A mother struggles to accept the man her adult son has become.
Interview with Writer Norelle Scott
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you. In my writing I have always been interested in character and the potential of people to be more than they initially appear to be. My intention is to explore the complexity of human nature through drama. Bridget and Iain began as a commissioned work on Mother/Son relationships. The impact of addiction on families is an area I wanted to explore. Often in my writing I look at the consequences of actions not only on ourselves, but also on those around us, on the people that love us. The power of catharsis and the potential of drama to connect audiences has always been the impulse for my writing and this is especially true of Bridget and Iain.
Bridget and Iain began as a play performed originally in Auckland, New Zealand, and then at The Short + Sweet Hollywood Festival. In Hollywood, the play won the Audience Award for Best Play and Leah Patterson won the Best Director Award. The experience of working with Leah and the cast – Vivienne Powell, Damian Sommerlad and assistant director Joy Dabbs – was so rewarding that, as a team, we wanted to develop the play further.
Collectively we had a desire to capture the performances of the actors and the characters they had brought to life but it was Leah who had the vision to go further than simply recording the play and instead creating a short film in its own right. Leah and I worked over the course of a year meeting and discussing the images for the film, and how to transform monologues into visual language, in order to tell the same story in a different medium.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Audiences should watch this film because it has heart. Audiences have been moved by it and found it touched them in a personal way. This story began as one that was personal to me and as it has developed it has become clear to me how universal the themes of this film are. Audience members have told me how they saw in this film their mother, their brother, and their family.
The performances are truthful, nuanced, and affecting. The film has been beautifully directed, filmed and edited. As a writer the commitment to honouring the writing at every step of the process has been inspiring. Bridget and Iain focuses on love, and compassion. It is about the humanity of its characters and the challenges they face. It also has some charming aspects of kiwi (New Zealand) culture and dialect.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Love, compassion, and the desire to nurture and protect your children, are themes that extend across cultures. Bridget and Iain explores the impact of addiction on the relationship between a mother and her son. It also recognises their love and care for each other within their capabilities. It is a maturation story, a time of letting go and establishing boundaries. The impact of addiction on my own relationships drove me to research the dynamics of addiction on families. I wanted to share with audiences an understanding of that experience, so that others might not feel alone, and to recognise that addicts are individual people, as are their families, and that the struggle is real and complex.
Audiences in Auckland (NZ) responded to the play the film is based on. When I moved to Los Angeles I presented the play at Labtwenty6 (a professional writers Lab) and discovered that although the play was set in New Zealand with Kiwi and Aussie characters, the audience in LA responded to it, was touched by it, laughed at the humour and recognised the pain. The Short + Sweet performances confirmed for me the universality of the story and themes; the response of audiences to the film when it screened at the Diversity in Cannes Short Film Showcase cemented it.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
The script evolved from the play through an active process of re-imagining it as a film. Leah and I discussed imagery, symbols and ways of capturing the essence of the play's monologues cinematically. The first decision was to make Bridget the protagonist. Whereas the play was a two-hander the film focuses more directly on Bridget’s journey. During the development process the script also benefited from discussion with the film editor David Coulson who tracked the narrative line through the story. The film script is more linear and has a clearer sense of time. Dialogue was cut from the longer scenes and off-stage characters removed. An initial draft of the film script was read at the writers’ Lab I attend, Labtwenty6.
Characters that are only imaged in the play, such as ‘Sooky Bubba’ were cast and appear in the film. It was important for me that the film, set in Auckland New Zealand, represented some of the ethnic diversity of that city. It was also important that speaking actors had accents from the region. Being filmed in Los Angeles, we were excited to find Sala Baker and really wanted him for the counsellor role.
The scene was written exclusively from Bridget’s POV and was expressionist and without dialogue. I had written a dialogue version of the counsellor scene and when we approached Sala for the film Leah sent him the dialogue scripts. The scene played so beautifully we all realised it had to be in the film! Iain’s monologue - at one point removed from the script - was reinstated knowing it would work beautifully with David’s editing of the montage sequence it plays over.
