In August 2014, I received a random message from a film friend telling me to enter the first Funny Women Comedy Shorts Award. There was under a week until the deadline but with an idea in mind and with the help of David Hare (a Leeds based filmmaker) and his girlfriend Sophie who rolled around commando-style with a boom pole, we quickly filmed something, entered with one minute to go and ended up winning it! It was a wonderful confidence boost and a springboard to many other opportunities that followed. I also got a chance to form a friendship with Gurinder Chadha (a Funny Women judge for the Shorts category) and we have stayed in contact ever since. Since winning the competition I’ve gone on to film a further 12 sketches/shorts, a teaser for Warner Brothers and am currently in the post-production on a BFI funded comedy short which I’ve written, directed and also acted in.
I’m incredibly grateful for the encouragement that I received from Lynne Parker and the Funny Women Team and I’ve been lucky to find other wonderful female mentors including Gurinder Chadha, Sara Shulman, Julia Berg and the BFI execs Alice Ramsey and Amy O’Hara. My comedy BFI short is called Fargate and is a female-led story set in Sheffield about a Mum, Maureen who assumes that her daughter is about to do a bank robbery.
Four of the six leads are northern female actors over 35 years of age. I was incredibly lucky (through Nicci Topping Casting) to find the most outstanding actors, including Gillian Waugh and Rita May, who also happened to be based in Sheffield and are best friends in real life too! Another amazing fact was that two other leads: Michael Forrest and Sarah Breen had played small parts in my Funny Women Award-winning short Time Again.
I can see there is a real benefit to working on smaller projects with writer/directors, as there is a rapport and a trust that you form, which can develop into bigger projects. As well as being a female-led story, it has also been a female-led crew (including Georgia Ball as producer), which is something that I’m passionate about championing going forwards.
Doing the BFI short has been an amazing opportunity and I have learnt more than I ever thought I would. We are in the post-production stage and then Fargate will progress onto film festivals. After this, I have a BFI funded comedy feature film treatment to complete and also a comedy tv show in the pipeline, so I’m excited about what’s to come and very grateful that Funny Women exists, as that is really where it all started for me!