The director, who models herself on Ferris Bueller and would like Gal Gadot to star in the film of her life, reveals her film influences.
Georgi Banks-Davies: 'Advice? Just make it. If it’s crap, bury it.'
What’s your connection to the British Council?
The British Council supported me, my screenwriter Myra Appannah and producers Natasha Moses and Mikey Levelle with travel grants to attend Sundance this year. We were fortunate enough to have our short film Garfield in competition there. Without that support I’d still be eating beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I suspect!
What are you working on right now?
I’m in post right now on my next short film, working title The Fight, written by the wonderful Abby Ajayi and produced by the most patient producer in the world, Natasha Moses. After making a romanic comedy of sorts with Garfield, I decided to make a violent, masculine tale of self punishment and loss of identity ... a natural progression! I’m also developing a couple of feature scripts for that elusive debut.
What/who originally turned you on to film?
As cheesy as this sounds, it was the first time my mum took me to the cinema. The film was The Black Cauldron and I was instantly transfixed. After asking my blank-faced family incessantly how films were made, they did the only thing they could to shut me up and gave me a Super 8 camera from my aunt's second-hand shop. I shot loads of films but had to wait a couple of years until she got a projector in the shop to watch them!
What has been your career high so far?
Our first screening at Sundance: the film cuts to black then the music kicks in and the audience cheered instantly. It was so overwhelming and humbling and a million other emotions impossible to articulate. It’s also crazy at a festival like that when you see people who have paid 20 bucks to see your film sat there in a packed cinema. In fact, I feel like one of the 12 moonwalkers now – once you’ve been to the moon what else is ever gonna match that high? Gotta get a feature in there next, or Cannes or Berlin or any of the other incredible festivals. I’m not fussy, as long as the cinema's not empty.
What was your first job in the film industry?
My very first job was as a runner on a film while I was in film school. I then spent my last year of film school as a clapper loader on dramas. When I graduated I was super fortunate to land a BBC traineeship in directing – in the creative department making short form promos. I was obsessed by ads (still am, I direct those in between films) and it was an amazing place to train. I’m very lucky to say, post-film school, I’ve never had a job as anything other than a director.
What key piece of advice would you give to someone starting off in filmmaking?
Just make it. If it’s crap, bury it. Don’t be afraid to fail. I think of making films like an artist's sketch book – just keep drawing. Not every one of them has to be a masterpiece. Not every one has to be shot with a fancy camera with a massive crew. I still have to remind myself of that constantly. Also, trust your gut – mediocre work comes from mass input. Be strong, be brave, choose wisely who you listen to.
What is your favourite British film?
So many. In this moment I'm going to say A Taste of Honey. Or Ratcatcher. Both built atmosphere and character in ways that stuck with me long after seeing them.
If you could have directed any film ever made, which one would it be?
Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love. As a director you’re taught the rules of filmmaking. He breaks them at every turn in that film. As a result, the audience is washed in this gloriously painted love story. I’d love to have broken the rules so brazenly and beautifully like that.
What’s the first film you remember seeing?
Watership Down, at home when I was about three, I think. It was like watching a horror film, my sister and I were shaking and crying while watching it – I guess my folks thought: “It’s a cartoon, it’ll be fine”. Even now if hear the music it makes me want to cry.
What’s your favourite line or scene from a film?
Alfredo in Cinema Paradiso: “I choose my friends for their looks, my enemies for their intelligence.” Perfect life advice.
What's your favourite screen kiss?
It’s a toss up between Andy kissing Mikey in The Goonies – I remember, as a kid, thinking anyone can get the cool girl – or the kiss between Frida (Salma Hayek) and Tina (Ashley Judd) at the end of the dance scene in Frida. It was one of the most powerful displays of female sexuality I’d ever seen on screen at that time. At first it's like they are playing to the male gaze, then slowly it starts to feel as though they are the ones in control. That scene is hot!
Who’s your favourite screen hero or villain?
Ferris Bueller: he’s so good and so bad all at the same time. I model my whole life on his, but still can’t pull off a denim jacket with such effortless swagger.
Who would play you in the film about your life?
Gal Gadot, so I might be mistaken for Wonder Woman! Also if someone is gonna make a movie of my life I need at least one massive draw to get people to watch it!