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BAFTA Film Sessions 2022: Outstanding British Film

7 March 2022

Mariayah Khaderbai in conversation with Rebecca Hall, Margot Hand, Erica Schmidt, Jonathan Butterell, Dan Gillespie Sells, Matthieu de Braconier, Edgar Wright, Nira Park, Aleem Khan, Tracy O’Riordan, Tamar Thomas, Bart Ruspoli, Philip Barantini and Hester Ruoff

Mariayah Khaderbai: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I’m Mariayah Khaderbai, Head of Programmes at BAFTA and welcome to the 2022 British Academy Film Sessions. This is the session for Outstanding British Film. We have a little bit of a marathon session so we'll be covering eight of our ten nominees over two hours, so each section will have the opportunity for audience Q&A. If you’re on social media use the hashtag #EEBAFTAs and get your questions ready. We’re going to start with two virtual guests from the film Passing. We’ve got Margot Hand who’s a producer, and Rebecca Hall, director, writer and producer. Before we speak to them, let’s take a little quick look at Passing.

[Clip plays]


Welcome, sorry about the slight technical hiccup right at the beginning but we did get to see that clip of Passing. So welcome Rebecca and Margot and thank you for staying up for us, not staying up it’s very early.

Rebecca Hall: Getting up!

MK: I don’t think we’ve got audio have we?

RH: Oh, hello?

Margot Hand: Hello?

MK: We had audio five minutes ago I promise you. We’ll have audio soon. I’m going to ask the first question so they can start percolating an answer. Rebecca, I wanted to ask you about the novella by Nella Larson that you read and that you adapted for the film, and kind of your first emotional response to reading that book.

RH: Can you hear me yet?

MK: I am partially deaf so I can lipread and partially translate but I don’t know how long that might take, so…

RH: We can try.

MK: Everyone do a little prayer for sound. Everything goes well all morning and then you’re live and… We’re live on YouTube and Facebook as well.

MH: My ideal panel, no one can hear me!

RH: [Typed on iPhone] I really liked the book!


MK: We’re going to do this, we’re going to do it. Are you here, I think you might be here? Did you know straight away that you wanted to adapt it into a film? Did you kind of read it and see something. This is hard!

Voice: They can hear you on YouTube

MH: Oh really? Hi YouTube!

MK: The online audience can hear you so we’re going to keep going for them and I won’t know what the answers will be, but…


Did you always want to make a silent film?

RH: Actually yes!

MK: So adaptation, yes. Your first feature film and adapting the novella. Did you want to direct before you read the book, or did the book spark something in you that made you want to become a director?

RH: No, I wanted to direct, for the sake of YouTube, I’m so sorry that you can’t hear me. But I wanted to direct since I was a child really. I come from a theatre family really but film was my thing and the thing that I was fascinated in and obsessive about. I happened into acting and you don’t really look a gift horse in the mouth if you have a modicum of success in one of the most oversubscribed professions in the world, arguably. So I kept acting and I thought that was my way of telling stories and films and I moved towards film so I could get closer to the thing I felt passionate about. It’s taken as long as it’s taken but I always wanted to do it, always, always wanted to do it.

As to my emotional response to the book, it was you know, it was very personal for me. I was really grappling with something privately in relation to my mother and growing up with a woman who was so enigmatic in so many ways and had such a complicated notion of identity and an aspect of this that I always thought might, you know, whenever you’re sort of fascinated by someone’s psyche there’s usually a wound somewhere. At the time I read the book I was beginning to understand that the root of this thing might have something to do with being brought up in an atmosphere that supressed an identity. I now know my grandfather, my mother’s father, he was a black man in Detroit, he lived there a lot, but he was passing for white and for indigenous in fact for most of his life. I now know that his father was born enslaved to a black family, not family to a mother rather and the white slave owner was his father, but post-abolition he went to Washington and got a job in government. He ended up being friends with Frederick Douglass, he ended up giving a toast to Frederick Douglass at the White House, and this was information that was utterly erased from my family, something we could have been proud of, because of the legacy of passing. So when I read the book it was a very emotional, a very emotional hit, honestly, because it articulated the thing that I was searching around for. Which isn’t so much an understanding of a mystery in your ancestry… You can hear me? Hallelujah! As much as it is, it gave me an access point to understanding the psychological toll of a life lived in hiding, whatever that hiding is. And that’s the thing I was really interested in because that’s the thing I grew up with. And I couldn’t believe how much of my mother I recognised in both these women; there were elements of myself I recognised in both these women. In a sense it transcends the sort of top line of the narrative, the line that’s about racial passing, and becomes about how any of us work out who we are, who we want to be, who we want to present to the world. There’s a tension, isn’t there, for all of us? We all live under various different systems of oppression in one form or another and there is a tension between the story that we tell the world about ourselves that we want to tell, vs the one that society tells us about us and how much we’ve internalised that and how much freedom we do have to be who we want to be. I think that’s articulated through seeing two women whose system of oppression is very strong and whose sense of freedom around these issues is very minor despite being erudite, bourgeoise, sophisticated, kind of glamorous women on some level. Their restrictions are very intense, their limitations are very intense, including the ones they’ve put on themselves. Nowadays we have words like intersectionality to talk about what I’m talking about, but in 1929 Nella Larson didn’t and I couldn’t believe that the book was written then. It’s this slim, ninety-three page novel that is incredibly simple and contains worlds. Can you still hear me? Because I can’t write all that down on my phone.

MH: It’s for YouTube only, apparently!

RH: I can’t hear them now, can you hear them?

MH: No I can’t hear anything! I wonder if they can hear us?

RH: I can’t hear anything, still can’t. Looks like you’ve picked up a mic. Nope… And that mic. Nope.

MH: This is fun. Mmhm.

RH: One hopes the movie speaks for itself, so…

MH: This has been super fun, thank you so much. Can you hear us? OK great. Two people heard this. I thought it was a great answer, Rebecca.

RH: Can you type the questions in the chat, maybe? Type me another question?

[Stream ends]


MK: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, I am Mariayah Khaderbai, Head of Programmes at BAFTA and welcome to the 2022 BAFTA Film Sessions in celebration of our nominees for the EE British Academy Film Awards. This session is celebrating the Outstanding British category, it’s going to be a bit of a marathon of a session; we have eight of our nominated films over two hours. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions at the end of each session so please keep them ready and if you’re on social media please use the hashtag #EEBAFTAs. Our first film is Passing and we’ll be joined by writer-director and producer Rebecca Hall and producer Margot Hand. Before we meet them virtually, let’s take a little look at Passing.

[Clip plays]


MK: I’d like to welcome Rebecca Hall and Margot Hand. Welcome!

MH: Hello!

MK: I can hear you, can you hear me?

RH: Yes, we can!

MK: Thank you so much for taking part in this session. Congratulations on the nomination. Rebecca, I want to start with you and the novella by the same name by Nella Larson. I know you’ve spoken about this before, but when you first read the book did you have an instant emotional connection to it?

RH: I did, yes. I read the book first fifteen years ago, someone handed it to me after I was on a set for a short film, acting in it, this studenty short film and I was just having this conversation about how curious I was about my own background and you know, how I had heard, had grown up with my mother who I always felt looked to me that she was African-American but she wasn’t really saying that. She was American but she was living in the English countryside and she was a very enigmatic, complicated figure and she would say things to me like… Maybe we’re black, I don’t know. Then I would ask her about it six weeks later and she’d go I just really don’t know, it’s possible it’s native American, I don’t know I had a very difficult childhood. As I got older she would tell me instances of direct racial abuse towards her and her father, and she would tell me about relatives of hers whose complexions were darker would come in and visit after dark and be smuggled round the back of the house—this was when she was three years old then she never saw them again. So it was yes, no, yes, no. And the thing I was increasingly fascinated in was not so much the sort of facts of the mystery, although of course the facts were compelling and I wanted to get to the bottom of them, but the thing that haunted me was what is the toll on a child’s psyche, on anyone’s psyche when you’re brought up in an atmosphere of suppression, of don’t behave like this, or this is the person you ought to be and we don’t talk about this. Basically secrets in a family and this being one that forms in some way your identity. My mother’s inherited that then there are things that I’ve inherited by being brought up by her and by that, and what does that mean? What’s the psychological toll of a life lived in hiding? When I read the book, it gave me a historical context because I suddenly understood why the mystery, what was happening. I understood my grandfather had at some point in his life made the decision to pass for white. I also understood the psychological complexity of that choice, the ramifications of that choice. The book gave me that in a very real way. I think ultimately the shocker about the book is that it’s not actually about race, it’s about the negotiation of identity in whatever… I mean it’s looking at race as a construct, a social construct, which it is. It’s also talking more broadly about identity under varying levels of oppression in a way. We think this is who I want to be, how do I know that I have complete freedom over how I want to be, or how much do I internalise from society telling me what I ought to be. We all grapple with that, and we’re looking at that in extremity one woman who’s obviously made the choice to put on a mask and yet in that choice is quite free to be herself, ironically, and the other woman who’s resolutely not decided to do that and is doing the ‘right thing’ by social etiquette and everything else, she’s being the right kind of mother, the right kind of wife, the right kind of member of the black community… She’s the right kind of straight person and it’s so rigid that she’s actually busting out the sides of it. It’s a really an investigation of categories and how dangerous it is to put us in these categories and reduce us to one definition because we invariably spill out the sides. We’re messy and fluid and all of these things. It’s such a radical book and for me emotionally for those reasons I found it to be astonishing but also personally because it took me on this journey of actually uncovering the facts of my background, which now have resulted in me understanding all of the things that were erased by my grandfather’s choice to pass, including my great grandfather who was born enslaved in Tennessee and post-abolition managed to go to Washington and get a job in government in the Treasury, ended up becoming friends with Frederick Douglass and toasting him at an event at the White House. He was a race man, he was all about the uplift of the race. Which is an astonishing realisation when you realise that was denied me and I’ve essentially been living my life as a white person without any knowledge of this.

