Chicks Chat with…Nicola Quilter

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Nicola Quilter one of the fabulous female filmmakers whose films have been shortlisted for this year’s Triforce Short Film Festival held at Bafta on 2nd December. This year’s festival saw a 53% admission rate from women. Yay!! We are pleased as punch we had the opportunity to speak to Nicola who discuss her inspirations and film.

Firstly, congratulations on having your film shortlisted at TFSFF, your films were among hundreds that were entered. What inspired you to make the film?

I submitted a team and a synopsis to the ARRI Alexa and Directors UK Challenge. This was selected, so we then had to develop the script. The writer had an idea about how we get stuck in jobs we hate, with themes of objectification and entitlement. I’m interested in human resilience, tolerance and when the moment of decision comes to make a change. I liked the idea of combining the sexy underbelly of London with the human story of Patience working in the cloakroom.

Tell us a little about your film?

prawn-poster-nicola-quilter-film-cathy-tysonPrawn is black comedy: It’s Patience’s last night in the club she’s worked at for 30 years and also the birthday party for Mason, a man with whom she has a history. She leaves him a small parting gift as her final act. The film is colourful with a dark sense of humour, but it also observes the sadness in the way that privilege behaves and the limited resources with which Patience can achieve revenge.

 

I wanted to take on a big cast and crew – really difficult with no real budget. I started building a team around Xavi Amoros, (cinematographer), Fenella Greenfield (script editor and continuity), Emily Harwood (set and costume design) and Sarah Ashbourn (make up), all of whom I’d worked with before.

I met with the ARRI guys on their stand at BVC, I mentioned that I saw the whole opening sequence as a one-shot and they introduced me to Curt Schaller, who invented the Trinity (steadicam). He said he’d love to support the project and suggested that I speak to Dominic Jackson (the most experienced Trinity operator in the UK.) Thankfully Dom was into the project and you see the results of his work in the opening sequence. At the same event I met Laurent Durham, my AD. I then started calling around actors I’d worked with before, and some I didn’t know, including the wonderful Cathy Tyson and John Lyons. All of whom were incredibly generous with their time and excited about the project.

The Film industry is notoriously hard to break into. What has been your journey to get to this point?

I started as a child actor in film, TV and theatre. The past ten years have been all about learning the craft of writing, directing and producing. I think you have to have a pretty thick skin and be very determined. There are plenty of easier jobs. I’m making my first feature next year with my business partner — Fenella Greenfield. I am also on the WFTV mentorship scheme for 2018 and the Directors UK Inspire programme with Robert Del Maestro.

Name your top three directors and why?

Lone Sherfig – she’s egoless and works in a very mysterious feminine way. Her work is funny, clever and technically incredible.
Kathryn Bigelow – I love her political stance. Detroit is a masterclass in chaos and technique. She has incredible vision, trust in the DNA of her film and her unique process.

Patty Jenkins – so great to see a woman given a max budget and pulling it off. I loved the depiction of the Amazonian women in Wonder Woman. She has survived the studio system -no mean feat- an art in itself.

There is a clear gender imbalance in the UK’s film industry. Data (*from WFTV.org) reveals that only 4.5% of all films were directed by women. Why do you think this is the case?

Because white 50-60 something men have always controlled the world. It’s not very different when you look at how many women are artistic directors of major theater companies, or CEOs of international companies and organisations.

Everyone has an unconscious bias of some sort. So, when you’re a man in your 60’s and a 24 year old guy comes in and pitches his story, he may instinctively relate to it. And so we get stuck in the same demographic telling the same story. I find it really boring. Conversely, I think woman need to step up and stop being so apologetic. And quite frankly, guys need to stop being so arrogant and learn how to make a film before they say ‘ I can do it’.

I was speaking to a producer the other day and this guy barged in, handed over his business card and started talking straight across me. I ripped him a new (insert your own expletive)… and he looked shocked… like he had never been called on it… it’s white, male, middle class privilege.

What I can say is — tolerance is over. Women have proved they can direct and hold a team together as well as man can. It’s sad that in 2017 that this is even a conversation – it should simply be a given.

Quotas are illegal in this country but I’d tear that apart and force 50% of all public funding to go to women. Then you can break it down further into BAME percentages. At least there is finally talk of ‘targets’.

Women have been subjugated and objectified throughout history. In a strange way I think the whole Weinstein thing may be the tipping point. Gal Gadot forcing Warner Brothers to dump Brett Ratner is part of a powerful statement, part of a movement perhaps. Once the hysteria dies I hope we don’t go back to the same old same old. We have to make a concerted effort to make this change permanent.

Does it sometimes feel like an upward challenge because of your gender? If so how have you overcome that?

I’m kind of a ‘male-woman’ so I’m not aware of it affecting me as much as others who are more timid. Recently, I have heard the comments “woman don’t want to direct, they want to do hair and make up” from the mouth of a young advertising executive and “you’ll never get a film funded if the director is a woman” by a well-known film funder. In both situations I didn’t hold back my thoughts on the matter. I’m sure my gender is always an issue but you have to just keep on keeping on.

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Still from Prawn

As with any independent filmmaker, there is always an issue with getting the film financed. How did you find funding?

Beg, borrow, steal, co-erce, credit cards!

Film-making is an expensive art with no guarantee of return – like most artistic endeavors. Funding is always going to be an issue. It’s “how long is a piece of string” and “how can this jigsaw be put together”. It’s totally subjective, success is hard to quantify (unless you only look at money) and you have to be a bit of a maniac to want to do it. Film makers don’t tend to inspire confidence within traditional monetary structures – it’s a risk and most money doesn’t like risk. Fortunately there are some lovely nutters out there prepared to take that risk.

My process has always been “work really hard, get people on board, make it happen”.

What are your hopes for the future of your film?

My hope with Prawn was that it would lead to other projects – it seems to be doing its job because next year we are making a thriller set in London. My hope for that is; on a very low budget we can stay sane and make something exceptional.

Thank you. Wishing all the best!

And thank you!

Interviewed by Karen Bryson

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To stay updated on all things Nicola follow her on

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Visit her site to view more of her work: www.nicolaquilter.com

To book tickets HERE to see the film Prawn at the Triforce Short Film Festival held at BAFTA 2nd December

For screenings and a whole host of seminars and workshops at the Triforce Short Film Festival click the pic for the festival schedule!