It’s rare that female friendship is explored on film. For Patrick, an Exeter Phoenix commission for Two Short Nights, Louisa Fielden takes two schoolgirls, an older boyfriend and mixes in social media for a film of complex emotional truth. We asked her about how the film was made
D&CFilm: Tell us about Patrick and what attracted you to the story.
Louisa Fielden: Patrick depicts a defining afternoon between two schoolgirls as they take intimate photos to share with an older boyfriend. I’m very interested in stories about female friendship and the complexity of women’s emotional lives. I’m also surprised by how rarely these topics are explored on screen, so that was the jumping-off point creatively.
D&CFilm: What do you look for in a story, and how does Patrick fit in terms of themes and style with your other work?
Louisa Fielden: Well my previous short film, People You May Know, was definitely a commentary on social media and digital technology, and these are also the central ideas in Patrick. So in that sense it’s fair to say there’s a recurring theme. But Patrick’s shooting style was very different — deliberately naturalistic, handheld and barely lit. This approach was new for me, but very liberating and I think it serves the storytelling well. My previous work has been very cinematic in terms of its framing, its developing shots, and how scenes are lit. But with this film we were working with a total budget of £1,500 (kindly given to us by Exeter Phoenix). You simply can’t afford certain equipment or personnel with that kind of money. But I tried to turn this into a positive, by developing a much more impromptu directing style. Yes we didn’t have lights, but that meant we could eschew traditional marks and blocking, and instead focus on getting to the emotional truth of each scene. It was a great way to work, and I hope the overall effect is that every audience member feels like an intimate participant in the film.
D&CFilm: For People You May Know, you described how the actors prepared. Did you go through a similar process with the leads for Patrick, and what do you think each brings to the role?
Louisa Fielden: I actually deliberately took a very different approach with these actors because this isn’t a conventional film. We had a skeleton crew this time, and it was a much more fluid creative process. I wanted the actors to be open to improvise and have the space and the confidence to do that. Kristy Philipps (Florence) brings a lot of natural charisma and has great instincts. She’s funny and interesting, and I feel that comes across. I cast Yasemin Ozdemir (Amina) just based off a hunch really (she’s still in a drama school), but it really paid off. She has a very intense presence on screen, in the best way.
D&CFilm: Looking at the trailer, you seem to be toying with the notions of male gaze through female eyes. How important is it to challenge what some see as a traditional film dialogue to offer up new ways of seeing, and new voices?
Louisa Fielden: Well the disruption of patriarchal order (the specifically male gaze) is why the film is called Patrick. It’s a reference to the patriarchy and its grip on young women. The idea that women are seen rather than see is of course something we need to change. And I think that’s a conversation about empowering the right storytellers and supporting intersectional feminism.
D&CFilm: Has the success of People You May Know informed your filmmaking – either in the process of making the film or in what you’ve experienced promoting it?
Louisa Fielden: It’s certainly great that the film has received such a strong response. I regularly get emails about it from strangers saying that it helped them, which is gratifying because it was so difficult to make.
D&CFilm: What is the role of the filmmaker / artist in society?
Louisa Fielden: I think that for the most part making art is actually an intense form of individualism, not collectivism. No director or actor that I know is really doing it “for society”. That doesn’t mean that films aren’t powerful or transformative. I think they can be, and that can be wonderful.
D&CFilm: Where can we keep up to date with your work and Patrick?
D&CFilm: Thank you Louisa!
Patrick premieres at Two Short Nights at the Exeter Phoenix on November 29
The Two Short Nights film festival takes place from November 27 to November 29 at the Exeter Phoenix.