MK: Thank you, that was such a great and full answer, thank you so much. Margot, I wanted to come to you next. Producing this, how did you come on board and I can kind of assume what drew you into the project, but what were those threads that made you think this was the film you wanted to producer?

MH: I hate following Rebecca when she talks to eloquently and then I have to speak but no, I have worked with Rebecca a couple of times when I was producing and she was an actress, then we produced something together where she was also an actress and I just basically annoyed her into giving me the script because I just felt she was a filmmaker and she was somebody who should be directing movies. I just badgered her, essentially, until she said she did have something she wrote and if she were to direct this would be the only film that she wanted to be her first film and that she had put this script in a drawer after she adapted it. She gave it to me and I read it, I hadn’t read the book at that point and I was just stunned by the adaptation, the subtlety, the beauty; it was exactly who Rebecca is as a filmmaker on the page, and you know we talked about how incredibly hard it would be to make a black and white, 4:3 period drama with two black female leads and it was annoyingly difficult to get it to the screen. But I just knew, you know, I knew who Rebecca was and what she would do with this material. She could have handed me anything and I would have made it, it was just pure luck and joy that she handed me something so beautiful. We just went on this very long journey to get to this kind of exciting place where we’re nominated for something so profoundly exciting. It just feels very special and exciting, and you guys can hear us now, so there’s also that!

MK: Let’s talk about kind of you mentioned it there how difficult it was to get it to the screen and I know Rebecca you’ve talked about how many years it’s taken both of you to get this film made and you know, what that actually still means about the cinema industry and what they think the public want to see, and when in fact you make a film like this it resonates with so many people not only in the US but in the UK and internationally as it plays on intersectionality and identity politics, and it’s ever so more relevant today than it ever has been. How you’ve mentioned it was difficult and what were some of those conversations that people were uneasy with?

RH: It was everything really. I don’t know where to start. Everyone was uneasy with everything. It was—it was, the conversations would always go something as follows: ‘The script is really fascinating. I didn’t know that this happened. What a wonderful, extraordinary story. It’s fascinating that it’s about so many other things. I’ve never read anything like this before and these two women—what an extraordinary relationship… You’ll never get it made.’ And I’d say but you just said all these wonderful things about it, is there a reason…? ‘You know, because there’s no resolution, it’s very ambiguous, it’s very subtle, there’s no… I don’t really know what happens. Could you make some of the male characters a little bigger?’ I’m not joking.

MH: Could you make it in colour?

RH: Yeah. The things they were saying were basically there’s no precedent for this and there’s no film quite like this, and I kept saying that’s a good thing, so don’t soften the edges, let’s make that thing. When we got past most of the hurdles, the final hurdle was always, even when we pretty much had all the money, essentially a financier saying OK we’re all good to go, everything’s great, just one thing—can you make it in colour? And we couldn’t. So we had to… I couldn’t, there was no way it could work. The black and white is not just metaphorical, not as simple as oh this is a black and white world, therefore this is a black and white film, it’s about, again, categories. Our perception of things being black and white because nothing is black and white; people aren’t black and white, film isn’t black and white. It’s a thousand shades of grey. That’s actually what it’s about. It works metaphorically but also practically. We couldn’t have made the film in colour because reality would have been, you know, what you were looking at would have been very different. You would have judged it in a different way, it would have drawn attention to how you were perceiving things constantly. In black and white there’s a mutability, shadow and light plays in that you can use on those women’s faces and you can create the world. So there was no option with that. There just wasn’t ever. But it was… it was definitely a crunch point when it could not have been made unless we made it in colour and I said no I just won’t make it. Which was a scary moment.

MK: What do you do then, Margot? When it’s saying we can only make it in colour. As a producer how do you jump in and get it made in the way Rebecca envisions it?

MH: With any film, there’s boxes you have to fit in and compromises you have to make and you know milestones you have to hit. But there was just a couple of hills that we were just prepared to die on and you know, 4:3 and black and white were two of those hills and I think, you know, we had a lot of very annoying conversations about values and foreign markets and black and white film. It was hard to have those conversations with Rebecca in the sense that it meant her movie might not get made. But we were always on the same page about the things that were important. While the saying no to a financier could have meant the green light for the movie is difficult, it wasn’t challenging in the sense that we always made out to make it in black and white; it was abundantly clear so in that sense it wasn’t a hard conversation and you just go back to the drawing board and keep going and you know, being a producer is a lot of just being the person who’s always just championing the film and pushing the rock up the very steep hill and being the annoying person who keeps calling and saying, you know, you have to read this, this is important, this has to get made. We were lucky in the sense that you know, we had our two ladies. A lot of time the challenge with a first time filmmaker is casting; getting the cast to commit and take that journey with an unproven filmmaker. Honestly, casting Irene and Claire was the easiest part of the process. They were on early, they stayed attached as we kind of started and stopped, so you know, Ruth and Tessa take a lot of credit for getting this movie made too because they stayed with it. Having that casting in tact enabled me as a producer to keep going and make sure that we got it to different people and kept people excited about it. We give them a lot of credit for staying on and getting the movie made.

MK: I think we’ve got time for maybe one or two audience questions if you have them. There are some roving mics in the audience as well. Lights are up. Everyone’s very shy this afternoon. If you haven’t I’ve got more of my own if that’s ok. I wanted to talk about the conversation around race in America right now and how it’s shifting constantly in present day, and if that informed your development or informed the film in any way when you were making it?

RH: We shot the film before COVID and before the summer of all when the Black Lives Matter riots, protests, rather—really intensified. But it did, I was in post-production, still when that was all happening and it did inform something. There’s a sort of sub-narrative going on of between Irene about the conversation of being parents of black boys and in the book it’s present as in it shows two sides of a very present and real argument of you have Irene who wants to maintain their innocence and keep them protected and shielded and in a bubble from the horrors of the ways of the world, and there is Brian who wants them to understand that so they are equipped to form their own defences. Also, he wants to get out, which is kind of an interesting position for a black man in 1929. That sort of discussion, we call it ’The Talk’ today, really, how are we going to do this? We’ve got to sit down and talk to our children, which, by the way, every family should be doing the talk, whether you’re a family of colour or white or whatever. It’s… That felt very contemporary and important to me, and present in discussions we’re having now. I think I did up that slightly and I added some historical context and discussions of some key lynchings that were happening in that timeframe. Because it felt very important to me to ground that in particular because I knew it would resonate with where we are at. Sadly, I knew it would resonate with where we are at today.

MK: I want to thank you both so much for making the film and for being here because I know it’s so early where you are. Congratulations again on your nomination. Can we get a round of applause, please, for Rebecca and Margot?


MK: We are moving on to our next section so we will have the filmmakers behind Everyone’s Talking About Jamie and Cyrano. In person joining me today we’ve got the director Jonathan Butterell and producer Dan Gillespie Sells from Everyone’s Talking About Jamie. Hello.


Joining us virtually we have the screenwriter Erica Schmidt of Cyrano. Hi Erica.

Erica Schmidt: Hi.

MK: So, before we kick off…

Jonathan Butterell: I was just going to say that Dan is actually not our producer, he’s our composer.

Dan Gillespie Sells: I’ll take the producer credit!

MK: Yeah take it! I’ve said it here on stage, it’s true. All royalties. Let us take a quick look, let’s remind ourselves of these two wonderful films. Can we cue the clips, please.

[Clips play]


Congratulations all of you on your nominations and thank you so much for joining us this afternoon. Jonathan and Dan I’m going to start with you. I think we know Everyone’s Talking About Jamie the musical and the show, starting in Sheffield and moving to London, but I believe that it was originally a documentary that sparked kind of your interest in adapting it?

JB: Yeah there was a BBC Three documentary called Jamie: Drag Queen at Sixteen that I saw in probably seven years ago now, telling the story of Jamie Campbell, a sixteen year old kid from County Durham and his mum Margaret. I subsequently found out that actually researchers didn’t find Jamie, Jamie sat at home at fifteen and said I want to come out as a drag queen at prom, that’s a bit scary for me. I want to find a documentary maker to follow me. He wrote to several documentary makers and Firecracker picked it up and a director called Jenny Popplewell kind of followed him around and made this documentary. It struck me as something so simple and so beautiful. It was a working class kid from a working class community, and an openly gay kid. That wasn’t, he wasn’t trying to come out at prom, he was a gay kid at school but he was just wanting to come out as a drag queen at prom. I was just inspired by the love and passion that his mum showed in supporting him.

