A miscellaneous female directors post

The trailer of Ginger & Rosa, starring Christina Hendricks, Elle Fanning and Annette Bening, and directed by Orlando's Sally Potter. It's the story of two girls living in 1960s London, whose intense friendship is tested by the dramatic events they are living through

Ginger & Rosa has its world premiere at the Toronto film festival tonight, and is released in the UK on 19 October.

alternative link to trailer @ the Guardian

TIFF Trailer: Inescapable - Written and Directed by Ruba Nadda

Ruba Nadda's Inescapable focuses on a father (Alexander Siddig) whose daughter goes missing in Syria. He must go back to Syria, where he hasn't been in decades, to find his daughter and deal with his past. Inescapable also stars Marisa Tomei and Joshua Jackson. It will be premiering at TIFF as a Gala Premiere.

Susanna White: Reigning at this Parade

The expensive and sophisticated BBC/HBO co-production Parade’s End delivers a call to arms to costume drama. As Maggie Brown discovers, it also presented challenges for the woman at its helm, Generation Kill director Susanna White

Parade’s End, the BBC2 period drama that may be the tasteful literary adaptation to unmask Downton Abbey as a soap opera, required an especially experienced director to weave its starry cast together and bring an often meandering narrative into focus.

The epic saga is loosely based around the cataclysm of the First World War, which the central character endures. But it is more truly focused on a destructive marriage and an anguished love triangle, with an enthralling Rebecca Hall playing damaged wife Sylvia to buttoned-up aristocrat Christopher Tietjens, played in stiff upper-lipped style by Benedict Cumberbatch some miserable tory tosser.

So the task needed someone able to interpret Tom Stoppard’s script, adapted from Ford Madox Ford’s novels, while controlling a shifting cast of 110 actors of varying levels of stardom and experience, on 146 sets in England and Belgium, without letting it become disjointed.

Accordingly, the BBC and HBO - main funders of the £13 million, five-part series - turned to Susanna White, 51, whose career has taken off like a rocket in the past eight years. She is hard to pigeonhole, with work including the BBC-led adaptation of Jane Eyre in 2006, the acclaimed Bleak House, produced by Nigel Stafford-Clark, as well as her award-winning Generation Kill for America’s HBO in 2008. (fanning myself from the flawlessness of that filmography) Finally, in 2010, came her break into movies with Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang. (eh everyone mis-steps) She was on a list of just five trusted directors that HBO drew up for Parade’s End, alongside a demand for casting at a very starry level.

“It took me a long time to emerge. I’m afraid I put it down to being a woman,” she says of her slow start. “Even after 12 years of making documentaries for the BBC, I still found it very hard to get work, even to get on to the drama director’s scheme at the BBC. I remember someone on the selection panel saying, ‘What makes you think you can control 100 people?’.”

White, an Oxford University English graduate, won a Fulbright scholarship to study film at the University of California. She has been passionate about film since the age of eight, when she nagged her parents to buy her a Super-8 video camera.

She never held a BBC staff job, but was assisted up the ladder by legendary BBC documentary overlord Edward Mirzoeff, who ran the 40 Minutes documentary strand. Jane Root, controller of BBC2 from 1999 to 2004, supported her drama transition, and commissioned a £200,000 budget drama about Philip Larkin, Love Again, starring Hugh Bonneville and Eileen Atkins, which set her up.

The big turning point came with Generation Kill, the HBO series based on a book by Evan Wright, a journalist who was embedded with US marines in Iraq in 2003, and scripted by The Wire’s David Simon and Ed Burns. White was the lead director, with Simon Cellan Jones.

“I think they said, ‘Oh wow, only men in it - she can control 50 plus actors’,” she says. She points to the similar career enhancing experience of director Kathryn Bigelow, who made The Hurt Locker in 2008 about a US bomb disposal team.

White was sent the script of Parade’s End three years ago, and just wanted to do it. So, how does she approach her work?

“I aim to have a very calm, focused set. I don’t do unnecessary shouting, I don’t throw my toys out of the pram,” she reveals. “Normally, early in a shoot I have to put my foot down. On Parade’s End, there was one American actor not doing what I wanted. He was distracting others, joking. I took him to my trailer and told him, ‘You are off my set if you behave like that’. He thanked me for doing it like that. He never misbehaved again.” (LOL obvious shade @ Jack Huston)

White says she likes to achieve a “quiet authority” on set. “I am pretty forceful about getting what I want, by having a very clear vision.

“Also, most actors just want to feel secure and come out of it well. When you are starting out as a director, working with famous actors can be very tricky. Some don’t want to take notes. I just ignore them for a bit, then they come and ask when they see others are benefiting.”

As the budget for Parade’s End was so big, White says they “had to get a certain level of actor”. She was very involved in casting, as was Stoppard. Anne-Marie Duff, Janet McTeer, Rupert Everett, Rufus Sewell and Stephen Graham are just some of the standout names cast.

