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Louise Marie Cooke breathes life into her short film release and new stage play

Louise Marie Cooke talks to us about the online release of her short film Breathe, the funding and making of the film, plus her experience directing for the stage with new play Melody and Her Many Men written and performed by Marilyn Friday.


Hello Louise, thanks for taking the time to talk us today. Your short film Breathe was recently released online completing its festival journey. Can you tell us about the film and how it came about?

Breathe was made on the Film London “London Calling” 2017 scheme which is a short film development and funding scheme. I think we pitched around Autumn 2016 and then the film was shot June 2017.

Breathe was developed as a tonally dark drama focusing on the character of Isobel. With the film I wanted to explore themes of loneliness & obsession, and guilt & grief, and how these help calcify each other. I wanted to look at how experiencing a tragic accident would affect a person who was already on the edge.

The story is told through Isobel’s unreliable point of view. The line between truth and fiction is constantly blurred in what she says and how she acts both before the accident and then amplified afterwards.

What were the biggest challenges/rewards on the shoot?

Definitely the scope of the project versus the amount of money we had to get it made, and the time of year we were filming.

We filmed in the height of summer with the majority of the film set at night. We had 3 shoot days, 2 of which were night shoots and when filming in the summer you only really get 4-5 hours of true dark night which goes very quickly. On the first night shoot we didn’t get everything we needed and so we had to add this onto the final night shoot. Because we rolled into the morning it created more work in post-production to match the colour of the sky as it got lighter from black to morning blue but our colourist did a great job with this.

We also encountered sound issues due to the amount of bird tweet sounds we had over the dialogue which meant we had to ADR one scene, but again our sound designer did a great job at re-building the sound for that scene.

What would you say is one of the biggest lessons you learned on the film that you have taken into your work since?

Aside from not shooting night scenes in the Summer...!

I would say the biggest lesson is to have a great team around you who can problem solve on the spot and support you when tough decisions need to be made. This goes for pre-production, the shoot and post-production. Especially post-production, as its these people who have the final task of fixing things that go wrong during the shoot, it all lands on them, so treat them well!

How did you go about funding the film and how have you found sourcing funding for your short films since?

Two thirds of our budget came from Film London and we did a Kickstarter for the final third. It was the third film I had crowdfunded or a short film, and it gets tougher every time. I think there are so many people now crowdfunding that the public has a little crowdfunding fatigue.

After Breathe I made a micro-budget 4 minute short film called Confessional (written by Miranda Horn) at the end 2019, for which we received a little money from Genera Films. It was very different to making Breathe due to our approach, we kept things small and intimate and got as much for free as we could including our one location and the equipment.

Breathe screened at Exit 6 Film Festival, what was your experience like attending with the film and what have some of your highlights on the festival circuit been?

I really enjoyed the festival and thought it was a really well put together festival. Nothing like a goody bag on arrival to make a filmmaker feel welcome! The whole team were really friendly and present throughout the day.

For me, I think the highlights are always meeting new people, and talking to other filmmakers, sharing experiences and getting advice.

You’re now turning your attention to theatre directing with one-woman show Melody and Her Many Men, can you tell us about the play and your plans for it?

Melody is a one woman show written and performed by Marilyn Friday.

It’s a romantic comedy and takes place through a series of confessions to a Greek priest. Melody, who is in her thirties, is a writer from Essex living with her eccentric Greek mother. The play begins when her mother forces into confession following Melody’s existential crisis. We meet her at a time when she is losing her faith in herself and in love. She considers seeing a therapist but her mother sees that as a waste of time because she can ‘talk to God for free’.

Without giving too much away, we follow Melody over the course of her search for Mr Right, following the ups and downs and mishaps and successes along the way.

We will be taking Melody to Edinburgh Fringe 10-21 August, performing at Riddles Court. Tickets are on sale now. We will also be doing London previews at the end of June, follow @MelodysMen for more details on this which should be available next month.

What are some of the differences you’ve experienced so far in directing something for the stage rather than the screen?

This will be my first time directing for the stage and it’s been an amazing experience so far. It helps of course that I love the script, Marilyn has done a great job at creating a character who lays everything out the way it is. We see Melody’s vulnerability, but we also feel close to her in way that makes it comfortable to laugh along at and with her.

I’ve loved having so much time to rehearse and working through the script with Marilyn. It’s very different to directing for the screen where if you’re lucky you get a day to rehearse at the most. There are so many moving parts in filmmaking, working on Melody has given me sense of freedom to create that I have not felt before with filmmaking. We’re a two woman team and we’re making things happen and that feels great!

Is writing and directing for the screen something you plan to return to?

Absolutely, I’m working on my first feature script right now, it’s a coming of age film about a Catholic school girl set in Yorkshire.


You can follow Louise on Twitter: @LouMarieCooke

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