MK: And Erica, coming to you with Cyrano now, kind of this is your first screenplay, which is crazy but kind of what made you take on kind of the adaptation of something that is known to people, but creating it in the musical form, as well.

ES: I had originally adapted it for the stage, I’m mostly a theatre director and I had directed it in a very small space and I had a lot of questions for the Rostand play. It felt kind of small and intimate and personal to experiment with turning the poetry of the piece into songs with Matt Berninger and Aaron and Bryce Dessner from the National. And yeah, I never set out to write a screenplay or to make a movie of it originally, it was Joe Wright saw the production that we did in a very small theatre in Connecticut and he wanted to make it into a film and asked me if I would write it.

MK: How was that process when you were adapting it, then? Did you work with Joe closely, or did he bring that vision he wanted to see, or did he let you work in a singular way?

ES: It was an incredibly collaborative process. I had taken Rostand’s play which is really, really big and made it very, very small with a cast of only ten. And I was really focusing on the love triangle between Christian and Roxanne and Cyrano and kind of cutting a lot of the secondary plots in order to make space for the songs. Also I had made it a modern retelling. Joe really wanted it to be baroque and return to the original play and have great big opening in the theatre and then sort of slowly over the course of Rostand’s five acts move to the size and intimacy of what I’d done on stage. Basically the final scene is pretty much as it was but then the beginning is a creation for the film.

MK: That’s an interesting point I think for all of you to discuss, the intimacy in the musical form and also when you’ve got these huge ensembles as well but also these personal stories, making sure they don’t get lost kind of in the spectacular of it all, and how you hone in on the essence of it there.

JB: I think that speaks to both our films, really because my intention really was to take Jamie’s’ home, working class community, but that could feel very real, very intimate, and I tried to do that both on stage and on screen, and then it was actually Jamie’s imagination that flared into something bigger that could then take the scope of music. Very similarly with Cyrano I imagine you get to that place where emotion takes over and you feel the necessity that you can then expand the imagination and take it into music and take it into song. That’s the power of what music can do. As Dan would speak to, music cuts to in a way that—we all have music in our lives, it talks to our emotions very immediately. And I also wanted to make sure that in our telling, the vernacular of that music was pop. What we were creating was at that time a piece of musical theatre but I wanted to make sure that the people in that working class council estate that we set it on, Parsons Cross Estate in Sheffield, it felt like it was musical that came out of their radio and spoke to them. Very deliberately it had that pop genre.

MK: Dan, can you speak to kind of the vernacular of the music and matching the beat of the narrative?

DGS: I suppose, the difficult thing about musical theatre generally is realising that you’re asking the audience to go on this ridiculous jump into song, right? Luckily pop music is kind of kitchen sink and we did this play which isn’t particularly heightened; it’s very kitchen sink, it’s very day-to-day, they’re very naturalistic in their performances, and pop was the obvious place to go with that because we felt like pop is the language of the people and so it was definitely going to be a pop score and I do that anyway so I found it easy. I wasn’t going to attempt something I don’t know how to do but the important thing is placement, making sure the song is in the right place, as in it’s earned its right to be there, you’ve got to do everything you possibly can to help the song survive the process with musicals. Because it’s so easy to cut them, it’s so easy to go in to a straight play and not worry about doing the music bit. A lot of my job is making sure the song is doing everything it can possibly do, it’s not doing too much, it’s not repeating beats. It’s got to survive somehow because you’re asking the audience to go on a ludicrous journey with you and part of that is fighting for the moment really, I think.

MK: Erica is there a trick of the trade with not letting the music and the songs get lost in the narrative? Can you share any tricks you have for that?

ES: Our musical is kind of weird because we didn’t set out to make a traditional musical theatre piece in any way and the play was actually through-composed like a movie score, and the songs don’t function to forward the narrative. They really are kind of like poems; they’re windows in to the characters’ souls. On stage they were almost like a full stop to the action while we stay with the character. They also aren’t really dance numbers, you can’t do a kick line. So for the film it was a joy to be able to layer in the narrative at the same time we’re staying still with the characters’ emotional life. It was really different from the stage to the screen the way the music functions.

MK: With both of these, the theatre form as we know lends itself so easy to an audience where you can watch it together and appreciate it together, cinematically they transpose really well to the screen. Have you had the opportunity to watch the films with an audience and see the reception of them? Does it hit the beats you’ve all seen?

JB: We’ve both essentially probably sat in a theatre audience and a movie audience. I found them both to be—they’re very different experiences because in the theatre the audience are a literal part of the event. They are part of the energy of the evening and the energy of the evening shifts and changes and it’s immediate. And also, the responsibility of an audience sitting watching theatre is their imagination is also a part of the event of that evening. They fill in the gap, whereas in the cinema experience it’s fixed, its’ there, it’s less imaginative and more literal in many ways. I still found both experiences quite visceral in watching it from an audience’s response, it was a very visceral response. I remember at the premiere, people started to clap and treat the cinema like it was a theatre. I kind of wanted to say oh we can’t stop this, we can’t control this and the story’s going on! Whereas in the theatre that can be controlled a little bit by the actors.

MK: Let’s talk about casting now because both have these really key, great kind of leads but also wonderful ensemble pieces. So just maybe come to you first kind of finding that cast and making sure the chemistry is right and how it comes together, how you pick and the units, the family units, friendship units all seem to work and connect together.

JB: Do you want to go first Erica?

ES: Sure! I had cast Peter Dinklage and Hayley Bennett for the stage play and they stayed for the film. I guess, I think the family unit is for you, is it?

DGS: We spent a year auditioning young people from Sheffield and Doncaster and that area first, and also through our choreographer who does a lot of street dance and runs a school with young people to try and find our cast, who had to be amazing dancers, great singers and also feel like a comprehensive school in the north of England. We didn’t want it to seem stagey or inauthentic in any way but they had to have a certain level of skill. But actually we found amazing kids, a lot of them had never worked before, had never done anything like this before. Some of them were still actually at the schools, some of them were at the schools we used as locations. So it was strange for one of the kids to go in and do a film at their own school. The children were extraordinary. When it comes to Margaret—Sarah Lancashire had actually worked with Shobna before years ago I think.

MK: They were in Coronation Street.

DGS: They were both in Coronation Street. So they knew each other and had this lovely chemistry already in place. A lot of what we were doing was casting it so we got a lot of stuff for free!

JB: That’s the essence of casting, that the essence of the person is there. Particularly in cinema because you’re looking into essence. Max, most of our young people in the film had never done anything before. That includes Max and Lauren who plays Pritti. They’d not acted professionally at all. It was a massive journey for both of them, both of them were both terrified. But you had a first time director who was also terrified as well, so we held each other’s hands. But also then what—our first day of filming was actually in the sequence that Richard E Grant is in where we go back into the 1980s. My first day filming was with 500 people in a crowd, and then my second day of filming was with Max and Richard. This is Max’s first, essentially first proper full day on set, and Richard a very experienced actor. That scene where they’re in the shop together, that was our second day of filming and it was beautiful watch because you watched what was happening in the story also happen in real life. You’ve got this innocent walking into this space and saying I really don’t know what I’m doing or how to do it, how can you help me? And then Richard going ok I’ll take you under my wing and help you through this process in a not patronising way. So actually I think what we captured on film was reflecting the energy in those two actors as well.

MK: Do we have any audience questions? We have a few minutes left. Can we have a microphone at the front please, thank you. In the third row.

Question: Hi, question is for Erica. I was wondering how you got the National and Matt and Aaron and Bryce involved, and what that relationship was like?

ES: I was a huge fan of the National and they’re absolutely my favourite band. I wrote to Matt and Bryce and Aaron, I wrote an email and Matt wrote back right away and I basically said you know that I had this idea to do a through-composed hybrid play-musical from Cyrano from Rostand’s Cyrano and I thought they’d be absolutely perfect for it and would they do it. And Matt said you know, sure why don’t we meet and talk. He was going to be in New York he was playing with his band El Vy and over the course of you know two years I basically stalked them in a kind of nerdy, literary way, following them wherever they were performing. Matt shared with me a Dropbox of about three hours of songs. Bryce and Aaron write what they call sketches but they’re tracks; they’re short bits that repeat and they can be developed into National songs. Then they send them to Matt and he either hears lyric and melody in them and they become a National song or they go into this kind of Dropbox. He shared with me the Dropbox and I rewrote my adaptation listening to the music and I inserted their track names into my text and then I invited Bryce over and we had a reading of the piece and I pressed play on his music and he said OK. He saw it, he could see the thing that I had been talking about and that’s when they really came on board. Then it was about four years of developing the songs and working together which was so joyful. They’re absolutely brilliant and it was so collaborative and they’re such kind men. It was a real pleasure to get to work with them.

MK: Thank you. We’ve got time for one last question. I’ve got one if anyone else hasn’t. I love high concept films and both of these are really well executed great, high concept genre films. I’m wondering what all of you are doing next; are you staying the same area or are you going in different directions? Erica are you working on your next screenplay?

