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PETER MACKIE BURNS TALKS WITH LEIGH SINGER ABOUT HIS FEATURE DEBUT DAPHNE I 10 BFI.ORG.UK anyone for that matter, tell her what to do. They’re all such creative people, it really was a dream. Daphne is as character-driven as the short, but there’s a more overt inciting incident to the story. Where did that come from? A similar thing happened to a friend of mine. That was interesting, not so much in terms of the crime, but the impact on the people involved. We tend to create characters based on amalgams of people we know – it’s much easier than that to make something up, isn’t it. And Daphne herself is a fascinating, contradictory character. Unapologetic but clearly also unhappy. Daphne’s hedonistic behaviour is kind of okay if you’re in your mid-20s, but maybe at her age she knows she’s been a wee bit ‘too cool for school’ for too long now. We wanted to create a female character who was complex, quite difficult and badly behaved, and who uses humour as a defence mechanism. Also that she wasn’t clouded by wanting to have a boyfriend or partner, or having children. The answer’s not in another person. How did Emily Beecham’s involvement in the short affect writing the feature? When I first met her I liked that she was up for anything, character-wise. She also has a very strong sense of humour. At times when we made the short film, I had f success on the short film circuit prepares you for your first feature, then one might argue that Peter Mackie Burns has long been ready to make the step up. Milk, starring Brenda Fricker, won the Golden Bear for Best Short film at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival, as well as playing at over one hundred international film festivals. His follow-ups, Run, featuring Danish actor Paprika Steen and made with BBC, and the Channel 4 Coming Up short The Spastic King, with Ruth Sheen and written by Jack Thorne, also attracted considerable acclaim. These films highlighted Mackie Burns’s facility with and interest in multi-layered female protagonists, confirmed again with 2014’s Happy Birthday to Me, starring Emily Beecham. In a few scenes, it details a troubled young London woman grappling with personal and professional conflicts. It was clearly a character that resonated with Mackie Burns and writer Nico Mensinga, as they subsequently used the short as the central character for Mackie Burns’ feature debut, Daphne. With the character again played by Beecham, the film ventures deeper into the psyche of disaffected thirtyyear old Daphne. She lives alone – by choice – in south London and works in a restaurant, fending off both potential romantic interests and her needy, ailing mother (Geraldine James). When she is witness to a vicious robbery at a local newsagent, cracks already present in her psyche deepen. Produced by Tristan Goligher and Valentina Brazzini of The Bureau, the film is thoroughly British yet reminiscent of the American New Wave films that Mackie Burns so admires. Did you always know that you wanted to expand your short Happy Birthday To Me into a feature? To be perfectly frank, it was like being a little bit pregnant, if that’s possible. I made up a character in my head and was working with Nico Mensinga, putting her in a little scenario in which she was funny. I thought the character had enough depth and complexity to explore in something longer. But we weren’t thinking, “This is a short film and a calling card to make a feature”. How easy was the journey from short to feature? The Bureau are amazing. I went from meeting with Tristan and Valentina with the short film and first draft of the script, to shooting the film within a two-year period. They were hands on from the beginning and saw what we wanted to do. They care about the work – every film is personal to them and their films have a real identity. //Weekend//, which I loved and Tristan produced, had an emotional truth that is rare. This is Valentina’s first feature as a producer – she was Head of Script Development at The Bureau – and she loved the characters. We worked on the structuring of the story really closely with her. And The Bureau took it to the BFI and Creative Scotland. Lizzie Francke at the BFI liked the character because she was gobby and opinionated and wouldn’t let the men in the story, or Emily Beecham


BFI_Filmmakers_Issue_5_V10
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