Episode 005: Delphine Lievens

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This week I spoke to Delphine Lievens, who I was introduced to via Grace Barber-Plentie, of episode two fame.  Both Delphine and Grace worked at Altitude Film Distribution and now Delphine works in box office analytics.

We had a really lovely chat about a whole side of film I haven’t really touched on in the pod before, from data and how that can inform when a film is released, to trends in cinema and why a film might under-perform at the box office. Delphine speaks really eloquently and knowledgeably about the theatrical release landscape and it was a real insight and joy to sit down with her.  

Show notes:

 

 

Episode 004: Maya Maffioli

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This week I spoke to film editor Maya Maffioli. Maya grew up in Italy, and upon moving to London worked as a runner and edit assistant in a post-production facility in Soho. She’s also has an MA in editing from the National Film and Television School. It was there she met Michael Pearce and went on to edit his BAFTA-nominated short films Rite and Keeping Up With the Joneses, as well as his BAFTA-winning debut feature film Beast.  

Maya is currently working on Sarah Gavron’s latest film, and also edited Annabel Jankels’ film Tell It To The Bees starring Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger, which recently sold to Vertigo Releasing at this year’s EFM. As well as the controversial Russian art project Dau, in which 400 people lived as Soviet citizens in a meticulously reconstructed research facility, causing Screen International to label it “one of the strangest endeavours in European film history”.

We discussed how Maya even knew that editing was a career path, why there are still so few female editors, how she got an agent and who she counts as editorial influences. 

Show notes:

Episode 003: Helen Simmons

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Helen Simmons – a producer, writer and Screen Star of Tomorrow 2018, joins me on the podcast to talk about producing partnerships, making a micro-budget feature film, when she finds the time to write and why you shouldn’t force yourself to be a morning person. It’s a blinder of an episode in my opinion.

Show notes:

Episode 002: Grace Barber-Plentie

Grace Barber-Plentie, a programmer, writer and marketer for BFI distribution, joined me to talk about internships, periods of unemployment, setting up her own film club and why it’s important to have a passion project that you’re not depending on income for.

Check it out on iTunes, Podbean and  Spotify!

Show notes:

Episode 001: Georgia Goggin

 

You can also listen and download the podcast on Podbean, Spotify and very soon, iTunes!

About 12 days ago now I sat down with Georgia Goggin, a producer first and foremost but also a director. She produced the short film We Love Moses which premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in 2016, won numerous awards and screened at festivals worldwide including Toronto. She’s currently producing her first feature, written and directed by her regular collaborator Dionne Edwards, who as I speak is at the Sundance Institute Writers Lab with the project, so I feel very lucky to have been able to meet Georgia at what is undoubtedly the dawn of an abundant career. What struck me most about Georgia is how incredibly hard she works. This is someone who is clearly firing on all cylinders. We talk about motivation, collaboration, mentorship, sexual harassment on set, how to get a meeting, wearing the directing hat as opposed to the producing one and a new funding opportunity for filmmakers that she’s collaborating on called The Uncertain Kingdom. It was a joy to be in the room with Georgia so I hope you get as much from it as I did.

Here are links to the organisation, films, networks and other bits and pieces we talked about…

Best Girl Grip: The Podcast

SOME NEWS…I’m starting a podcast!

I’m taking the plunge and launching a new podcast that hopes to create visibility around different roles in the film industry, and a platform to spotlight successful women in it. I listen to a lot of film podcasts, with screenwriters, cinematographers, directors and actors featuring frequently, but I want to shine a light on the names and jobs we might not know. I also want to foster a space where women can talk about the realities of making ends meet whilst working in a creative sector. 

From distributors and marketers to programmers and talent executives, to upcoming producers, filmmakers and editors I’ll be chatting to brilliant women from across the industry to hear how they began their careers, what it is they actually do, what keeps them motivated and what their ambitions are.

A new ‘Celluloid Ceiling’ report from San Diego State University concluded that only incremental gains have been made in gender representation in behind-the-scenes roles throughout 2018. I believe this can be improved with greater transparency about the types of careers that exist and to quote that much repeated refrain – you can’t be what you can’t see.