ES: I did write another screenplay, yes! I’m hopeful it’ll get made but I’m directing plays still, that’s mainly what I do.

MK: Can you share what the screenplay is about or is that completely secret?

ES: A secret!

MK: Are you working together on your next project?

JB: We are. We have a few projects. I’m writing a project with Dan that is musical-based. It is a musical and it’s a movie, but different. Essentially only one person sings so it doesn’t expand in the same way. And I’ve been writing some TV as well.

MK: Everyone’s very tight lipped.

DGS: When you’re a songwriter you depend on people to collaborate. So I’m always very grateful when someone wants me to write songs for something. I’m always kind of going hi I’m available to write songs. With Jonathan we have probably the most synergous relationship in our collaborations. He brings me on board from the very beginning. There are other things that are written that I then get asked to work on but it works in a very different way and best I think with musicals to be there from the very first draft and feed in, feed in, feed in and be a part of it.

MK: Feel the heartbeat of it.

DGS: Yeah, and also just because the songs are going to take up quite a lot of that screentime and you want them to have really earned their place. I feel like the score and the script need to edge forward at the same pace, speak to each other the whole way through the process and if they don’t it really puts everything at risk. I think to keep them moving forward together is really important.

MK: That’s such a beautiful way to end the session. So thank you so much, thank you for joining us. Congratulations on all your nominations and we’ll keep keeping all our fingers crossed for a week’s time.

JB: Nice to meet you Erica.

MK: Thank you Erica.


MK: We’re moving swiftly, swiftly on.  Our next set of films that we’ll be looking at are After Love and Last Night in Soho. I would like to welcome the director Edgar Wright for Last Night in Soho and producer Nira Park.


And Aleem Khan for After Love.


I think we’re going to be joined by Matthieu de Braconier online who’s also the producer of After Love. The tech is being precarious as we all know this afternoon. Oh he’s there! Hi.

Matthieu de Braconier: Hello

MK: Hi Matthieu, thank you for joining us. I think we’re going to go straight in and look at a couple of clips. Let’s remind ourselves of these great films. Let’s start with Last Night in Soho.

[Clip plays]


MK: Congratulations. Welcome. Sorry we’re running a tiny bit behind this afternoon. Edgar I want to kind of start with you and Last Night in Soho. It’s speckled with humour but definitely perhaps your darkest film to date, looking at the underbelly of nostalgia. What converted you to the idea of kind of psychological horror or kind of a look at the sixties?

Edgar Wright: I think it was maybe both of the same… It was spending a lot of time in Soho. I’ve lived in London for twenty-eight years and I’ve spent more time in Soho than any, like, flat that I’ve lived in.

MK: I’ve lived in Soho for a lot of my life. Still do.

EW: Well actually more recently I’m not in Soho but I live quite close to there, so when I was writing I was living there and Krysty Wilson-Cairns who wrote it with me used to work as a barmaid in The Toucan.

MK: I know it well!

EW: And lived above Sunset Strip on Dean Street. When I found that out, that was when I asked her to write the screenplay with me. I was like AH! I have this idea I’m writing. I guess it was a combination of just like Soho and its history and the idea of… I always think there’s something about the nostalgia that’s interesting… Nostalgia is like an affliction and it’s weird—I used to find it strange that I used to be obsessed with the Sixties—I’m still obsessed with the Sixties—and I’m like, why am I like pining for a decade that I wasn’t in. And so in a way the film was sort of questioning that. And the idea of if you have these fantasies about being a time traveller and being able to go back. You can’t kind of pick and choose what you do, you can’t be this cultural time traveller, so it was that thing of just sort of the idea of you can’t have the good without the bad and the idea that people as they get further away, especially people who weren’t there, tend to romanticise the decade. All those things were bubbling as I made several after-midnight walks in Soho. And then also the sort of thriller and sort of psychological horror genre is one that I really enjoy and especially ones from that period, the Sixties, from both the UK and Europe. It was a combination of all those things, I guess.

MK: Nira, when Edgar came to you and said this was the film he wanted to make, were you slightly terrified at the idea of kind of shutting down central London and filming there? A lot of it is shot on location and I know how busy it is around there twenty-four hours a day. The logistics and the practicalities of doing that must have been insane.

Nira Park: All of this was obviously shot there on location. The location was very scripted. Yeah, it was terrifying but it was… Edgar had told us right from the outset that there was no point making the film unless we actually did shoot in Soho. It’s always that thing that when you’re developing and trying to get a film off the ground you don’t have the resources to bring the crew on board that you really need to put all the pieces in place to actually make it a reality. Everyone had always said to us it’s going to take a huge amount of time to really work out whether you can pull this off. So we went to our studio Focus and said before the film was green lit, one thing we need to do is get a locations team on board really, really early. So we had Camilla Stephenson our really amazing location manager and her team and lots of our key members who had been with us on the journey from all our films early. When Edgar was writing the script and knew about the project. We had a good five months of really putting everything in place. Actually, Edgar had always wanted to shoot a film not in the middle of Summer but in the Spring when the nights were longer, but we needed more time. So we ended up, we had five months… Westminster Council, I’m sure you got the letter…

MK: I did, I remember the letter.

NP: It is that thing of getting the permissions from every single shopkeeper, every single resident, putting residents up. I don’t know if you were put in a hotel?

MK: No it was at the end of the street but it would have been nice to have a hotel for the night in Soho!

NP: Also that thing of you have to know every single detail of what you’re going to film. You can’t just go to Westminster Council and say… because you’ve got to park your trucks, you’ve got to you know, we had complete control of streets and round The Toucan when we were doing the drive up into Bateman. Partial control of outside Haymarket. You have to know every single detail, so just months and months of planning an not knowing really until the last minute that actually we were going to be able to pull it off. Edgar was saying there’s no option, we’re not doing this green screen, there’s not going to be visual effects, we are going to shoot on location. So it was amazing when we finally got word that we could do it.

EW: Even with all that you still have to rely on the public playing ball. You can close the streets but it also take an army of the PAs and the third ADs and the second ADs and the location assistants, all of those people at the corner of every shot saying ‘please can you just wait thirty seconds.’ When I was like… there’s several shots in the movie that even, we had the location we had the crew, everything, but you’d still get on set and you think I wonder if we can pull this off today. Because you’re so aware that out of every corner of frame the real world is right there and it made it so kind of like nerve-wracking but I think sort of probably we all fed off that energy of being in Soho.

NP: And the shortest nights. August, and in some locations just having to as soon as we wrapped take all the set dressing down so that life could return to normal, so that shops could open, restaurants could open and people could go about their business. That little window then people running in and taking it all down.

MK: A marathon, marathon. Aleem, Matthieu, I’m going to come to you next and maybe let’s start with location as well, but maybe let’s take another little look at After Love and then we’ll come to you next.

[Clip plays]


Aleem and Matthieu, in the same kind of vein, sense of space and location, kind of Dover-Calais and then internalised people’s homes seems kind of key to this film. I wonder from the onset, Aleem, were those spaces and those locations there from the beginning?

Aleem Khan: Yeah they were. Can you hear me? Ok. Yes. They were. My grandparents lived in Folkestone, the town down from Dover and I spent my childhood on those cliffs. When I knew that I wanted to make this film about this particular character that’s very personal to me, there just seemed to be a real natural decision to set the film between these tow landscapes that are mirrors of one another, sisters in a way, that share this body of water and have this kind of long history. And it’s the kind of sonic experience in those locations as well. As a kid, I’m from a large family, there’s eight of us. So we wouldn’t go abroad we’d go to Great Yarmouth, or we would go to Calais and so there was something about, they’re very distinct places but they share, there’s something about it, it’s connection to the Channel, the cliffs and the soundscape, the wind and the birds. It’s kind of underlying mechanical heartbeat because there’s ferries going back and forth constantly. That sound of the ferry kind of feel like a rumbling in the earth, it really permeates through everything. Yeah I just, the landscapes just seem to reflect the characters and what they kind of symbolised and represented in some way. The film’s about identity, it’s about many things but obviously it’s looking at identity and that kind of shifting, that erosion of ourselves and how we calibrate, how we find new layers of ourselves and how as we move through life we kind of discard our skins and new ones come to the front. The image of the cliff was kind of there from the beginning and I wanted it to be a kind of important visual motif in the film.

MK: And Matthieu, was it those layers that you first picked up on when you read the script? Then kind of after agreeing to take it on and produce it, the kind of the practicalities of a film laid out between the UK and France.

MB: Definitely, Aleem’s writing has a lot of layers to it. We collaborated on a short film called Three Brothers before and what I learned from Aleem on that already which was again there in After Love was something that I would call emotional displacement, this kind of belief you could tell a story where he managed to translate it and displace it so you could touch on it emotionally. I think this woman kind of has an internal journey that she goes through, which is kind of displaced in her grief. There’s a kind of grief underneath her grief and it’s very much to do with her own identity. So it was a very strong proposition, obviously also something that came from Aleem from a very personal understanding.

MK: You touched upon the personal, Aleem, but the notion of bringing the autobiographical into your creative space and that adding authenticity to it. I read a little bit, Edgar about you bringing personal experiences you know from family members who were seamstresses or who worked—how that leads to kind of the tapestry, in effect, in bringing an authentic layer.

