Actor Martin Delaney (Zero Dark Thirty, Now You See Me 2, Judas Ghost) talks to us about his directorial debut on short film Queen's Mile  which was screened as part of the Exit 6 Film Festival launch.
1. Where did the idea for the story come from and what does it mean to you?
I had a desire to tell a short story about love, that's what came first. Other themes came from working with Film London the same summer on their 'Build your audience' scheme for producing features. I was part of the programme for a feature I was involved in Amar Akbar & Tony . The real focus of the scheme, was around thinking about the audience first and foremost. The difference that makes to your project. I felt that when it came to LGBT audiences and film in particular, that there was a drive to focus on an area of exclusivity in LGBT community that had the potential to feel patronising to those audiences, and potentially alienating to a broader audience.
Now when it comes to diversity in any form, I have a strong desire to integrate - so I used that desire. I wanted to tell a gay story that sincerely normalised the idea of being gay. Where it wasn't part of the issue, as it were, you know. I also wanted to tell a female story, using female leads so that I could create work for talented female artists. That was my true starting point for what we now have as Queen's Mile. After that it all felt more linear, more organic and a whole lot more simple in its evolving. Going back to the idea of telling a love story, I felt like the best love stories involve loss and so it was just about working out how to tell that kind of story, in a short space of time, where your audience really feels something. Really cares. At the same time as them being genuinely intrigued. And that was a whole other challenge! Ha!
2. What were the main challenges you faced when putting this film together?
I guess they were mainly financial. The project was self-funded, so I needed to work out how to tell the story I desired without sacrificing anything aesthetically but at the same time serving the piece and coming in on budget. This lead to a series of other problems, in that I was producing and directing at the same time, so you have to be wearing two completely different hats to do those jobs. They are, on the occasion, working in opposite directions to each other and so there's a trade off that I needed to make creativity and financially. Thankfully it worked pretty well in the end. Doing both roles, meant there were no tricky conversations for example! I knew from a producers point of view why I couldn't do certain things at certain times and so that forces your creative hand, it gets you thinking of new solutions. Which in itself can be creatively satisfying, depending on one's outlook. In the end, I really learned to love that.
Filming somewhere as busy and as vibrant as The Southbank in Summer time, could also sound like a producer's nightmare and certainly was a challenge but somehow using a skilled skeleton crew and a talented bunch of actors really worked out. We needed that location because it needed to feel familiar to anyone who watched it. We were telling a story about a girl who is lost metaphorically, so it was important that she feels this in a familiar place, the way people do when they isolated emotionally. They could be anywhere, somewhere they've been a million times but still feel separate and alone. I really admired the way the team worked under that kind of pressure.
3. What were the biggest lessons you learned during the making of the film?
Well, put simply, I think my main lesson was how to be creative in the face of adversity. Knowing that you can't afford certain elements as I mentioned before, forces your hand somewhat, but drives you to a point of problem solving which is expressive and interesting. That was my biggest lesson I would say.
4. What was your best experience during the shoot?
Without a doubt it was when Ami (Amrita Acharia) joined us on set. Just because I adored seeing how she and Emerald (Emerald O'Hanrahan) worked together! I'd always loved the different energies they had, and was very keen to see that play out. What's more, Emerald had been working so hard & so wonderfully on the piece up until then, for three days isolated. Just her. But on this final day, she had someone to genuinely connect with and play with. To make things even more interesting, every bit of emotion she had given until this point, was all related to Ami's character, however they'd never actually met. In a way that was just perfect! Amrita became this mythical person, this girl on a pedestal which worked so well. By the time Emerald and she were on set in those flashback scenes, the chemistry was a joy to witness and their moments sparkled. There was so much complexity in those short snapshots together, it was a pleasure to direct.
5. What has been your best experience screening Queen's Mile?
I think my favourite experience was Bath Film Festival. It our world premiere for the completed film, and we were supporting Bryan Cranston's Trumbo  at a special screening over there. The most delightful thing is the reaction from audience members, it surprises me every time! We had such a warm response from the audience in Bath. They were just so genuinely emphatic and energetic in their applause at the end, that I felt so grateful and humbled by it all.
6. How have you found the festival circuit?
Well we're only just hitting our festival stride really, but it's great to see how the film is doing. We won Best Film for a Milan Online Film Festival, and Emerald was - quite rightly so - nominated for Best Actress too. We're also up for a Best Drama award in Kansas' Out Here Now festival. It's wonderful to think of the film reaching an audience it deserves, and the recognition is of course flattering. Thankfully the LGBT festival community has been incredible, with a large number of festivals taking us on. However for me, this is first and foremost a love story, so it's also incredible to play a part in any film festival - for people to recognise the film as such. Its fair to say at the moment we're thoroughly enjoying it's festival run.
7. What plans do you have to distribute your film?
We had none really, it wasn't really made for that purpose. However it's something we are looking into currently. That's one of the incredible things about short film these days. There's actually an opportunity to widen that audience net, with different platforms that support the format. Short Films are no longer simply calling cards or festival favourites. Reaching that wider audience is so much more possible!
8. What was the last short film by another filmmaker you enjoyed?
I actually really loved Jennifer Sheridan's Acoustic Kitty  which was shown at the Exit 6 launch. It was hilarious, with some lovely direction. Great comedy short. Based on a true-ish story! A lot of fun.
9. Is there anything you would like to add as advice to fellow/budding filmmakers?
Umm... The most basic yet crucial advice I could give, is get out there and do it. Tenacity gets anyone further than anything else. There are some important skills you need but they can be learned and some even along the way. It's the doing that's important, the 'why'. As the saying goes, 'a big enough 'why' can get past any 'how'.' Oh and always keep your audience in mind. It can help shape your project from start to finish. I simply won't make a film again, without starting with my audience in mind.
To find out more about Queen's Mile please visit Mini Productions.
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