Lola tries to break up with her boyfriend, and she can’t, because he’s dead. That’s the tricky – and perhaps icky – situation that’s at the heart of Leila Lockley’s black comedy In Memoriam.
“She doesn’t know what the real story is – her and her best friend go about navigating that situation together,” Leila tells D&CFilm down the line – we caught her in that calm between shooting and editing. “The two of them are hatching a plot of how to go about breaking the news to him, even though they don’t need to, because he’s gone.”
A story that appears to be about a boy, is actually centred on female friendship, “and the female support networks that underlie most relationships in real life,” says Leila.
It’s that focus on friendship that attracted Leila to write In Memoriam. “It’s my love letter to all the women in my life,” she says. That, and dark comedy.
“It’s one of those topics that makes you question whether or not you should be laughing.” Laughing doesn’t make you a bad person, she insists. “It’s where we sit in terms of how we judge other people, because we will make these bad decisions or mistakes. But that just makes us human.”
With a background in theatre, this is Leila’s first film, and she’s enjoying merging of the two – there’s even a Greek chorus.
“The medium of theater and film can go together quite nicely. You get to play with breaking the fourth wall. And the audience is watching the characters work out what they already know, that’s quite fun.”
Leila’s approach to directing is rooted in her theatrical background, she says: “I really enjoy putting a lot of work in beforehand rather than improvising on set.”
That meant rehearsals to get the dynamic between the characters working and incorporate the masquerade masks of the Greek chorus.
With this being a first film, getting cast and crew could have been an issue. But finding people just snowballed. She had a core of people in mind from her screenwriting class at Exeter University (teacher Sam North plays a priest in the film).
“I’ve never had an experience like that before at University, where it was just so collaborative.” The group started to get together outside of class to watch films, share work, and think about scripts. Leila was also joined by people she met along the way, who then introduced her to others who could help.
In terms of inspiration, Leila looks to Joanna Arnow and The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed.
“Which is exactly the kind of writing that I want to be doing,” says Leila. “I know that she began doing short films – experimental, deadpan, like a satire on a normal life.”
Leila watched Charlotte Well’s Blue Christmas during the writing process. “You see something and you want to incorporate that kind of writing style into your own work.”
The idea for In Memoriam came in the whirlwind of the Fringe. She was in the midst of watching five shows a day, on an internship and doing a lot of writing. “I’d seen a lot of incredible new writing – wacky stuff. And an incorporation of the background actors into the main storyline was something I took away for this piece.” The idea won an Exeter Phoenix Commission.
Light in the darkness
We asked, what is the role of the artist in society?
“To create light in the darkness, whether that be for something uplifting or to bring new ways to talk about certain political situations that are going on,” says Leila.
“The role of the artist is to be true to themselves and make work that’s important to them, and hope that resonates with people. You have to be true to yourself and what you’ve experienced, and then try to put that out in the world and hope that somebody else will see it at a time where it impacts them positively and makes them think and question things.”
Making anything can be unpredictable, especially film.
Make it work
“The nicest surprise was seeing things not go to plan, but actually that it not going to plan is sometimes a lot better than what you thought.
“The weather was just horrendous for the one day that we were filming outside. It was the funeral scene, and I always pictured it to be in the graveyard. It was mapped out in my head and on the storyboard. It’s how we planned the whole day. But we just couldn’t do it. So we had to adapt. All the stars aligned – it’s things coming together in a way that you wouldn’t envisage and people pulling together to make it happen and make it work.”
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