EW: I guess that’s the thing, I mean obviously with our film it’s like a supernatural, psycho-thriller, so the personal aspect’s not so apparent. My mum had gone to art college and studied clothes design and fashion and had a complicated relationship with London as well and I was aware of that growing up, that she was dismissive of it because she’d had some not great experiences. There’s elements of that, and my mum believes in ghosts as well so just growing up me and my brother would hear these sort of tales of things that she’d seen in a very matter of fact way, and believe her. It had a big kind of impact on us. There is that way that you’re kind of telling a story through an alternate reality version of someone you know.

MK: Aleem you’ve touched upon it as well, the autobiographical; part of this is based loosely on a family connection, but how do you insert that without it being kind of, with it being fiction but also there’s elements of production design I think you’ve mentioned to make it more authentic and make it feel kind of true.

AK: Yeah, I mean the film isn’t autobiographic in the sense that the plot the journey of the character is not from my life, thankfully. But the character of Mary is very inspired by my Mum and elements of her earlier grief are from my family. It’s an interesting question about kind of truth, actually, because that’s very subjective, truth, and there is no absolute truth. And that is really what the film is dealing with in many ways because the truth is dependent on the perspective and the film is looking at that, you know, how depending on what side of the channel you’re standing on, what you see is—do you see what I mean, these women shared the same man. Mary for example lived her whole life with this man, and it’s commenting on how well we can really know the people closest to us. She had an over forty year marriage, you would think that she knew the truth of this man but actually the film in a way is looking at how we can never know the truth of anything fully, there is no absolute truth. In terms of how I brought myself, this was the first film I had written. I think one of the beautiful things about working in this medium, film is a medium that is concerned with time and memory and as a filmmaker I get to explore my fears and desires and rearrange them through my work, but also… It’s autobiographic in some ways, I mean yes my mum is a white Muslim convert, but I feel like the parts of me that are in the film are not so easily identifiable. I think that’s what I like about being a filmmaker is that you can kind of reveal yourself without revealing yourself fully. But yeah, I mean when we’re shooting I love inserting kind of and using props from my real life. So the mat that Mary prays on is my dad’s and the jewellery Mary wore was my mums and actually the frames around the house with Mary and Ahmed are composites of my actual parents on their wedding day and Joanna and Nasser’s heads on them, kind of put their heads in there. I love doing that, and in the poster there’s a wedding photo on the wall and it's my parents. I like these kind of little eggs, little easter eggs. I’ve thought about why I do that and I think—I don’t know… I think bringing props to set, and the mugs Mary drinks from are my nan’s and they’re mine now. I really like bringing props to set because they charge, when you’re working in an artificial space, I like to create a history for the actors and myself. It’s all about finding that connection. I kind of come with a rucksack with a bunch of stuff and move stuff around on set.

MK: I’m going to go to some audience questions now. There’s roving mics. There’s a hand up right there.

Question: Hi I’m Sarah from The Upcoming. I just wonder how did you kind of go, Edgar, for you—how did you go about the casting process for your film. Did you have a very specific lead in mind for two female roles that mirror each other?

EW: Yeah the strange thing is though that it switched. I’d had the idea for the film like ten years ago and it existed as the story for a long time and it was in development first with Film 4. During that time I’d written the story but not the screenplay and it existed as a kind of campfire tale almost. One of the people I told it to, bizarrely, before I’d even met the screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns, I met with Anya Taylor-Joy just after she did that film The Witch, which was at Sundance in 2015, and I met her… I was watching The Witch and even though I hadn’t written the screenplay yet I was thinking she should be in my Soho film! And I thought that as I was watching the film. Then I went for coffee with her and I hadn’t planned to but I told her the entire plot of the movie and she was like ‘Oh my God, I want to be in that film.’ So then the irony is, so then I felt a bit like the boy who’d cried wolf for the next few years because I’d run into her every now and then but I didn’t have the screenplay. And then when we were writing the screenplay, the character of Sandy who’s the Sixties counterpart was sort of getting bigger and it just occurred to me, maybe I was even looking at a photo of Anya in a magazine, and it was like Anya should be playing this Sixties bit. I’ve seen her playing the other part so let’s put her there. I was then nervous sending her the script because I’d been telling her about this other part for three years and then was like hey, don’t read that one, read the other lead, and luckily she totally agreed. So it was an interesting thing, because we’d had this person always sort of loosely attached to it for a long time and then she got offered the other part and went for it. And then we went looking for, you know, Eloise which we found in Thomasina McKenzie, which Nira was the first person to recommend after she had a film Leave No Trace. Sometimes you’re in a writing room and you think, you know who’d be great doing this? Diana Rigg. And you kind of say it out loud and the other person goes Oh my God yeah. And you don’t know if you can get Diana Rigg, but sometimes those things get spoken out loud, you kind of get manifesting them.

MK: Willing the universe. With Diana Rigg and Terence Stamp, did they add a level of authenticity? Did you ask them like did this happen? Is this what the Sixties were like? Did they have their own dimension they could add to it?

EW: Yeah. Especially with Diana Rigg and Rita Tushingham, having their perspectives on the script and you know, sometimes… it was obviously fascinating because they were there and they’re not in the Sixties sections. It was very strange things like Diana Rigg—there’s a Café de Paris scene in the film and she’s not in the scene but, spoiler alert, her younger counterpart is, and we were rehearsing one day and I have to mention, because we had to build the Café de Paris as a set and I mentioned that the set was right there. And she went ‘oh I went to the Café de Paris on my eighteenth birthday to see Shirley Bassey’s first London gig.’ I was like Oh my God do you want to come and see the set? It was on a Saturday and it’s always quite magical walking through an empty soundstage, but with Diana Rigg on your arm going into the Café de Paris… The thing is I always notice when you talk to people that were there is there’s the romantic remembrance and then the dot, dot, dot before the more real answer. She was looking at the set and she goes this is amazing, it looks just like it did. You have to tell the production designer he did a great job. Then she looked at the stairs and she said ‘I remember walking down those stairs and lots of rheumy-eyed men looking me up and down and feeling like a piece of meat.’ I like, you know, kind of left and was all the way home thinking… I don’t think she was even relating it to the script but that was her experience. And Rita as well, like sort of you know, would talk about kind of things that had happened to her or friends of hers. Terence is a bit more inscrutable. I felt after a while Terence would talk about everything except Sixties London. I noticed that all of the stories were about Pasolini and Fellini and I thought you never told me a single London story! One thing he did though, which was really strange, he’s in a pub scene in The Toucan, is he came onto The Toucan set and he announced, he said ‘I haven’t been in a pub in forty years,’ and then he got like a coaster out and he flipped it up in his hand and he went ‘I haven’t done that in forty years either!’ I said you’ve got to do that in the shot. I said you do that in the shot and I gave him the line I said, when you say ‘still got it’ flip and catch. I said you do that during a take and I’ll give you £10 every time you do it. And by the end of the day Terence Stamp had £100.

MK: Someone’s nodding at me, we’ve got time for I think two more, one more, two more questions. Very shy audience! I’ve got a gentleman here.

Question: Thanks! Hi, this is a question for Aleem. I saw After Love about two weeks ago at BAFTA. Congratulations on that. I wanted to ask you what the process looked like. I think you mentioned you were writing it for five years? Or it took five years to make, I’m not sure. But yeah for the filmmakers who are making their debut films here, basically how it looked, how the BBC came on board, whether they came on board early or after the final draft, etc?

AK: Thank you for watching the film. Yeah, it was five and a half years of writing pretty solidly, but I never lost my interest for it. It was hard, I don’t enjoy writing particularly, but it was a story that I just really had to tell. I knew it was going to be my first film. BBC Films came on board quite early and I was in development with the BFI, several drafts. I got to go to Sundance and do their directors’ labs and writers’ labs, which was really informative for the process. And then it just got to the point where it was like come on guys are you in or are you out and they were in and the rest was history, I guess. We just made the film. But I don’t know if that answers your question at all. I think it was kind of, one of the biggest lessons I learned in that whole process was just really, really trusting my instincts and my gut and being quite immovable with many aspects of the story, even into production. Because this is your first film and you might not get to make a second film. If the film succeeds, you take a lot of that glory, rightly or wrongly because you’re working with so many talented people. But if it falls down, they all work again and you maybe don’t get to make a second film, so it’s your responsibility to interrogate and your responsibility to surround yourself with people that understand your vision and trust you. So good luck! You’ve got it. Stick to your guns.

MK: I think we might be out of time and I’m gutted because there’s a lot more I want to ask. We’re half way through this afternoon and I just want to say I’m so excited about British cinema because of all the films nominated in this category, it really is so exciting what we’ve got on offer in the country at the moment. I just want to thank you for joining us and good luck! Thank you.


MK: Next up we will be looking at Belfast and Ali and Ava. We are joined by the producer Tracy O’Riordan for Ali and Ava and Tamar Thomas, the producer of Belfast. Welcome!


While we wait, well hello. While we wait one moment for Tamar, let’s take a quick look at Ali and Ava.

