The God's Own Country producer, who was one of 2018's Berlinale Talents, talks to us about her film favourites.
Manon Ardisson: 'Growing up I watched films most days'
What’s your connection to the British Council?
British Council’s Short Film Travel Grant Fund supported my and Francis Lee's trip to Hot Docs to present our short documentary The Last Smallholder in 2015. Thanks to that trip I met Jorge Thielen Armand, the director of La Soledad, a feature film I co-produced. British Council also organises screenings for festival programmers, which is how we got God’s Own Country in front of the Sundance team. And next week I’m doing a series of talks with director Georgia Oakley for the British Council in Berlin!
What are you working on right now?
The release of the two films I produced in 2016, God’s Own Country and La Soledad, has ben time consuming, and I’m very much looking forward to the BAFTAs on 18 February, it’s literally a dream come true. I’m also releasing a high-end short I produced last year, The Energy Within by Samuel de Ceccatty, for the Winter Paralympics in March. The film is about a woman with a prosthetic leg who wants to be a pro athlete, and stars Paralympian Stef Reid. It’s been exciting to work on an impact campaign for this around sports and disability. At the same time, I’m working on a new slate of films and series for my company Ardimages UK. It’s a long process but really enjoyable and exciting. I hope to have more news soon!
What/who originally turned you onto film?
I always wanted to work in the media industry and was initially interested in journalism. From the age of 16 I did work placements in the summer holidays, and in my second year at UCL I got a one-week work experience at Working Title. I spent a week running errands in Soho, reading scripts and talking about films. Everybody just seemed so passionate about what they were doing: I decided then I wanted to be a film producer.
What has been your career high so far?
The success of God’s Own Country has been an amazingly rewarding experience. I think the world premiere in Sundance has to be my career high: we were the only British film in competition and it felt like the conclusion of three years of work. But it wasn’t! The film went on to win awards in many more festivals, and in December 2017 we won the BIFA for Best Film, which was also an unforgettable moment.
What was your first job in the film industry?
My first paid job (rather than internship) was as a runner at Kudos Film and TV. I had done a couple of weeks' work experience there, and had re-organised all the stationery cupboards in the building out of sheer boredom! My boss Anna Mynott was impressed, so when a job became available she offered it to me. It was an amazing place to work and Anna has remained incredibly supportive of my career since then.
What is a key piece of advice you’d give to someone starting off in filmmaking?)
I think it’s important to take all the opportunities you can, especially when you start off. Even if you know you want to be a producer, you are going to need to take other jobs - after Kudos I worked on TV productions before becoming Paul Webster’s assistant - to gain the experience and knowledge that you will need to produce a film. So be proactive by generating and taking opportunities, but also be patient.
What is your favourite British film?
It’s hard to pick favourites, I was raised on the classic Working Title romcoms, and later discovered British social realism, but I think my choice would be East is East simply because when it was released it was the first time I was aware of watching something about Britain (and I probably watched it dubbed in French), but the story of this family also really resonated with me.
If you could have been involved in any film ever made, which one would it be?
I would have loved to have been involved in the making of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, which was the first Hollywood film to portray interracial marriage in a positive light - imagine the impact that film had! I would have been very proud to have been part of that process.
What’s the first film you remember seeing? What was so memorable about it?
I've never thought about that but I think it was Bambi. I remember it because the mum got killed and I was very upset! Growing up I watched films most days - anything from Disneys to French musical comedies like Les Demoiselles de Rochefort or the latest releases.
What’s your favourite line from a film?
I’ve got two quotes from two of my favourite films: "Aim above morality" from Harold and Maud, and "The things you own end up owning you" from Fight Club. Simply because they express clearly things that I believed but couldn't really put into words until I watched these films.
What's your favourite screen kiss?
The honest answer is Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna in Y Tu Mama Tambien, because that was the hottest kiss I had ever seen!
Who’s your favourite screen hero?
Juno. That is one tough (and funny) young woman, and I had never seen anyone else like her on screen before that film.
Who would play you in the film about your life?
What’s annoying is that it would have to be a French actress to capture my ridiculously strong accent! I’m a big fan of Adele Exarchopoulos… It’s presumptuous but then again that’s a presumptuous question!