Combine a demanding job with a top-class sports career and you’re approaching the world of Babies and Bellyboards. The living-life-to-the-full documentary follows veteran midwife Naomi Perkin and World Champion bellyboarder as she prepares to quit her 30-year career.
It’s also an ode to Cornwall, says producer Katherine Press. We spoke to Katherine about focussing on the positive things in life, her passion for storytelling, and the quintessential quirkiness of the British…
D&CFilm: How did the making of Babies & Bellyboards come about? How did you uncover Naomi Perkin’s story and how did you team up with director Giulia Franchi?
Katherine Press: Giulia Franchi (the director of Babies & Bellyboards) and I had been looking for a project on which to collaborate.
Giulia is a very gifted cinematographer and documentary maker, and we were keen to find something which lent itself to her creative vision and my passion for storytelling.
Creative vision – passion for storytelling
Giulia had heard of a family friend who combined her career as a midwife with a prodigious talent for bellyboarding, which had seen her become World Champion, the only woman ever to win the title. She sounded like an inspiring character, so we got hold of her contact details and arranged to chat.
As soon as we got her on the phone, we knew we’d found our subject. Naomi is a force of nature, and her energy, sense of humour and sheer thirst for life pour out of her.
Focus on the positive
Conscious of the prevalence of ‘difficult’ or ‘dark’ subject matter in documentary -invaluable, but at times overwhelming -we wanted to buck that trend with a film that focussed on the positive things in life. Naomi was the ideal fit for such a film.
D&CFilm: At first glance the story of someone looking to retire could seem a very personal one. What are the wider implications of Naomi’s journey in Babies & Bellyboards?
Living life to the full
Katherine Press: The hope is that Babies and Bellyboards can be viewed and enjoyed on many levels. It’s a study of a lively, fascinating woman. It’s a commentary on living life to the full, contributing to society, making a difference, and having fun.
Giulia and I were keen for others to benefit from Naomi’s inspiring example -a woman with a demanding, hugely rewarding career; a sportswoman competing (and winning) against a mixed gender field, and doing so in her 50s; a woman who puts her all into everything she does.
An ode to Cornwall
It’s an ode to Cornwall, to the power, charm and beauty of that setting. It’s also a film about the quintessential quirkiness of the British -and our love of vintage, retro and anything that’s just a little bit silly!
D&CFilm: How does Babies & Bellyboards fit with the rest of your work, in terms of themes and subject matter?
Katherine Press: As a filmmaker, I like to focus on female-led stories, whether factual or fiction. I’m hugely conscious of the need for greater diversity in every aspect of the industry -both behind and in front of the camera.
I won’t wade into the ongoing debate about diversity representation, but suffice to say, I like to do as much to help things progress as I can!
Films with a heart
Plus, I’m a great believer in stories with heart and optimism, whatever the context. And of course, I adore Cornwall!
D&CFilm: The role of the producer can sometimes seem a mystery, can you give a very brief outline of what a producer does and how that related to Babies & Bellyboards?
Katherine Press: The role of the producer can be so many different things!
On larger scale projects, it’s common to have multiple types -execs, line producers, co-producers, associate producers, assistant producers -the list is endless! Each of those will have particular responsibilities and areas of expertise, and the exact nature of each role will vary according to the project.
Happy, warm and fed
On Babies and Bellyboards I was going it alone, so my role included everything from managing the budget, scheduling shoots and handling paperwork (release forms, location permissions, etc), to ensuring my cast and crew were happy, warm and fed!
Thankfully Giulia and I are great friends and she was happy to pitch in too -given her family connection to Naomi, she became the primary contact and was a great help in arranging shoots that would fit around Naomi’s busy schedule.
Something that I particularly enjoyed on this project was devising the list of questions to put to Naomi and our supporting cast, and, since Giulia had her hands full behind the camera, getting to do the interviews!
There’s a certain sensitivity required to tailor your approach to each person, and you also need to be flexible enough to follow the natural flow of discussion, or to redirect it if necessary. I learnt a such a lot from this project!
D&CFilm: A quick look at your Twitter feed sees you’re involved in a number of projects in a number of roles. What will we see from you next?Katherine Press: In addition to my producing, I also work as a writer and actress.
I was fortunate enough to represent the South West, specifically Kneehigh and Hall for Cornwall, in the BBC’s Norman Beaton Fellowship for Radio Drama earlier this year, and I wrote a radio script inspired by that experience that’s currently with a couple of producers. It’s set in Devon and Cornwall, and I’d love to get that made if I can.
A Bad Penny
I’m also in post-production (as lead actress and co-producer) for feature film A Bad Penny, shot on location in Penryn and Falmouth. We filmed it on little to no budget, in all extremes of Cornish weather(!), but we managed to attract a cast that included Zahra Ahmadi (Count Arthur Strong, The Tracey Ullman Show), Craig Russell (Canaries, Songbird) and Pippa Haywood (Green Wing, The Bodyguard).
Dreaming about carparks
Giulia was the Director of Photography both on that project and on another short improvised comedy film which I co-produced and acted in, What does it mean when you dream about carparks? which is currently doing the festival circuit.
To date it has screened at Isle of Man Film Festival, Swindon Film Festival and Film Bath. And alongside that I take on acting and voice work -my acting CV encompasses everything from Midsomer Murders to Captain America!
You can see more of my work at my website
Babies & Bellyboards will be screening at the Cornwall Film Festival on November 10 at The Poly. Get your tickets!