Tracy O’Riordan: Oh yes please, it’s gorgeous.

[Clip plays]


MK: Gorgeous. Thank you both for joining us. We’re going to go straight in. Both of you have had long-standing relationships with your directors working with them for a number of years. How did Belfast and Ali and Ava come about, and is there an ease in language and working with them now that you have with Kenneth and Clio that kind of makes… do you have a process down pat, or is it different every film?

TOR: There is an empath. There is absolutely, definitely, I can sense with Ken exactly what he’s feeling, what he needs, where he is in a project, what those next steps I need to be anticipating for him to get him to those next things. In this project, was, it came out of lockdown. It came out of that extraordinary period where we were all quiet and he had a moment to reflect and think of his childhood, like I think a lot of people did. You looked at what became important to you and family became important and it grew from that. I read it and I went we have to make this and we have to make it now.

MK: In the middle of a pandemic.

TOR: In the middle of a pandemic, right away. It was very, very scary. But we made it and people are seeing it and that is just extraordinary. So thank you to anyone that’s gone to see it, bless you all.

MK: And then working with Clio, it’s been maybe what fifteen years, maybe? I’m guessing but—

Tamar Thomas: Just recently with the pandemic I’ve just kind of lost track of numbers of years slightly but give or take yeah that’s about write. So yeah I think The Arbor was 2010 and yeah, so I think that you develop a shorthand. If you’re working on films and they’re as intensive as… we take a long time to develop the projects and there’s a lot of research and a lot of workshops. You definitely develop a shorthand because at some points I see Clio more than I see my partner and my children. So yeah, you definitely do and that’s really, really helpful. And I suppose by making the films you kind of know from the first one I suppose, that’s quite a leap of faith, but then we were lucky enough to be able to make the second one off the back of The Arbor and I think I don’t tend to sort of kind of analyse it too much, but…Because I think if something works I’m like it’s working let’s not unpack it all. But I love—the things that I love about her work is it’s so rooted, it’s really rooted in a place and people and I love the fact that it’s really organic in that it’s a germ of an idea and she might be thinking of three different films and at some point I’ll go—are those two the same film? And then we’ll go off on that track. So there’s a lot of exploration and there’s a real sort of, I find it really creative to be involved in that, so I’m very involved in that part of it. It’s a really rewarding way to work. We’re so involved and so invested in the projects they are almost like children. When you’re making low-budget independent films there’s no other way because you have to be so passionate about it and you have to have sort of a common goal at the end of it. I think we’re very aligned in our tastes as well so it also helps.

MK: These films, as you’ve said, are so rooted in the notion of space and person with Bradford and Belfast. Can the responsibility that you have to the people and the time and the reflection of a physical space as well, how do you both as producers make sure that that always remains at the forefront, that responsibility to that?

TOR: It’s a big responsibility to do something set in Belfast and to recreate that, especially over that time. We got an awful lot of advice from people, friends and family over in Northern Ireland, and Northern Ireland Screen were a massive help.

MK: Could you hold your mic up there?

TOR: Oh sorry. Apologies, not used to it I’m a backstage person! So yeah, we took that very, very seriously and did, you took everything with due consideration. We had to do things like to find out the buses we got somebody on Facebook to talk about what number were the buses and what colour they were and things like that, which was good fun! I liked all of that bit.

TT: Yeah I think there is a huge responsibility. With Clio’s films, the initial one was looking—was a hybrid documentary based on the life of Andrea Dunbar, a playwright who was white working class, brought up on a white working class estate and she was sort of a phenomenon who wrote The Arbor and then Rita, Sue and Bob Too. So following from that, that film stemmed, on that film when we were shooting in the back of our shot, this young boy who had quite a lot of energy and various sort of one day a horse, next day a go-kart… He used to ride through the back of our shot. And we got to befriend him and Clio was really fascinated in him and just was like you know, kind of we kept going back and kept talking about this boy called Matty and his friend, so The Selfish Giant came out of that. They’re real people, and what Clio does is she sort of melds fact and fiction, but in a way that it’s, it’s so they are based on these people but there’s fictional elements. I think there is a huge responsibility in that because they are real people. We also go into the community and work with the community. Clio had forged relationships, she had been recording audio interviews for eighteen months before I came on board The Arbor and one of the things I said was I think we need to stop recording for now because I think there’s about six films in here. People had been so generous with their stories and that is such a privilege but also quite, you’ve got to be very, very careful and those relationships they take time, there was no shortcutting. It takes time to build that trust and I think with you know The Arbor and The Selfish Giant we had worked with the white working class community and got to know really those people on the estates, Holmwood and Butter Shore, and in Ali and Ava we had the privilege of getting to know Moey Hassan. Ali is based on Moey Hassan, who has a—he’s an actor but also a landlord and an ex-DJ. He has a cameo, well he has a scene in The Arbor and he plays, if you’ve seen Ali and Ava he’s got a little cameo in there. So we had the privilege of getting to know where he lived, his community. Ali’s house in the film is Moey’s house, the house next door which is Ali’s mums house is also Moey’s brother’s house, and then the tenants in the film are actually Moey’s tenants, they’re non-actors but they’re actually his Slovakian tenants. And Clio as part of her process went to talk to Moey and recorded interviews with him and then said can I go and see and meet some of your tenants and she was in the house and she phone me up and was like I really want to film in here, I don’t want to recreate this, I want to film in this space, in these spaces. Also Ava’s house is another one of his properties, he's quite a successful landlord, but lovely, lovely, very generous man who also helped us behind the scenes and also helped us with the dialects. I got to learn so much about Pakistan and the Mirpuri community. I knew some of it, so that sort of opened my eyes to that community and that was really wonderful. I think Clio especially feels a huge responsibility for telling Moey’s story as a white filmmaker and storyteller, just from that point of view. We really do try our best to do it from the inside out and we really do try and be as inclusive as possible with everybody and that’s in front of and behind the camera with everybody in that community because I think that’s the essence of the type of stories that we’re telling. So I think the people of Bradford when they saw it at the screening were very happy, and I think that’s the first, that’s one of the things that sort of you just really take a lot of heart from that. Their response is so important because it’s Bradford, we’re putting their city on the screen, a huge responsibility.

MK: You’ve talked about the research process, and thank you, in great detail, it’s really, really interesting to kind of hear about. I wonder kind of for both of you, with that you said there were six films or six stories, how in a way do you—how do you hone in on knowing which is the right one, and then with Belfast as well it being turned around so quickly and being made. How do you know that’s the right dynamic and that’s it? These are really quick decisions you’ve ultimately got to make and it has to be the right decision. How do you—is there a trick for knowing this is what we need to do?

TOR: With Belfast it was, there was, it was a very long script when we first got it and because it was so personal to Ken it took a while to get him to take things away and we did it on sort of practical reasons of going actually, will you shoot inside the sweet shop? Do you actually need to see inside? Is it not---those sort of questions, you know. We went through and because he was so emotionally involved, the notes had to be given in a practical way about actually thinking about the film and what it needed and so you could cut things out. And we did shoot a sort of the end scene, at the end Ken comes back and you see him come and go back onto the street, and the tone of it wasn’t right then in the cutting room you go the tone of it doesn’t work, so we brought that back out. It’s a process, it’s always a process and a discussion and that’s the lovely thing because each time you’re going what’s that and why’s that and why does that not work? And you know, yeah. I really enjoy all that.

MK: Yeah, a those kind of six different films.

TT: Yeah I think it’s—Clio will sometimes say it’s when she starts dreaming about it in some ways. So I think there’s a real, I think her process is really interesting because some of it is… Obviously we get told these stories. For instance with The Arbor, Clio’s intention of that film was to look at the media portrayal of the Butter Shore Estate, where The Arbor is a road in the Butter Short Estate, one of the toughest estates I think in England and Europe at one point and Its media portrayal. It was very broad, and what we found just by listening was you know, and by honing in on Andrea’s story was actually at some point—and I was at the time trying to go round and get money, and one of the things I had to do to get money was to summarise… It was really helpful to do a kind of pitch document of what this is. By honing that document and summarising it it was very clear we were making a mother daughter story. So actually in this very broad canvas which is very important, it was that thing that was… that’s the centre line for this. And in that you have a universal theme and it opened it up because The Arbor, I don’t know if you’ve seen it but it’s people lip-syncing so you’re hearing the real person but you’re seeing an actor lip-sync. And it’s a very moving, very personal story about Andrea Dunbar this amazing playwright and there were tragic circumstances involved in it so when we were trying to pitch it to people that was quite you know… it was difficult in some ways. But I think once we got that, so that is specific to that film, and then with The Selfish Giant which was so interesting and which is why I love working with Clio is she’s like I’ve read this short story called The Selfish Giant, it’s by Oscar Wilde, I read it to my sons at night, and I hadn’t actually read or I’d read it a very long time ago. And I read it and I was like oh my God it’s so moving. And she just had this idea about a boy called Matty that used to ride through the back of our shot and this short Oscar Wilde story, and they kind of came together. It became one and it’s that fusion; I think that’s why I find her work so fascinating, that mixing of fact and fiction. The Selfish Giant is a kind of fable. There’s a really rigorous process behind it, lots of interviews, lots of going up to the place, lots of audio interviews or workshops, we got a load of school kids that didn’t actually end up in the film because we worked out by workshopping these seven to eight, or eight year olds—you might know… I mean congratulations, it’s tough. So we actually made the boy slightly older in The Selfish Giant because of that first workshop, but then a lot of stuff writing wise, ideas came from that. So there’s a real process there, but then there is something magic. Clio goes back to her shed in Whitstable at the bottom of her garden where she writes and it is—she, you know, writes and writes, shuts the door and I think there’s a sort of… I heard one of the cinematographers Ari who’s up for Power of the Dog—

MK: Ari Wegner

TT: Yeah, she said she sort of marinates in the places she’s in and that’s what Jane encouraged her to do, and I think that’s sort of what happens to us as well, or Clio in making this. So yeah, I think does that answer it?

