Deborah Haywood, Writer-Director
Can you remember the moment that you realised you had to be a filmmaker?
It was after being selected for Stars of Tomorrow in 2007. Directing my short film had been terrifying and I suspected I would be more suited to being a writer than a director. Then I learned about the appalling statistics for women directors and realised I had an opportunity and duty because if girls and young women see other women directing then they’ll know it’s something they could do, too. We have to be visible and on their radar. Almost like an invitation.
What inspired you to tell this story?
My own pain and loneliness and experience of being in this world. Wondering if anyone out there also felt like me. I think for me the point of writing and filmmaking is to try explore stuff that I’m still grappling with, stuff that still affects me emotionally, so I can try and understand it, and maybe even deal with it…
Is there anything that links your work? Can you describe it in one word, and then elaborate?
ME. Probably a shit answer but I think every film I make is kind of a bit like me. Real but prone to being dreamy, emotional, a bit funny, likes to ‘go there,’ loves the dark places and is drawn to the taboo. And likes colours. A couple of times people have been looking for my flat and said they looked through my window and knew it was my place because it looks like my films!
What connection to you seek to have with the audience?
In Pin Cushion it’s one of mutual recognition, I think. Like, is anyone else out there like this/me? If so, let’s hug.
Tell us about where you come from and how it filters into your work?
I’m from Swadlincote, in South Derbyshire. It’s a small ex-mining town. It filters into my work automatically because I think where you’re from creates who you are so Swad is in my DNA. It’s a unique place and growing up I think I felt ashamed to be from there because we all talked “Pit talk” and said Ayup me duck, and canner/dunner/wunner etc and I wanted to come from wherever Bananarama/Dexy’s Midnight Runners/Adam Ant came from! I remember actually practicing saying “Hi” and “Hiya” with a friend, so we could appear more sophisticated. Now I love all that and I’m sad it’s dying out now the pits are all gone…
Do you work within a spiritual framework? Do you have or grow up with a spiritual belief and does it impact in your work?
Me: Mum, did we grow up with a spiritual belief?
Me: What do you think it means?
Mum: It means where you see spirits and that sort of thing. Just put no.
Tell us about the latest film / exhibition / book / public figure / article to have inspired you?
Marina Abramovic’s book. Reading it made me feel really alive. She’s brave but not without fear, shows us that the process is as important as the work. And it’s about the cost of art on the artist. And how it’s always worth it. (not what she says but it’s what I took from it).
What frustrates you about what you do?
That British cinema isn’t celebrated and supported in Britain in the way it is say in France. And the tickets to see our films cost way too much.
How do you overcome this?
Keep making films. (make art)
What does the ‘male gaze’ and ‘female gaze’ mean to you?
The male gaze (to/for me) means that a woman is looked at and photographed in a sexual way or how men want us to look. The female gaze for me is a woman photographed in a way that we see ourselves. I hope we have a female gaze on Pin Cushion. The problem is that we’ve seen the male gaze for so long now that it’s become how we feel we need to be seen (and we’re not even aware of it or that we’re doing it).
Are you hopeful about equality in film, and wider society? Please tell us why.
Yes I am. Although I think there’s a lot of work to do. And for a long time. We all have to unpick our mass unconscious bias, which is hard. But just learning that we have it and I’ve been part of the problem (shudder) and I didn’t even know until I started thinking about all this has been a revelation to me. Once we can see ourselves more clearly we can hopefully start to change our inherited patriarchal thought patterns and behaviour.