It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since I created my first short film - ‘Nan’.
I could never have expected the film to reach the diverse audience it did and to win a Royal Television Society Award. Soon after it’s release, it was blogged about by Ancestry.co.uk and televised on Sky Arts. It was even reported about locally in papers and on ITV News and has since been viewed by millions online (not bad for a student film, ey?!) - but how was the film made?
Whilst the main inspiration behind the film came from my relationship with my own Grandmother, what sparked the making of the film was this quote which I still have up on my wall today;
“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” — Louis L'Amour.
I had decided that the main themes for the film would be friendship, journey of life, reminiscence and relationship.
During life we can experience incredible bonds and relationships that enhance how we live, who we are and what we do. We are constantly learning. I wanted to make something that audiences could relate to through their own special relationships with others and something that represented the theme of life. I wanted the challenge of telling this journey in a short film.
I have been looking back at all the research I did and can see how even today nostalgia plays a big part in our lives. I mean, all you have to do is go on Facebook and you’re reminded of what you had for breakfast this time last year. It fascinates us!
What I learnt from watching other silent films and shorts is the power behind real emotion and feeling. If you look at the film The Artist you will see how the story of two lovers is told without dialogue but is equally as effective as films that use a powerful script or story line.
Not many people know that when I wrote Nan, I tried to imagine an actress, someone other than my own Grandmother, playing the role. It was only after a conversation with producer Rosie Jones, that it dawned on me that no one, other than my Grandmother, could portray the feelings and emotions I wanted the viewer to experience. So, Nan was cast!
So, the film began with a list of memories from my relationship with my Grandmother. But, some of them weren’t visually interesting and I had the challenge of working out which ones would fit within a timeline of someone’s life. Then I realised that what we are taught growing up, are the things that are eventually reversed and used to help others live their lives; my Grandmother tied my laces when I was 5, I tie hers now she’s 81!
Using my own Nan was perhaps the best decision I made during the entire process. I knew it was a big risk using someone who was not a professional actor, but for me it was more about showing a true representation of a Nan. She was already connected to the story because it was based on her and as I wrote it I realised it was our story coming to life. If you really believe in something it is worth the risk. I discovered during the editing process that the majority of the film is made up of shots that were not scripted. I remember telling my Nan to just be herself because that is what the film is about.
‘Nan’ was an incredibly valuable journey of self-discovery for me. I wanted to produce a film that would work all over the world, where audiences could relate to the piece not only because there is no dialogue, but also to reminisce and think of people who have made a big impact on their lives. I am grateful to my Nan for inspiring me to create something special to me, and something that has sparked change across the world.