MK: I’ve got a couple more questions but I know we’ve only got a few more minutes. I’m going to go to the audience first just in case there are audience questions… I can get mine in then. Cast. Cast, cast, cast in both of these are just kind of magical and then yeah, how and when… Belfast must have come together very, very quickly and then Ali and Ava the principals and then again the ensemble, making sure it all seems real and authentic and reflects the places they’re from.

TOR: We were very lucky coming straight out of the first lockdown in that people were available. So if we weren’t we probably wouldn’t have got Jamie and Catriona and Judi or anything, but they were available. There wasn’t just… we wanted the right people but it was just very lucky that we got named people available. With Jude, the young boy was the key. Casting of Buddy was absolutely—we weren’t going to make the film until we found Buddy. We did, our casting department did an amazing job; Carla Stronge over in Belfast put together 300 kids. They have an extraordinary resource over there now in Belfast and they all did their little self-tapes and we kept honing it and honing it down. We got to sort of the last six kids and we interviewed all the parents as well to get a sense of them, because they’re such a vital part of the whole thing. And what was interesting about Jude is we were talking about the filming process and what it’s like, we said it’s long hours, you get up early and you might not be used and you have to come back and do it again, and mum went well he does Irish dancing, this is what he does. We travel all the way over Ireland, we get there, he puts his outfit on, he might do once dance and then he comes off again and then if he’s done well he does it again. And you go God he’s had the most perfect training, and it was! And he came and he knew, and he worked hard.

MK: He’s a real find, yeah.

TOR: Yeah, we were blessed.

MK: And then yeah with Ali and Ava the principles so Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook but then this supporting cast as well.

TT: Adeel had actually contacted Clio and they met at the Toronto Film Festival and had a few drinks and just got on so well. There was this connection there, so Clio had… They sort of thought about this idea and Clio was like I’m thinking about this idea. She really wanted to do a love story. We’ve never started before with a genre if you will, so that was interesting—still wanted to set it in Bradford, and then Adeel came into that and he listened to transcripts from Moey and they built that character together. Then with Claire we had a very short shortlist for actresses and Claire was, you know, it’s quite brave coming in when you know the other person’s been cast but it was brilliant. And she came in—I should also say that Ava’s based on this amazing, incredible woman called Rhia that we’re so close to—then other cast, Shaun is in The Selfish Giant and he plays Callum the son in this film and you know we were keen to forge these relationships again, and Natalie Gavin is a recurring cast member. We had the amazing Shaheen Baig on board, casting director, really wonderful. Then we did open castings in Bradford, so a lot of the kids you see dancing around, dancing in the car scene we did open castings. I do love open castings because there’s so much energy and you see all this talent. It’s so brilliant and having non-actors is scary but it invigorates things as well because you don’t always know what you’re going to get. We didn’t have the benefit of the rigorous Irish dancing lessons for our six year old in ours, but she was really fantastic and having never, didn’t even know what a film set was. And actually the role Clio had written was for a boy, an eight year old boy, and she came in with her brother to the casting and she was so knockout that Clio just and Shaheen were like we need to change this, it needs to be her. So they changed that. That’s also really exciting about the mixture of non-actors and casting.

MK: And that freedom of being able to go we can adapt this for you.

TT: Thank you.

MK: Thank you so much. Congratulations on both films, good luck for next weekend. Thank you for stopping by.


And last but by no means least we have team Boiling Point. I’d like to welcome the director and writer Philip Barantini and producers Hester Ruoff and Bart Ruspoli to the stage.


Bart Ruspoli: Hello.

MK: Hi. Let’s remind ourselves of Boiling Point.

[Clip plays]


MK: There’s a lot you’ve probably already spoken about and been asked about from the film, so I’m sorry if I repeat that, but I’m going to start from a different angle and from casting. The restaurant for me feels really like an authentic reflection of London and the people within it feeling like the people I know and people I see, and the divide in terms of the kitchen and front of house, and the people eating in the restaurant. So Philip let’s go to you first, yeah, looking at the film as a reflection kind of of class and society in London as it is today.

Philip Barantini: Yeah it was really, really, really important to get that bit right because like you say, you know, a London kitchen is very diverse and multicultural and stuff. So it was important to get that right, certainly in the casting. When we wrote the script there was not necessarily anybody in mind of a certain race or whatever, but we just wanted to see the right people. It became very organic and the right people were hired for the job. But yeah I’d worked in kitchens for many, many, many years as a chef, and that was what it was like, you know? So yeah I wanted to just bring the truth to it, you know, and do something a bit different that you hadn’t seen before in terms of like that world. I’ve seen films made in that space before and for me personally what I’ve experienced and witnessed they didn’t quite hit the mark. I wanted to have a true representation of it, as true as I could possibly give, really.

MK: Another true representation, the urgency.

PB: Yeah.

MK: The urgency that is felt throughout, the pace. The single take—if you don’t already know, it’s a single take film which is an incredible feat in itself. As producers, when that idea is kind of proposed, are you—is your initial thought are you completely mad? Or is it thrilling.

BR: No it’s… Most people know it started life as a short film and the short film was done in one take as well.

MK: Twenty minutes, eighty minutes..

BR: Twenty-two minutes, ninety minutes, yeah. It’s different. In a way our initial reaction was OK. Phil and I initially right after the short we started discussing how were we going to do the feature, what’s it going to be, and it went through many different lives—at one point it was set on an oil rig and then at one point it was a vineyard, an anthology in a hotel.

PB: James Cummings my co-writer is sat there as well.

BR: We went through all sorts of things.

MK: All really low pressure environments.

BR: Then we settled back on the one take thing and decided let’s just do it like the short and basically remake the short as a feature, basically the same. There’s elements of the story in the feature that are also in the short. From a production point of view initially you go OK we managed that, let’s do it again. But it’s a whole different world when you’re doing a feature film and it’s logistically everything changes, everything. You know, we use the sound as an example of that, is we had to have two sound recorders because we were using so many channels. We had about thirty-eight characters who had to be radio miked, then we had an additional something like, well we had thirty-two actors and six plant mics as well. We had to get special permission from Ofcom because we were interfering with airplanes and police radios because we were using so many audio channels. That in itself was an incredibly difficult technical feat to do. Because it’s one take, where do you put the sound recorders? You can’t take one mic off someone and put it on someone else when they’re done with their scenes. So the entire cast had to be processed before you shot. You couldn’t call half the cast at midday, everyone had to be called at the same time, which meant where do you put the cast when they arrive, and there’s thirty-two of them, so how does the makeup team process that amount of people… They have to start three hours before everyone else. All sorts of stuff like that we had to figure out and do. Those problems present themselves almost too late, you’ve already committed to that process so you’re like OK we’ve got to figure that out.

Hester Ruoff: I was going to say there’s one good thing, we’re all really good friends as well and I think it was so important—

PB: We were at the beginning of it.

HR: Well we were… Hate each other now! But to create an atmosphere on the set where everyone knew that because—you know, if you get your lines or something really wrong half way through, what happens next? So to create the atmosphere on set where everyone felt so supported and so encouraged to be able to make mistakes but it’s ok because that’s part of what actually happens. I was listening to Stephen speak last night, Stephen Graham, and he was saying, you know, you do drop things when you’re having dinner or you’re doing whatever. You make mistakes all the time so to incorporate that—for actors, and some were quite young, to let them know it’s ok and you are so supported and no one’s going to look at you like you’ve done something wrong or… We had to really create and get everything really well prepared in advance so people felt they were really able to cut their teeth in a safe environment.

MK: Did you keep everything real? Were ovens on, hobs on?

PB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You couldn’t trust the actors to turn them on in the take, we had to have everything on.

BR: Yeah, burn the set down. The ovens actually, the lights went on, on the ovens even if they weren’t 100% shut so we had to leave them just like that and one of—we’ve done this so many times so a lot of people know it’s the third take of four… In the fourth take we didn’t use one of the problems we had was the ovens didn’t turn on because the doors weren’t shut enough on the ovens, so every single oven was off. But yeah they were still on even though they weren’t functioning.

MK: You spoke a little bit about technical elements earlier, but camera cards—how did that work?