[Rebecca] Hall was available for only seven weeks between film projects to record the drama. So White had to fit everything in around her. She describes the actor as “unbelievable, immaculate in her preparation.” She says: “The scripts were not straightforward, but she is so intelligent. She and I had a real connection. We are hoping to do another film together.”

Hall is equally gushing about working with White. “I had seen her Jane Eyre, which was brilliant, and Generation Kill - also brilliant,” she reveals. “I decided that anyone who can pull off these diametrically opposed pieces is probably going to be just right for this material, because she knows her stuff.”
(another collaboration would be amazing. And kick Bandicoot Curdledsnatch to the curb this time)

And what about Cumberbatch? How does the director feel about him?

“I am just very fond of him, given his success,” White says. “He’s an actor who likes talking about things a lot. He’s incredibly positive. He was tired, having just come off the set of Sherlock, and he was force-feeding himself doughnuts, to put on weight, because his character is described as a ‘big, baggy bolster’. But I wanted to keep Tietjens attractive.”

Casting Cumberbatch in the central role initially caused questions at HBO. They had not heard of him, but that eased with the success of Sherlock. It also helped when Boardwalk Empire’s Graham was cast as the ebullient Vincent MacMaster, a colleague of Tietjens.

However, Parade’s End was a nightmare production, says White, since the shoot started last year without a full complement of actors. The schedule was up in the air because not all of the big characters had been cast - a third, in fact.

“I had to rely on all my experience,” says White, who often had to return to scenes several times. “I had to ask the actors to go to the book and research their backstory. I was truthful, saying, ‘I can’t do all the research for you’.”

Sewell, who plays a mad vicar called the Rev Duchemin, was selected just three weeks before shooting a surreal breakfast scene at Rye, where Tietjens meets suffragette Valentine Wannop, played by Australian Adelaide Clemens, and falls in love.

Unsurprisingly, given the difficulties, White welcomed a new BBC director’s agreement earlier this year spelling out the central importance of the director in giving notes, making the first cut and effectively ensuring the creative delivery of the project. “Everyone knows who wrote Downton Abbey, but few know who directed it,” she says. “That imbalance needs to be addressed.”

In person, White, the wife of a Sussex farmer and mother of twin teenage girls, is modest. Also key to why she meshed with Parade’s End and its lush feel is her love of the English landscape. “I put my foot down over shooting in the marshland around Rye, not Northern Ireland,” she admits.

She is now being lined up to direct Johnny Depp’s new family film based on the book The Magic Hat of Mortimer Wintergreen, which is currently in development, backed by Warner Bros.
But surveying her cannon of work, one thing is clear - Parade’s End is probably the most difficult thing she has directed. While it’s not yet clear how well the narrative will pan out, there’s no doubt her talent will be well and truly recognised.

Stories We Tell: A post by Sarah Polley

The following is a guest post from filmmaker Sarah Polley about her new film, Stories We Tell.

Today in Venice my latest film, Stories We Tell, will be screening for the first time. Until now, thanks to the extraordinary decency of many people – including some journalists who have known the story for years and kept it secret – I have been able to keep its contents under wraps.

Knowing that people will now write about the film itself as well as the story it is based on, I’d like to explain a bit of the process that lead to the making of the film and why I’d like the film to speak for itself. I realize that I’m not nearly accomplished enough to write this kind of blog without apology. The world is not waiting for my next film! But because I am hoping to not do any press or interviews about the film for its festival life, I do feel I owe an explanation to the journalists who have helped me keep this secret and been respectful of my process for some time.

Here is the story of how this film came to be, and why I hope people will write about the film itself and not only the story it is based on.

In 2007 I was on set in Montreal, shooting a scene for the film Mr. Nobody. I received a phone call from a friend warning me that a journalist had found out a piece of information about my life that I had kept a secret for a year. I got in touch with the journalist and begged him not to print the story. It was a story that I had kept secret from many people in my life including my father. It took some time and many tears to convince the journalist not to print the story within the week, but I left that conversation convinced that it was not a secret I could keep for long, and that if I wanted the people in my life and outside my life to know the story in my own words, I would have to take action.

I flew to Toronto that night to tell my father the news. He was not my biological father. This had been confirmed by a DNA test with a man I had met a year earlier. I had met my biological father almost by accident, though I had long suspected based on family jokes and rumours that my mother may have had an affair that led to my conception.

My father’s response to this staggering piece of news was extraordinary. He has always been a man who responds to things in unusual ways, for better or for worse. He was shocked, but not angry. His chief concern, almost immediately, was that my siblings and I not put any blame on my mother for her straying outside of their marriage. He was candid about his own lack of responsiveness towards her and how that may have led her to the point where she sought out the affection of another person. And then he began to write. And write and write and write.