Well you might not be able to see these women, but I hope that in hearing their stories, their successes and sometimes their setbacks, it will become apparent that there are lots of different ways to the ‘top’ and there are lots of definitions for what that looks like.

Why best girl grip?

There’s a role on a film set called ‘Best Boy Grip’, serving as the key grips assistant and whilst it applies to technicians of both gender, the lack of a female equivalent seems to hark back to the days when the film set, and by extension, the film industry was deemed an unsuitable place for a woman.

It’s long been the name of my blog, and seems an equally appropriate fit for a podcast designed to give a voice to someone killing it in their field, who you might not have heard from before.

LAUNCHING AT THE END OF THE MONTH…

Favourite films of 2018

It’s a testament to the power of cinema – not just the artform, but the actual theatrical experience (the physicality of holding a ticket, the anticipation as you wait to enter the cinema, the settling into your seat, the curtains opening, the darkness, the silence, the immersion) – that 10 of the 11 films I consider my favourites released this year, were seen in that setting.

This is largely due to a position of privilege I have lucked into. In working for the BFI I have access to perks, one of which is free tickets to its Southbank cinema. The sense of ‘event’ that swelled around these viewings perhaps influenced my succumbing to their powers of poetry and persuasion. Maybe I like them so much because I saw them in the cinema. Then again, many of the much-hyped films I didn’t connect with, I saw on the big-screen. So perhaps whatever resonated with me was merely amplified by the venue. 

Something else that unites these films is the experience of crying through them. I’ve always been more inclined towards ‘serious’ and sombre independent cinema than the funny-bone tickling predilection of mass entertainment. Game Night, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Black Panther were brilliant, but I didn’t ponder on them for much longer than it took for the credits to roll.

Perhaps since I declared Titanic my favourite film of all-time at the age of 12, I have placed an importance on the medium’s ability to move me. To invite my emotional investment, to encourage empathy, to demand tears – that is what good art achieves, according to my rulebook. It’s how I know I’ve fully succumbed to the world on the screen.

It appears I have a preference for darkness over levity, a disposition for difficulty and reality. And so this is how my favourites of 2018 came to be populated by stories about political conflict, the AIDs crisis, parental abuse and abandonment, brain injury, infertility, and manipulation. Which isn’t to say they left me dispirited. Another shared trait is their appreciation of humanity in all its complexities – its ugliness and illnesses, alongside its capacity for heroism, forgiveness and kindness.

So without further adieu, here are the films that gave me all the feels in 2018…

Summer, 1993

DIR. Carla Simón, Spain

I felt a profound sense of kinship with the 6-year-old female protagonist in Carla Simon’s Summer 1993. Not for the grieving process she must endure after the death of her mother, which results in one helluva emotional sucker punch, but for the navigation of a world in which she is no longer the centre. Such is the strange burden of being an only child. After moving in with her aunt, uncle and young cousin, Frida (Laia Artigas) is thrust into a bewildering rural environment and resorts to the toolbox of the very young – grandstanding, tantrums, sulking, sly manipulation, even cruelty – to beckon affection. Simon’s talent as a director, not least of which is coaxing performances of astounding naturalism from her young cast, is balancing the melancholic with the amusing. It basks in its landscape, but never dawdles and every moment of empathy feels hard-earned. Simon rewards our patience with a story that is as textured as it is tender.

Roma

DIR. Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico, USA

The personal is the political in Alfonso Cuarón’s epic, monochromatic exploration of Mexico City in the early 70s. A tale of two women amid domestic and civil unrest, there is a level of intimacy on display that feels novelistic; small moments that might have ended up on the cutting room floor in another film are given full focus. It’s painstaking detail brings to mind a line from Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird: “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?” Cuarón’s microscopic and memory-infused evocation of this time and era radiates with affection.

120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) 

DIR. Robin Campillo, France

A political and medical movement is given its due, and at times dazzling, attention with Robin Campillo’s drama. Following the activities of Act Up Paris in a procedural of-sorts that details the ups and downs of activism, particularly through the eyes of a new member as he falls in love with an HIV-positive one, Campillo imbues his edifying drama with scenes of passion, fury, sex and dance. Even as it deals with the inevitability of death, this is as enlivening a film as I saw this year.

