Chicks Chat with…
Jane Gull, actress, screenwriter and award winning film director. Her career has gone from strength to strength with many short films under her belt. These include: documentary short Our Street. Drama: Hitler & Henry VII, Saints & Whores, Twitcher, Together Alone and I Want to Be. Her debut feature film the exquisite My Feral Heart was recently released to global critical acclaim making her a director to watch in 2017 and beyond!! We at Those London Chicks are pleased as punch that Jane has taken the time out to chat with us!!
You started out as an actress what made you want to write and direct?
I set up my own youth theatre group when I was twelve years old. I would write, direct, choreograph and usually cast myself in the lead male role. We were lacking in boys and I often found the boys parts more interesting. I never really enjoyed screen acting and when I hit thirty began to enjoy it even less, partly due to lack of auditions and interesting characters. As a performer I have always preferred live performance and had some wonderful experiences working with theatre directors. I have always been creative and told stories so film directing felt like a natural progression. Writing is a different beast and I have mainly done this through necessity.
How did you make the transition and was it an easy one?
My first experience behind the camera was as a choreographer. This often involved working with actors and the camera department. This combined with my acting experience made the transition pretty fluid. I actually think my dance/choreography background has really enhanced my directing skills
Your film making has really picked up momentum over the last few years. With little to no “let up” on compelling and important story telling. The subject matter for your films are always challenging and extremely thought provoking. Is that a conscious thing for you?
I have always been a very curious person and interested in the world. The films that I have made have all been subjects that are important to me and I care deeply about all my characters.
“My biggest inspirations are real people…”
Would you say you have a specific filmmaking style, if so how would you describe it?
How would I describe it? Ummm…that’s difficult. I strive to find the three H’s in a story. Heart, humour and hope. Not sure that describes my style though? I use a lot of handheld camera work and try to find the beauty in the bleakest moments. I hope my films are never described as having ‘style over substance’.
Have you found it more difficult as a female director? In your opinion do you feel there is a glass ceiling when it comes to independently employing female directors in an already fiercely competitive business?
Time will tell. I have always generated my own work. I am yet to be ‘employed’ as a director.
Who or what are your inspirations as a filmmaker?
When I was a teenager I had a huge poster of Sylvester Stallone on my bedroom wall. I was totally obsessed with the Rocky films and would choreograph routines to the soundtrack. Sylvester Stallone refused to sell the Rocky script unless he played the lead. I really admired his talent, his movies and his determination. Ken Loach films always strike a cord with me and his integrity has always inspired me as a filmmaker. BUT my biggest inspirations are real people that I’ve met and continue to meet and usually are not anything to do with the film industry.
You wrote and directed an extremely powerful short film called “I want to be“, dealing with the little talked about, constantly growing issue of sexual exploitation and Human Trafficking in the UK. What prompted you to tackle this huge subject?
You’re right it’s a huge subject – sadly. During the London 2012 Olympics I volunteered for an anti-trafficking charity to raise awareness about this awful crime. As you say it’s a huge subject so I choose to focus on one element for this three-minute film. ‘I Want To Be’ is now used by the charity Unchosen as part of their awareness campaign. There’s definitely more awareness of these awful crimes but still a long way to go because it’s still happening.
For those who may not know much about My Feral Heart, tell us a bit about the story?
A sudden bereavement throws Luke, a fiercely independent young man with Down’s syndrome, into a daunting new environment where he finds unexpected support from his feisty, streetwise carer and a local heir dealing with his own demons. As friendships bloom and long-buried secrets are revealed, Luke verges dangerously close to disaster.
My Feral Heart is brilliantly written by Duncan Paveling, you make a great team. How did your partnership come about?
We were introduced through a friend of a friend about six years ago. Duncan mentioned My Feral Heart and the rest is history as they say! He’s currently working on a new script. I can’t wait to read it.
My Feral heart is being received extremely well, receiving multi nominations and wins as well as critical acclaim with Mark Kermode calling the film “richly rewarding” giving it 4 stars. How do you feel?
It’s been wonderful to have someone like Mark Kermode champion our film and say such lovely things. No doubt it’s has helped our little indie film reach a wider audience. We will be forever grateful.
My Feral Heart is an exquisite film, beautifully shot and directed with magnificent, sensitive performances from the entire cast. I know there was a limited budget (as with most Independent films). How did you guys manage to make a such a stunning feature film of this calibre?
Ahhh thank you, that’s very kind. We were blessed with a wonderful cast & crew who all gave so much of themselves. We shot a bulk of the film in the village where I grew up so we had the full support of the local community. It’s a combination of so many things and everyone has a part to play in the films success.
Sunny Boy staring the fantastic Darren Kent and Lewis Nicolas won several awards in numerous festivals. What inspired you to write the film?
I have worked and lived in some very hot countries and got badly sunburnt on more than one occasion. When I was researching skin damage I came across the condition Xeroderma Pigmentosum. I knew very little about the condition so decided to write a short film about it.
Your husband Lewis in an actor whom you worked with on Sunny Boy. How was it directing him?
Directing Lewis is a dream as he’s such a wonderful actor and fearless. We are currently developing a project together so I hope that it won’t be long before I am directing him again.
We at Those London Chicks are all about positive thought making things happen. So with that in mind, what would be your next dream project?
My dream project would combine all my passions – drama, dance and travel. It just so happens I am developing a project that ticks all these boxes.
This is a toughie Jane, but what are your top 3 films?
No don’t do this to me.
Okay I’m choosing these because of how they made me feel.
Dancer in the Dark
What advice would you give to an up and coming filmmaker?
Stay in your own creative bubble, limit the amount of time you spend on social media and be nice!
Finally, what’s next for you?
I’m attached to several film projects so I hope it’s not long before I am shooting again.
Thank you so much for chatting with us Jane!
Interviewed by Karen Bryson
Take a look at the fantastic trailer for My Feral Heart
Don’t miss the chance too see this incredible film on the big screen! The last official cinema screening of My Feral Heart will be on the 21st March – World Down Syndrome Day. There will be over 50 screenings taking place on one night all over the country. £1 from every ticket sold will go to Down’s Syndrome Research Foundation.
Jane wil be doing a Q&A at the London at the ODEON – Panton Street in Piccadilly Circus screening. Please book your tickets before the 12th March here: https://www.ourscreen.com/screening/43311?source=email-share without your support of this Independent Film the screening won’t happen! Or find a screening near you here.
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You won’t regret it!