He wrote the story of their marriage, her affair (which he put together from other people’s memories), and his relationship with me. He wrote about our need to tell stories.

My biological father, at my behest, had also begun writing the story of his relationship with my mother.
He is a fine storyteller too and one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Each of us had a deep and growing need to tell the story, different parts of it, in different ways, with emphasis on different details, in a way that reflected our own experience and what was most important to us as we are now.

My siblings began telling the story to their friends. Journalists who heard the story from various sources began calling me and asking me to be interviewed about this discovery. Everyone who heard the story seemed to want to own it. Up until then many people had mused aloud to me that the story would make a great film. I disagreed. While it had huge relevance and emotional impact for the people close to it, I felt that this story was in fact quite common. I felt I had seen this film before. However, the process of watching a story take on a life of its own, mutate, and change in so many other people’s words fascinated me. And as the story was told, or perhaps because the story was told – it changed. So I decided to make a film about our need to tell stories, to own our stories, to understand them, and to have them heard.

Personal documentaries have always made me a bit squeamish. I’ve seen some brilliant ones, but they often push the boundaries of narcissism and can feel more like a form of therapy than actual filmmaking. (Though I could listen to anyone’s therapy session and be entertained, I think.)

I’m not claiming that my film lacks self involvement but what I wanted most was to examine the many versions of this story, how people held onto them, how they agreed and disagreed with each other, and how powerful and necessary creating narrative is for us to make sense of our bewildering lives. I wanted the story told in the words of everyone I could find who could speak about it. Whatever my own feelings are about the events that are outlined, about the many dynamic and complicated players or the stunning, vibrant woman my mother was, they are ephemeral, constantly out of my grasp, they change as the years pass. (I declined to use a “voice of God” first person voice over narration because it felt false, self involved, and besides the point.) But I found I could lose myself in the words of the people closest to me. I can feel and hear and see their histories, and I wanted to get lost, immerse myself in those words, and be a detective in my own life and family.

Anything I want to say myself about this part of my life is said in the film. It’s a search still, a search for meaning, truth, for whether there can ever be a truth. I have a lot of trepidation about doing interviews and being asked how I feel about it all. I worry about seeing my deepest feelings about my life taken out of context or shortened or made to fit into someone’s already written story. And I have spent five years deciding, frame by frame and word by word, how to tell this story in this film. I’d hate to see my inability to think before I speak wipe out years of work with one stupid comment that I haven’t thought through.

I have decided not to do any interviews about this film until the film is released theatrically and I hope that doesn’t offend, or that journalists who are assigned to cover the film understand this choice after seeing it. I’m sure it’s annoying to not have a new angle or a different quote than other journalists and I’m really sorry to create that problem for the people who decide to write about it. But I desperately want, at least while the film is on the festival circuit, to have people experience and write about the film before the story – or to experience the many stories that this story has become as opposed to just my version of it. It is, after all, why I made the film in the first place. It’s oblique I know. The film is much less oblique than this fearfully written blog. I’m trying to preserve as much of the experience of viewing it for the first time as I can for those who wish to see it, for better or for worse.

I learned so much along the way. I got to know my mother who died when I was 11 in a way that isn’t usually possible for people who lose parents young. I got to know so much about my family, about filmmaking, about trusting collaborators to keep making the movie when you need to just walk away for a time (for this I have to especially thank my editor Mike Munn, my DOP Iris Ng, Producer Anita Lee and Production Coordinator Kate Vollum, as well as others, who all kept on making the film while I hid in a corner for periods of time). I also learned that people can be more decent and ethical than you imagine. Several journalists, including Brian Johnson and Matthew Hays (and more recently Gabe Gonda, the arts editor at The Globe and Mail), have known this story for years. And while they very much wanted to print it, they all respected my wish to keep this story private until I was ready to tell it in my own words. I think arts journalists in Canada are made of good material generally. I’m so thankful to them for letting me have the space to explore this on my own, ask the questions I wanted to ask, and let this film come out into the world. I never could have made it if I hadn’t had that space and time.

Making this film was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It took five years and tormented me. I didn’t want to make it, and I wanted to give up many times along the way, but I also didn’t want this story to be out there in the words of someone other than the many people who lived it. Now it will be written about in many other people’s words, and I’m finally at peace with that. With the inaccuracies, with the new insights that I may not have arrived at on my own, with the broken telephone that happens when “concentric circles of people,” as my biological father says, begin telling their own stories without experiencing the original versions. That is what the film is about anyway and after five long years I’m actually looking forward to its arrival in the world, and the inevitable mess that comes from a story being told and retold.

had to stop bolding by the end. LBR by that stage you're gonna keep reading the article or you've already checked out from uninterest. Anyway this doc sounds fascinating and it's great to see it getting such good notices.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4