Meet Filmmaker Francesca Brill
Our ‘Filmonomics Filmmaker Profile’ series spotlights each of our 2015 Filmonomics participants, giving you an insight into their projects and working practice. This week, we chat to Francesca Brill about journeying from acting to screenwriting and filmmaking – and telling stories in innovative and emotionally truthful ways…
- Why do you think you are a filmmaker?
I came to filmmaking through being an actress and a screenwriter so I guess I’m a storyteller and my obsession is how best to tell visual and emotionally engaging narratives while rising to the challenge of being both innovative and entertaining. My first film experiences were pretty extreme in that my dad was a teacher at an art school and as a very young child I was left in the dark of the screening room for hours on end watching experimental student films. I had some pretty confusing moments trying to understand what was going on but I think that left me with a visceral sense of security about being in a cinema, a curiosity about how to make sense of the images that I saw and a real feeling for how powerful film is. Later in my career as an actress I had an incredible array of experiences on various sets so by the time I started making my own films I really had a very clear idea of what stories I wanted to tell.
- What is the project you are burning to make and why?
It’s called CONSUMED. It’s a thriller and a love story set in the world of international finance with particular focus on our relationship with China. It’s a story about feeling alone while apparently being at the centre off the universe. It’s about how to make human contact and what gets lost in translation. Language is only one of the many ways we communicate and this story explores how intimacy can be found in the unlikeliest ways. The story is a metaphor for Britain’s uneasy relationship with China which will certainly inform our future, It feels urgent to me to explore and reflect this dichotomy which is central to all of our lives whether we live in Shanghai or in Southampton. I love the way cinema can explore the human experience in the most subtle, detailed way at the same time as in as the most meta.
- Tell us about the latest film / exhibition / book / public figure / article to have inspired you.
I’m a huge fan of Joanna Hogg’s, of Andrea Arnold’s, of the Dardennes brothers, of Jacques Audiard. Most recently I was blown away by Ana Lily Amirpour’s Iranian vampire movie for the way it plays shamelessly with genre and manages to be both funny and frightening as well as subversive. I love Pippilotti Rist’s art – it’s personal and strange and challenging, all saturated colours and super-magnified images which seem almost medical in their detail.
- What frustrates you about what you do? How do you overcome this?
Trying to make films is a frustrating experience for everyone. I guess raising finance is the most frustrating part of the process. While waiting for my features to be set up I’ve been making short films with no budgets and what started as a kind of exercise has become a series of films that I’m very proud of. Each one represents a particular challenge (primitive equipment or no sound at all or untrained actors or natural light) but they have all been opportunities to tighten my technique and give me more confidence for the day we turn over on the feature. I’ve also turned a frustratingly un-produced screenplay of mine into a novel which was published by Bloomsbury. I’m not sure that I’ve succeeded in overcoming my frustration though!
- What advice can you offer up to someone who wants to make filmmaking his or her career?
Have a trust fund. Just kidding! Well obviously the first thing is not to give up. Practise wherever and however you can and don’t wait for role models because you have to be your own hero in a way. You can only make what you can make – that’s why your work is unique and worth making but I wish I’d had more confidence much earlier in my career. Also make the effort to understand how films are financed so you can be patient and creative with the process. Remember at all times that it is a collaborative affair. Find your people and build a team. Be strong, determined, and flexible.
- Tell us about your experience on the Filmonomics programme…
It’s been amazing to be in the company of so many brilliant people and eyeopening to see that they are as frustrated as I have been. Sharing our experiences, our stories, our skills has been genuinely inspiring. I realise that one of my personal obstacles has been the confusing lack of role models – it has taken me far too long to feel equally entitled as the guys.