The film evolved further in post-production with a striking colour grade that captured the New Zealand light and a sound mix that developed the world of the story. A personal favourite is the sound of Bridget vacuuming when Iain lies on his bed, a clever way of making her presence felt in the scene.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The feedback has been overwhelming. At the play audiences laughed and cried in the ten-minute time span, testimony to Leah’s direction and the intensity and honesty of the actor’s performances. Initial test audiences have connected so strongly with the content many American viewers went straight to their personal connection to the material and barely registered the foreign accents! Audiences respond to the lack of judgment, the poignancy of a mother’s love and the raw emotion and honesty of the performances.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
What surprised me was the universality of the film, the way it connects with audiences from such a wide range of backgrounds. That awakened a new point of view for me. I suspect that by setting the story in New Zealand it became more accessible in the USA by countering stereotypes of race and class. I am now considering, perhaps, it is a chapter in a larger story.
Some viewers have been shocked by the film’s final scene and the way it resolves. This was intentionally challenging and provocative and it has received a range of different and often heartfelt responses.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
The intention is that this story reaches a wider audience. I particularly like the intention and focus of this site. The Kaupapa (or purpose) of this film is to form a connection, to share an experience. For me writing is about moving an audience. It’s about story and meaning. The recognition of women filmmakers is also part of our ethos. The film was made by a predominantly female crew and features a strong female lead character. Bridget is an older woman and older women characters deserve to be seen.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We are currently seeking film festival programmers and journalists to support this film and bring it to the attention of other festivals and to help us to reach out to distributors and sales agents. Additionally, we are seeking producers who resonate with this kind of a story. We are currently developing a complimentary short, which would function as a companion piece to Bridget and Iain.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I would like it to screen in a number of international festivals recognising both its artistic worth and the importance of its content. I would like this film to continue to connect with audiences and I would like it to continue to showcase the talents of its creative team.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
How do you constructively help other people you can’t control? When caring for others how can you practice disciplined compassion while looking after yourself?
Would you like to add anything else?
I was thrilled to see that Damian Sommerlad was awarded Best Actor at The Diversity in Cannes Short Film Showcase.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I have written a companion short film that Leah has expressed interest in directing. Leah and I have a feature film script in the early stages and I also have a full-length play commission pending. Leah is also developing a feature film romantic comedy and working on a web-series.
Interview: June 2018
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Bridget and Iain
A mother struggles to accept the man her adult son has become.
Length: 18 minutes
Who is being interviewed for this article? Norelle Scott - Writer
Director: Leah Patterson
Executive producer: Adriane Scott-Kemp
Producers: Debbie von Ahrens, Diana C. Zollicoffer, Leah Patterson
Writer: Norelle Scott
About the writer, director and producer:
Award-winning playwright and screenwriter NORELLE SCOTT’s credits include ‘Rud’s Wife’ (short) ‘User Friendly’ (feature). Norelle script-edited award-winning drama series ‘Aroha’ and the ‘Tala Pasifika’ series.
Award-winning Australian director LEAH PATTERSON works in theatre, film and television. She is the Literary Manager for Australian Theatre Company, based in Los Angeles.
ADRIANE SCOTT-KEMP is an award-winning producer for live action, animation and VFX.
DEBBIE VON AHRENS is a New York and Los Angeles-based producer. She produced Virgin Territory, an award-winning short film by Emily Robinson.
DIANA C. ZOLLICOFFER is an independent filmmaker. She is a writer, director and producer.
Key cast: Vivienne Powell, Damian Sommerlad, Sala Baker, Jamie Irvine
Looking for: producers, film festival directors, journalists
Funders: Self-funded, and many of the people who worked on the film generously donated their time, skills and talents to realize the project. In addition we were very lucky to have access to post-production facilities.
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? Dances with Films, Thursday 14th June, 5pm at TCL Chinese Theatre, Hollywood.