shock, literally all of them emailed back and not only agreed to take a look at the initial edit but gave us extensive notes that really helped to shape the film into what it is. Editors are the humble rockstars of the industry!

Do you have a favourite scene you wrote/shot in Seeing Read?

Honestly, the bits with the boys. They’re our mates in real life - we didn’t have enough money to pay four actors so we asked them if they fancied a film credit. They did. Josh, who plays the main guy, Miles, was in drama society at uni so we have him the lead. They had such a blast filming their scenes and often broke laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Beth had to leave the room at one point because she was laughing so hard and didn’t want to ruin the take. They were legends - and pros! - their scenes were shot in just half a day!

What does Seeing Read say about you as a filmmaker and the stories you want to tell in the future?

We want to tell a million and one different stories. We’re not going to be like Sofia Coppola, an absolute legend, who is interested in really deeply excavating one type of world. We look to someone like Richard Linklater, the king of variation, who has made both Before Sunrise and School of Rock. People contain multitudes!

As writers, we tend to lean towards comedy, and look at the absurdities of daily experience. That said, there are so many stories we want to tell, from a South London walk and talk to a psychological thriller about nepotism in Hollywood to a sitcom about our family getting an extension on the back of their house.

Is there any advice/tips you could offer a fellow filmmaker about to start their filmmaking journey?

Stick to your guns and make what you want to make. We have had various projects and ideas turned down by the BFI, but the film we made got into the festival. That was a big lesson for us in terms of trusting in our perspective. Make exactly what you want to make, not what you think you should make; make the thing you want to watch because it’s ultimately your unique way of seeing the world that makes you interesting. All the best cinema is made that way.

And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from Seeing Read?

For the seven minute runtime of Seeing Read we want the audience, whoever they are, to feel seen - and also, to laugh.

bottom of page