PB: So that was a thing we had to figure out quite early on, and it was kind of a big thing at the beginning to whether we could do this in one take the whole thing. You could’ve done it because the likes of Victoria they shot on a C300 which is quite a small camera but we wanted to do it on a digital film camera. So we tested the ARRI Alexa which we shot the short on which was only twenty-two minutes, so a card can last that long. But we’re shooting in 4K, was it? 6K?

BR: 6K

PB: 6K, so there’s one camera that had been out maybe a year or so from Sony called the Venice, and the two things with the Venice is you can live swap SD cards. As soon as we found that out we were like we could go on forever! We could have a movie that lasts all week!

MK: Hester and Bart I’ve just seen their heads…

PB: Yeah. Sweating. Then the other thing as well is it does something called, it goes into Rialto mode, which is you can separate the body of the camera from the front sensor and the lens. So that enabled Matt my cinematographer who also operated the camera to, we designed a rig with an easy rig where the camera was attached to the back and the sort of sensor and the lens were at the front so it distributed the weight across his body. Still incredibly heavy like, but at the time he was twenty-three years old…

BR: Jury’s out whether it’s twenty-two, twenty-three or twenty-four.

PB: Either way, young fit and healthy.

BR: There’s different numbers going around!

HR: Matt Lewis

PB: He’s fifteen. No

BR: Very young though

PB: So yeah it was just a lightbulb moment, we can do this, no problem. Well not no problem…

BR: Still finding out when to do it, though, was, the one take thing and who… In the restaurant a lot of the staff are actually our ADs dressed as SAs, and as soon as the camera’s off they had to move stuff around and at one point, the change happens at the table.

PB: The card change, yeah

BR: And also to give Matt a break so he can sit down for a minute and the card was swapped out and yeah, one of the ADs or one of the camera assistants disguised as an extra came in and went behind and swapped the card.

PB: We gave Matt like a couple of minutes break because it’s the moment when Stephen and Jason Flemyng and and Lourdes are at the table and Matt was just one of his assistants just pushed an apple box so he could sit down for two minutes, swap the card then he’d get back up again and move off. We actually shot, we thought you know, if people are—if the film does anything people might be interested in how we made it, we shot loads and loads of behind the scenes stuff, from when James and I were writing it to the shoot.

MK:  I want to see it.

PB: So we just put together a documentary, like thirty minutes.

BR: It’s on the Blu-Ray.

MK: Available on..

PB: Yeah, yeah.

MK: You mentioned Matt Lewis the DoP, round of applause for him, for sure…


HR: Won the BIFA.

MK: That’s quite a feat, but I want to talk to you Phil about your conversations with actors and with him and the dance they had to do that was so specific to this film to anything else you’ve done. Usually the conversation happens when you cut, so how did you choreograph it?

PB: Yeah, well Matt and I—when we came down to London we found the location, it was really important we wrote the script around the location. So James and I would be in there and write it and Matt was very much a part of that. It was very important that we were in the space as much as possible and just choreographing the moves. Myself and James would play every character and run about the space when the restaurant was closed. Mondays it was closed so we’d always be in there and map it out like that. So we started by—and then when the actors came in…

BR: That’s also on the Blu-Ray by the way…

PB: Yeah it is actually. Then when the actors came in, so Matt and I—Matt, James and I had probably two weeks of doing the choreography with the camera, so when the actors came in we knew where that had to be, so I just had to place them where they had to be and then what we did was started it from the beginning really when Stephen’s walking it. We call them beats because there’s no scenes really, there’s no scene numbers in the script. So we do that moment, then we’d go back to the beginning and we’d do beat one and beat two and we sort of built it in layers with the actors. So then it becomes like muscle memory then. But there was never any, in the initial script there was no specific dialogue, there was bullet points in terms of what needed to be said in that moment. And so I wanted the actors during the workshops and rehearsals wanted it to come alive from them really. We would write the things they were saying and then that was the next version of the script. But even when we came to shoot it I’d said to all the actors don’t feel pressured and tied down to that specific dialogue, just listen to each other because it’s incredibly important to just listen. That’s what acting is, really, it’s listening and reacting

HR: Stephen is the master, the master of that.

PB: Oh yeah, you’ve got to be on the top of your game, like. You’ve got to be on top of your game because he would change little things. He had to do the moves so any movement he had to make, that was set but in terms of what he was saying and how he was saying it, it wasn’t different every time but it was tweaked. Actors need to be ready for that and it was part of the casting process. It was a very different process casting this movie, initially I got actors to do a self tape and I just wanted them to tell me a story, the best time and the worst time they’ve ever had in a restaurant while they’re making a cup of coffee. You’d be surprised how many actors have rehearsed this story to within an inch of its life and they’d be sat in their living room with a blue background or whatever background, just stirring an empty cup and then sipping an empty cup. I’m like that’s not what I asked you to do. The people we brought back in were the people who were off the cuff, natural. And then we did some auditions with them where they didn’t have the script, they just had the character, they knew what character they were coming back for. Then we had an actor Robbie O’Neill, he’s a good friend of mine, he’s also in the film, and I’d just say right when they come in I’d say to the actors right you’re late for work there’s some props just come in in character. Then I’d send Robbie in and be like I want you to give them hell. And some of them would be like ‘oh sorry can we do that again I wasn’t expecting that.’ And I’m like, I know you weren’t! That’s the point. So just to see whether people could react in the moment.

HR: Carolyn McLeod was our casting director and we saw so many tapes, so many tapes, hundreds and hundreds of people. We all sat there just watching tapes and tapes—some people were just absolutely outright brilliant from the first time you saw them.

BR: I think it was Gala Botero who plays Maria the dishwasher, and she was—when we saw her, her tape. I think we said—

MK: Was she actually pregnant at the time?

PB: She was, yeah. But like she came into the audition and she basically—I did exactly that. Robbie came in and she just went to town on Robbie in Spanish and I was like…

MK: Scared.

PB: She kind of threw me, I was like she’s got the job. If I don’t give her the job I feel like she’s going to come back and kill me.


But no that’s not why she got the job, she was just amazing.

MK: We’ve got time I think for one, two questions. The lights go up and the hands go up. We’ve got a question and the front here, just in the third row. Wait for the mic, it’s coming. Thank you.

Question: Hi. I have two questions actually. You were a chef then you transitioned into film—I was wondering what made you do that?

PB: Well I was actually an actor for twenty-five years and I wasn’t very successful so I needed to make some money and I started to work in kitchens. I had a lot of friends who worked in bars and restaurants as waiting staff, or in call centres, but I was always really passionate about food. My grandfather was in that industry, my cousin is in that industry. I started working in kitchens to make some money and it took over my life really, to be honest, and it was sort of the acting became a secondary thing. Then I made my way, became a head chef after ten years, but the whole time I was acting I was always really interested in directing. I think at first it was quite subconscious because I was just on set and you’d have one day on a film or a TV thing and—this was before COVID—and I’d be like can I just sit around and hang around for the day, and I’d just sit around at the monitors and stuff like that. I was always really keen, then I made my first short film after basically what made me transition to make the leap and just go for it was my mum passed away quite suddenly six years ago and it was like… What have I got to lose? Life’s too short, let me give it a go and see what happens. So I made this short; first of all I’d said to Bart because Bart and I go way back, I said I want to give it a go, I want to direct something, can you, do you know any good film schools? Because Bart was producing films then as well. He was like, you’ve been acting on film sets for about twenty odd years, you know how it works, right? I was like well yeah… And he said you know about actors because you are an actor and you understand actors. And I said yeah I guess I do. And he said well just give it a go. So that’s how I did it. Made a short, then Boiling Point the short came about then the feature.

Question: That was the short before it became a feature?

PB: Yeah, so I did one short before that and actually I’d asked Stephen because Stephen’s an old mate of mine, Stephen Graham. I’d asked him to be in that short and I was like making my first short I’ve got a lovely part for you and I’d love you to do it. And he was like, erm shall we just get that one out the way see how you get on and maybe we can talk after that? I was like oh, ok, thanks. Gutted, but I totally respect it, he’s Stephen Graham, he’s not going to just put himself in anything. And then the second---I showed him that film, he loved it and he was like what are you going to do next? You must want to do more, and I was like well I’ve got this idea for this chef which is based on my life and what I’ve been through myself. He was like you’re going to play the role then, and I was like no, no, I need to get someone. I was petrified to ask him this time, so I was like yeah I need to get someone who can really embody that character, someone raw. He’s like yeah, well when are you looking to do it. And I was like whenever we get that person, really. He was like right, ok, ok. He said how long do you need? I said five days, maybe? He’s like well I’ll give you three days in December if you’ll have me. So I rang Bart I was like we’re doing the film, we’ve got to do it in three days! Stephen’s on board. And that was the way it went, yeah.

Question: Is it OK if I ask another question?

MK: I think we might be out of time. I’m so sorry. I just want to thank you, team Boiling Point. Good luck next weekend. For the audiences in the room and at home, please tune in to the EE British Academy Film Awards on Sunday 13th March. If you’re in the UK they’ll be at 7pm on BBC One, hosted by Rebel Wilson. The two films that couldn’t make it this evening unfortunately are No Time to Die and House of Gucci. You can see all of the ten nominees for this category and all the other categories on Thank you all, thank you for coming.

PB: Thank you very much.