Hell hath no fury like an older woman scorned.
Interview with Producer Karen Newman
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you! It was a brilliant script and a story we felt would resonate with all women. Traditionally in stories, strong, ambitious women have got their comeuppance or fallen apart, but Margot is here literally to steal the show – and in doing so challenges society’s view of older women and what they can be. The experiences of women in or even passed middle age, which are so complex, so multi-faceted and relevant must no longer be erased from the art form. The stories of these generations of women are a crucial part of the fabric of our Society, of our cultural legacy - and must be told.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Lady M, a film about the trials of an ageing actress to secure a relevant role, isn't just a great story, but a metaphor for an underrepresented demographic and reaches beyond the film, television and theatre industries. Margot’s experience of the world is unpredictable, unresponsive and not always benevolent, one that many older women might identify with. The ability to control one’s environment or the ravages of time seem impossible. In other narratives Margot may have been portrayed as a victim to be pitied, a self-deluded tragic character or a nuisance to be ignored. Here, however, Margot refuses to be beaten. She is a force of nature with a burning ambition to succeed and, like Shakespeare’s iconic heroine, Lady Macbeth, she summons the strength and will to control and shape her own future.
Margot may conjure the spirits in order to help her fight back but in reality, it is the magic within her, her own strength, courage and humour that power her through. I hope the message is an empowering one for an audience, do not let anyone extinguish your flame, we all have the power to burn brightly.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
It is important to me that women are fairly represented in front of and behind of the camera. The film has a female writer, female director and female producer, I am quite sure we were likened to the three witches at some point! Joking aside, it was a very strong ensemble of fantastically talented individuals. I am a strong believer of the best person for the job, I would never advertise for an all-female crew for example. In an attempt to readdress the balance, you can end up sending out the wrong message. It works at both ends of the age spectrum too, we gave opportunities for young people to gain experience amongst our more experienced crew as I believe that is also incredibly important. I do like to challenge people’s perceptions of the norm though… our Make Up Designer was male, incredibly experienced and very talented. He came up against some opposition from older members of the production as they struggled to comprehend that a man was doing what is ‘stereotypically’ a woman’s role and questioned his ability. He handled it with grace and humour, but it does show that we need to move on from outdated perceptions of gender roles within certain industries. As we were focussing on how women are treated within the story of Lady M, I think this is an interesting anecdote!
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
The script was actually a lot longer than what you see on screen. We wanted to make a short film that was impactful and punchy and left the audience wanting more! Also we had to consider out budget and resources we had available. The director worked hard with the writer to hone the story down to what we felt was important.
We felt it was important to have a respected name for the title role. The film is about an actress in her fifties, so we set ourselves the task of finding one! To be honest as soon as Sam’s (Samantha Bond) name was on the table that was it, we had found our leading lady we just had to persuade her to do it. I owe all the casting genius to the incredible Ben Cogan. I remember sending him the script and quite literally sitting there with my fingers crossed until the phone rang and he said he couldn’t resist casting it. That incredibly iconic cast you see on screen, Samantha Bond, Eleanor Bron, Ann Mitchell … that was all Ben. And what a cast!
We were lucky, she loved the script and the concept and wanted to do it because of the important message. I remember at the end of the shoot thanking her for coming on board, she looked at me and said “thank you for asking me Karen”. Landing Sam was a huge help in attracting cast and crew, being able to say we had attached her made subsequent conversations easier. It still wasn’t simple though; the humour of the film comes from having these iconic actresses talking about roles that they had lost … so the cast had to be iconic to really get that message home. Again, I salute Ben for totally understanding what we were trying to do and consequently delivering!
What type of feedback have you received so far?
It’s has been great. People have really got on board with the message and the film has had a great festival run. We have won awards too which is always nice. Winning The Best Film for Change at the Bolton film Festival in the UK was a highlight as it showed the film was making a difference and challenging perceptions.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
It is always quite nerve wracking releasing your film to the public and hearing their reactions. You have lived with something privately for so long and then suddenly you have to share it. There is a lot of self doubt going on! People find it funny and a little quirky and I think they engage with the message because they are being entertained. I am very happy with how it has been received.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I would like the film and the people who worked so hard to make it happen have as much recognition as possible. It would be great to reach more audiences.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Selling a short film can be a bit tricky but that would be ideal so yes sales agents, buyers and distributors would be great. We would love the film to continue its festival run for a bit longer and get a further outreach and any publicity for the film and the team would be great. So journalists feel free to get in touch.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I would like people to enjoy the film and through entertainment learn a subtle lesson about how older women are treated in the workplace and in life. Also if it makes people think for a second that they have the power to change their own destiny and burn more brightly then that is an empowering message. We should empower each other rather than try to knock each other down.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Would the film have the same impact if it were an all male cast with older men struggling to get leading roles?
Would you like to add anything else?
I would like to see more finance made available for feature films starring older female leads.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I am developing some feature film projects at the moment which is very exciting and currently looking for finance partners and distributors. The director Tammy Riley Smith, Ben Cogan and myself are actually all working together on an Australian Co-Production which we hope will go into production later this year.
Interview: January 2019
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Hell hath no fury like an older woman scorned
Director: Tammy Riley-Smith
Producer: Karen Newman
Writer: Melissa Knatchbull
About the writer, director and producer:
TAMMY RILEY-SMITH started her career as Development Executive at Working Title Films, working on a slate of films, including Elizabeth, The Interpreter and Plunkett & Macleane. She wrote and directed Ain’t Misbehavin’, which won the Kodak Short Film Prize, screened at 11 international film festivals including Cannes and was released theatrically with The Dish. She won WFTV’s Directing Change Award and worked as Trainee Director to John Madden on Proof, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins. Tammy’s debut feature film, Delicious, starring Louise Brealey and Sheila Hancock, premiered in competition at Busan International Film Festival and, after a successful festival run, secured an international release in 2014.
In addition to a masters degree in screenwriting from the University of the Arts and one in Creative Writing from Middlesex, MELISSA KNATCHBULL went to Webber Douglas Academy of Performing Arts and has had over 20 years experience as a professional actress, with many credits in film, television and theatre, like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mission Impossible, Dalziel and Pascoe and Randall and Hopkirk, to her name. Inspired by ageism and an imbalance of women in the creative industry, Melissa wrote her first short film script Lady M. She has also written three feature films.
KAREN NEWMAN is an award- winning producer whose most recent feature film Just Charlie has enjoyed a notable festival circuit and has won many awards including the prestigious Audience Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. It has been sold to many territories around the world including Amazon in the USA and most recently to SKY cinema in the UK. Following successful careers as a performer and with Global Events Management, Karen turned to producing and has produced a number of festival short films including Lady M starring Samantha Bond (Tomorrow Never Dies, the World is not Enough) and Eleanor Bron (A Little Princess, Black Beauty) and Bertie starring Alison Steadman (Life is Sweet, Gavin and Stacey) and Arthur Darvill (Dr Who, Broadchurch).
Key cast: Samantha Bond (Margot), Ann Mitchell (Cleopatra), Eleanor Bron (Edith), Laura Aikman (Chloe), Kim Vithana (Eloise), Michael Thomson (Brad), Jotham Annan (Richard)
Looking for: sales agents, distributors, film festival directors, buyers, journalists
Facebook: Lady M the film
Funders: Self Funded/Indiegogo
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? https://www.covenfilmfest.com/schedule – 9th February 7-8:30pm, NEW PEOPLE Cinema, San Francisco