Louisa Connolly Burnham. Actress, Writer and Producer. Her credits include as actress for Wolfblood, Call the Midwife, The Marine 6: Close Quarters to name but a few. Louisa has just taken her film Call Centre on the festival circuit and it is proving to be a hit! We at Those London Chicks are absolutely delighted Louisa has taken the time out to chat with us.
Louisa, you are a brilliant actress. First passion or had you other ambitions growing up?
Blimey thank you! Acting was most definitely my first passion – from the age of about 4 I used to put on little plays with my Grandad Eric and my Nanny Anne would film them on an old camcorder and little brought me more joy than those moments. I also remember being FURIOUS when I wasn’t cast as “The Virgin Mary” in my school nativity play, so perhaps that was an early sign? (I was the 3rd shepherd from the left).
One of your first major TV gigs was in BAFTA nominated Wolfblood. You went on to many acting roles after that. What made you decide to start writing?
I have always been writing behind the scenes it’s just “The Call Centre” is the first opportunity for the world to actually see it. It’s the first project I’ve written that I felt I absolutely had to make, unequivocally. You can kind of see how excited I was just by the pure speed that we got everything done – I was the definition of a woman on a mission.
You are now producing. Have you always written?
Yes I’ve always completely loved writing since I was a child, in fact if I hadn’t pursued a career in acting I would have wanted to study English at University and gone into a writing-based profession!
Congratulations on your film ‘Call Centre’ which is doing so well on the festival circuit. What inspired you to make the film?
I moved to London on my own when I was 18, a city of 9 million people, extortionate rent, dull day jobs and isolation. For the last three years I’ve been working in a call centre selling life insurance to pay my rent between acting jobs and I’m fascinated by the amount of customer data I have at my fingertips.
There’s the mandatory details, phone number, house address, email and so on and then you build rapport: what are they having for tea? Any weekend plans? Can you believe what happened on Eastenders? You’d be surprised at the information people give over the phone once they feel comfortable.
It got me thinking, what if that information got into the wrong hands? Or perhaps just into the hands of a lonely girl longing to connect?
I want to make a film that refuses to shy away from female sexuality, I think too often women on-screen are simply there to convey the desires of men instead of being sexual beings in their own right. THE CALL CENTRE sees Paige awoken and embarking on an unexpected adventure exploring her carnality from masturbation to being submissive.
Influenced by Sofia Coppola’s LOST IN TRANSLATION and Andrea Arnold’s FISHTANK, this debut tells the story of a despondent young woman enveloped by a city, desperate to be seen.
Tell us about the film?
Paige, an introverted, unassuming young woman, spends her days setting up people’s life insurance in a drab North London call centre. She is bored of her life, longing for intimacy and connection that she unexpectedly finds on the phone with a customer called David. Convinced there was something between them, she decides to break the rules to go and find him. An adventure fuelled first by loneliness and lust turns into something much darker when Paige finds herself out of depth with a total stranger.
You wrote, co-produced and starred in Call Centre what was the hardest aspect and how did you juggle those roles?
The writing was most certainly the easiest part, it flowed out of me very easily and the script itself was written very quickly. I was also very lucky to have an amazing co-producer in Emily Everdee so we were able to distribute the responsibilities between us which took a lot of the pressure off. The directing aspect came more naturally to me than I expected – I guess I underestimated the amount you absorb from just being on sets over the years even if just as an actress. I prepped very thoroughly with my DOP so there were no surprises on set, we had a great 1st AD to keep us on track, Emily was running the show slickly behind the scenes, we had a superb cast and crew and friends and family were there helping too, so thankfully I was able to both direct and star in it with ease. In fact it was a lot of fun and I’d certainly be happy taking on all of those roles again, after all I am a woman and multi-tasking is out forte, right?
As with any independent filmmaker, there is always an issue with getting the film financed. How did you find funding?
We raised the money through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, we did a 4 week campaign and raised £18,000 which was £3,000 more than our original target so we were overjoyed and able to pay everyone properly which was very important for us.
What are your hopes for the future of your film?
Once “The Call Centre” has finished it’s festival circuit at the end of 2020 we will release it online – we’re not exactly sure where yet but will be discussing this with short film distributors in due course and will let everyone know as soon as possible. In the meantime we’re just hoping to get into more fantastic film festivals with more nominations and hopefully some wins!
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 or produced by women. Do you think things are changing?
I certainly think we’re heading in the right direction but we’ve still got a hell of a long way to go. There’s literally thousands of years of misbalance to fix and that includes a ton of internalised misogyny too.
We at Those London Chicks are all about positive thought, positive outcome. What would be your next dream project and why?
My dream role has always been Lady Macbeth but other than that I just want to continue to play, write and direct brilliant, dynamic, well-formed, interesting female characters – I’d be a very happy chick if that was my lot in life.
Finally, what’s next for you. More filming making?
I have a few projects in development with my production company Thimble Films as I’m really keen to direct again and of course continue my first love of acting – watch this space!
Thank you Louisa!
Interviewed by Karen Bryson
Photo Credits: Stewart Bywater