The Favourite

DIR. Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland, UK, USA

Coruscating, saucy, foul-mouthed and uproariously funny. Like Marie Antoinette by way of The Thick of It, made all the merrier for the sublime ménage à trois at its expertly staged centre.

 

Cold War

DIR. Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland, UK, France

Pawel Pawlikowski returns to the palate and period that garnered him a golden statuette (for 2015’s Ida) with a story loosely-based on his parent’s love affair. Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig are the gorgeous pair at the centre (he’s the composer, she’s the star) of a folkloric musical road-show, increasingly suffocated by Communism’s grip. Jazz and jealousy spike a narrative as distilled as a shot of vodka with enough substance to match its elegantly framed style. But what a style it is. I don’t think I’ve laid eyes on anything as exquisite this year.

Leave No Trace

DIR. Debra Granik, USA

Debra Granik, who bequeathed us with Winter’s Bone, and did Hollywood the favour of discovering Jennifer Lawrence, does the world another solid with Leave No Trace. A film which quietly and captivatingly delves into the lives of a father and daughter existing, geographically and economically, on America’s fringes.

Private Life

DIR. Tamara Jenkins, USA

Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti are the literary, near middle-aged couple struggling to conceive in what appear to be tailor made roles. Tamara Jenkins is the deft hand at the helm – having already proved herself a master of unflinching honesty and wit with 2007’s The Savages – documenting the trials and tribulations of IVF treatment with grimace-inducing candor. (The films opens with an ass-bound needle). Speaking of injections, theatre-kid Kayli Carter (familiar to some for her role in Netflix’s Godless, also playing a character called Sadie) is effervescent as the step-niece turned potential surrogate, mainlining charisma and chaos into the fraught (but impeccably furnished) lives of her baby-bewitched relations.

There’s a lived-in-ness to the characters, hammered home perhaps somewhat hammily by the home-movie feel of the cinematography. But this is dramedy as it should be – wry, profound and rewarding.

Also fun fact, Chris Ware, the artist behind the mind-bending graphic novel Building Stories, designed the film’s poster.

The Kindergarten Teacher

DIR. Sara Colangelo, USA

Maggie Gyllenhaal continues to prove herself one of the most intriguing, and versatile performers working today with the story of a morally dubious teacher who discovers one of her students possesses great poetic talent, and goes to boundary-pushing lengths in order to nurture it. Provocative, complex and intelligent, The Kindergarten Teacher raises more questions than it answers, but perhaps like any good educator, that is exactly the point.

Shoplifters

DIR. Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan

Kore-eda’s keen eye for the fragility, and necessity, of human connection is woven into his most heartbreaking fable yet as a ragtag ‘family’ of bandits are broken apart by the authorities. 

 

The Rider

DIR. Chloé Zhao, USA

An all too real tale of an injured Bronco rider grappling with identity, masculinity and tradition, against the spectacular backdrop of a South Dakota reservation. Chloé Zhao has the same taste for downbeat Americana as Debra Granik, the same ear and eye for authenticity as Kore-eda, but a talent for blending spirituality and majesty that is all her own.

Petra

DIR. Jaime Rosales, Spain, France, Denmark

If The Favourite was the most hyped film I saw this year, this has to be the least. After watching the delightful and sensual South Korean film Little Forest at the London Film Festival, I decided to stay put at Ciné Lumière and check out the next film on the schedule – Petra. I knew next to nothing about, and ended up having one of the most riveting cinematic experiences in recent memory.

The elaborately-structured plot – non-linear vignettes are introduced with a short precis detailing twists and reveals – is matched by towering performances, particularly that of Bárbara Lennie as the titular artist in search of her biological father. Thrilling, labyrinthine and devastating, Petra is name to remember.

Honourable mentions:

Nancy, First Reformed, Mid90s, Skate Kitchen, A Star is Born, Wild Rose, If Beale Street Could Talk, United Skates, Jeune Femme, The Tale, Game Night, Phantom Thread

Things I’m chomping at the bit to see which might have made the list had I…

Zama, Burning, The Old Man & the Gun, Western, Sweet Country, Dogman, Wildlife, Minding the Gap

Things I saw but didn’t care for as much as other people…

Widows, You Were Never Really Here, Peterloo, Shirkers, BlackKklansman, Support the Girls,