“She getting to an age where she thinks her dolls are judging her and she’s right. They are.” Those paranoid-inducing worlds send a slight (by slight read ‘big’) chill as Robyn Egan describes her new film Dolls.
Dolls is an Exeter Phoenix commission due to premiere at Two Short Nights in the city. And Robyn seems calm. That’s despite the film being based on her real experience. Kinda.
The dolls just kept appearing
“It is semi-autobiographical,” says Robyn. “One year I got a china doll for my birthday. I was about 7. It was from an auntie. Then another auntie saw it. And my nan saw it. And then the dolls just kept appearing – at Christmas, birthdays, any special occasion. I ended up with about 20 of them. I had to make a decision. I did give them away to a charity shop that I had to walk past every day until they were all gone. Which was quite traumatic.”
The film is obviously more dramatic, taking a good spin on the events.
Cherry, played by Leila Lockley, is approaching a low time in her life and reads judgment in those dolls’ eyes. And, as Robyn says, she’s right. She suggests to her mom that maybe her room needs redecorating, rather than just saying she wants to get rid of them. That goes over mom’s head. Then she confides in her best friend when they have a sleepover, and one of the dolls accidentally gets broken.
Cherry’s own relationship with the porcelain dolls is complicated. She doesn’t want them anymore, but she doesn’t want to let them go. In effect, she doesn’t want to let her childhood go. And in that, Dolls is a sort of coming-of-age comedy
The script had previously caught the eye of Paul Fraser, who taught a Channel 4 scholarship and advised her to get the script out there, an opinion that bore fruit as it was awarded an Exeter Phoenix commission,
Initially, Robyn had no plan to be a director, but enjoyed the experience. “You have to be bossy, and I’m not very bossy,” she says. “I had a really good team behind me. My DOP, Jamie Hobbis, was a dream for a first-time director because he’s got many, many years of experience so he was very helpful.”
The film was shot in Churston in Torbay. “The Animals in Distress charity shop that we filmed in were amazing. They were so helpful. And then we had an Airbnb on a golf course for the main house.”
The smooth filming might be down to Robyn’s experience on set as a make-up artist
“I’ve got quite a bit of experience on set – some good and some not so good,” she says. “I wanted to make sure everyone was calm, that it wasn’t stressful and we weren’t doing late nights. And I knew to expect that everything was going to take a lot longer than originally planned.”
For the new area of post-production, Robyn found a fantastic editor in Ben Williams-Butt. And an old friend, Ryan Green, did the sound mixing.
“I was surprised at how brilliant everyone was on the crew, which is fantastic. It was so hot. It was the heatwave in early September and we were filming in an attic room. We had to have a break and turn off the camera because it was so hot. But everyone was just absolutely brilliant. I’d love to work with every single person again.”
With the premiere on the horizon, Robyn has written a couple of TV pilots. And directing has had a massive influence on her writing.
“Directing is completely different. You’re reading my own script and asking yourself ‘Why am I doing it like that?’ if I had changed the writing, it would be much easier. That’s always in my head now, when I’m when I’m writing,” she says.
And what’s next?
“Ideally, I’d love to get an opportunity like this again,” she says, and she’s on the lookout for a producer.
- The Girl on the Moon | landing an award-winning video - February 21, 2024
- Screams By The Seas |“a welcoming place to meet people and celebrate cinema” - February 19, 2024
- Cornish/Kernewek language feature development fund launched by Screen Cornwall - February 17, 2024