Cannes Film Festival
Short Film Corner 2021
Victoria Harwood Kapadia
Niamh stumbles across Orla, sitting amongst the rocks making a straw doll. When Niamh gets hurt, Orla heals her and in doing so reveals her supernatural powers. Testing these powers, Niamh discovers that Orla can also harm and this leads to an attack on Niamh's aunt with whom she has a grudge.
Hi Victoria, thanks for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping during these Covid times?
Thanks so much for having me. Things haven’t been too bad but I’m glad it's summer again. It got a bit claustrophobic being locked down in the winter, but watching films every night together with my family was the best escape.
Is this time offering you any new creative opportunities?
Early on in Covid, I was working on the sound and music for my short film ‘Orla'. The sound designer Yin Lee and composer Natalia Tsupryk had both just graduated from the NFTS.
When we went into lockdown the team were obviously not able to go out and this meant they could really focus on my film! They both did an amazing job on what was a no-budget film production.
The end of lockdown made me relish the opportunity to get out there again and a friend Lucy and I are making a short film project together that features London as the main character. Going back into town to do a bit of filming has been such a pleasure.
As for opportunities - I hope they will come out of showing the short.
Congratulations on having Orla part of this year's Short Film Corner, how does it feel to be able to present your short film at Cannes?
Thanks. It’s extremely exciting as Cannes is such an amazing festival. I have been to before but not with my own work. Alongside showing ‘Orla’ I’m hoping I can see lots of films and hopefully make some connections with other filmmakers.
Will there be any nerves ahead of the festival?
I will probably be nervous and don’t know a lot about how the Short Film Corner works. I’ve booked my flight and somewhere to stay, but I’m wary about all the Covid protocols which obviously have to take place. My biggest fear is actually getting back home again, since the UK gov now impose lots of restrictions on entry, even if you have been vaccinated.
How did Orla come about what inspired your screenplay?
It's based on a feature project my co-writer Nancy and I have been developing about the same character Orla, a girl with supernatural powers - though not in a superhero kind of way! We wanted to test the age of the two main characters which we had pitched as 14-15-year-olds; see how the dynamics between the shy Orla and feisty Niamh would work; alongside trying out some of the more magical story elements. In terms of the narrative, it came out of the idea of a naive country girl who has the power to heal, meeting a town girl who wants to exploit her new friend’s powers. I grew up in the countryside and this is a big element in the story. We wrote the short film as a kind of companion piece to the feature, changed the time period and limited its scope. It was an opportunity for us to show the world the feature project is set in and the mood we want to create. The production was done with almost no money, apart from a small amount Nancy and I both put in, and a lot of goodwill from our crew.
"I got into the fiction direction course at the NFTS and so many young men were at the open day that as a woman I felt I had a responsibility to represent!"
What was the experience of co-writing your screenplay with Nancy Walsh?
Great, we’ve been working together for some time. We tend to talk, then write, bouncing ideas back and forth. We don’t always see eye to eye, but we have a lot in common and usually end up on the same page. We started out first as friends and people often mistake us for sisters!
What would you say has been the biggest lessons you've taken from making this film?
Maybe I forgot that I prefer the process of making a film rather than writing, although you obviously need a story to start with and you probably have to write it down! I find it easier to resolve ideas in the making, rather than hypothetically working things out on paper. So much is brought to the table by the actors, the crew, the locations etc. The only problem is that the shoot is the expensive bit! I’m thinking it might be worth workshopping the feature script as a faster way of writing. The other thing I realise is that you have to work harder to make a disconnected character connect with an audience.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
Watching films like ‘Psycho' when I was probably too young, too young to know about cinema. I knew I liked the feeling of excitement and enjoyed being emotionally affected while going on a cinematic journey. I grew to appreciate this more as I got older. My mum worked in film as a costume designer and when I visited her on set I would also love the excitement and romance of that world, meeting actors and watching sections being filmed, sometimes where different time periods were recreated. At school, I loved art, then went to art college and wanted to find a pathway that would lead to working in film. I studied theatre design as it was the closest course I could find to set design, then went on to do an MA in film set design at the RCA. This was all before deciding I wanted to direct. Directing came out of being asked to come up with ideas for a story in the first week at the RCA and it got good feedback. That story became my first short film - Preserve - about a lovesick undertaker. I thought to myself: if this turns out well I’m going to change direction. I got into the fiction direction course at the NFTS and so many young men were at the open day that as a woman I felt I had a responsibility to represent!
Is there any advice or tips you would offer any emerging writer/director?
I guess if you can just do it. Learn by working with others. Don’t try to guess what other people will like, but go with what excites and interests you. Be bold. Trust your gut, even when it gets tough - directing can often feel a bit lonely. At the end of the day, you’re making something creative and it's kind of your baby, so love it and make the best that you can. Showing your work can be quite harrowing - if you’re passionate it feels personal. But it's been made to be seen, and you will hopefully find people that appreciate what you have done, your vision. You’re also learning and hopefully, the more you do, the better at it you get - at least that’s what I say to myself!
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on the script of the longer version which is called ‘Threshold’. I’m hoping to make it my first feature film. I have a couple of other stories I’m developing, but find it easier to immerse my imagination in one story at a time. I’m also working on a long-term personal documentary project.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your Orla?
I hope that people will want to see more. That they feel unnerved by the story, are interested by the characters and that the mood affects them, even after the film has ended.