Interviewed By Jonathan Marlow
[At the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival]
Her first short film was selected for International Critics Week at Cannes. She received an Academy Award for her third short. She was awarded the Jury Prize at Cannes for her first feature and later dominated the BAFTAs in Scotland (winning the Best Director, Film, Screenplay, Actress and Actor awards). Such a sequence of achievements is essentially unheard of, admittedly, but Andrea Arnold is not your average filmmaker. She appeared on the popular British Saturday morning variety program No. 73 in the 1980s and continued acting on television until 1991. Arnold moved behind the camera as a writer/director for her first short in the late 1990s.
Red Road, her feature-length debut, is the first in a proposed trilogy. Anders Thomas Jensen and Lone Scherfig created the Advance Party concept, crafting the characters and then selecting three first-time feature directors to make films using the same actors in distinctly different tales. Granted, the bar of achievement for the next two in the series is set rather high. Not unlike Dorota Kedzierzawska in her ability to tackle complex themes, Arnold displays a maturity in Red Road that places her among the most talented directors working in the world, female or otherwise.
Although it wasn't your first film, how did Wasp come about?
There is a studio in Britain called Cinema Extreme [a collaboration between the UK Film Council's New Cinema Fund and FilmFour] and their philosophy is to encourage filmmakers who've made a couple of films already by giving them another go at making a short. They commissioned four and I thought that I would just have a bash. They were very heavily subscribed because there are very few opportunities to get funding for films. Every time something like that happens, there's a real deluge of material that's given to them.
And you were one of four to actually get funding.
I was one of four. I wrote three scripts in a week and thought, "Off they go. We'll see what happens." You think that it's a long shot but I was very lucky. They picked Wasp out of the three scripts that I submitted but they said that it was up to me if I wanted to do one of the others. Since they liked that one, I went along with them. I never seemed to have time to make another draft but it turned out all right! [laughs]
Was Wasp conceived, when you wrote it, as being part of something larger or was it always considered to be self-contained as a short?
Just a short. A couple of people have said, "Why don't we make a feature out of that?"
The characters seem exceptionally well-developed. They appear to have a fully formed life before the film begins and they'll seemingly continue to exist after the film ends. This tends to be unusual for a short film.
A few people have said that they want to know what happens next and they want to know what happened before. Although I've been asked about making it into a feature, I personally thought that once you've done something, that's it. You move on to the next thing. But somebody asked me about making another short that's another day in her life -- on the train to Margate or something like that. I quite liked that idea of picking another whole day out of their lives somewhere down the line. Then I had fantasies about doing two more and it could be…
…a little trilogy.
Yes. A little trilogy of three days in their lives.
In a sense, you already have a trilogy of shorts. Not that they're necessarily connected…
First Milk and then Dog.
Dog has a very specific running time.
It had to be 9:48 because of the BBC. It's a very particular slot. It was actually more comfortable around twelve minutes but I had to cut it down to 9:48 to fit the slot. I dislike those restrictions.
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