Test Fest Shorts Meets Kate Herron!

Kate Herron

Test Fest Shorts is our way of highlighting some of the most exciting fresh female talent from the filmmaking world. First up, we’d like to draw your attention to the wonderful Kate Herron with a retrospective of her work, and an in depth chat about her life and times as a budding and successful writer and film director!

Here’s her latest short Rest Stop, below!

You made a film Kill List: The Musical? It seems a bizarre concept! Tell us more about how that came about.

Film4 at the time were running a competition called the Film4 SceneStealers where they wanted you to take a scene from one of their slate and do a new spin on it. My friends Keith and David entered and made an awesome and very thoughtful Sci-Fi take on This Is England (and won) and I entered a film with a dancing hammer in it. I went to musical theatre school on the weekends so spent a lot of life in musicals and have always wanted to make one. When I saw Kill List was on the competition list the idea of turning that infamous hammer scene into a musical made me laugh too much to not at least see if I could make it happen.

There’s a terrible misconception that women are supposed to be in constant competition with each other but Film Fatales is about support and passing on what we have learned.

I had never written a musical before but had seen Showstoppers! The Improvised Musical (Olivier-award-winning show) and decided unless one of them would help me I wouldn’t make it. Luckily Andrew Pugsley came onboard to help me write and starred in it, along with cast members Sarah Louise Young, David Reed and Justin Brett. Then the very kind Gus Brown (That Mitchell and Webb show) lent his talents as The Librarian. This film will always be quite special to me as it was a big thumbs up in carrying on with what I found funny in my films and being confident in that as we made it to the final of the competition and Claire Jones (Producer of Kill List) said the Kill List team liked it. Also I got a hammer costume out of it.

Your short Valentine was really well received, and screened with us over a year ago at our Tiny Furniture screening. What kind of reaction have you gotten from it?

The reaction to Valentine was completely unexpected and lovely. I made the film as I had made loads of competition films but didn’t have enough money to go out there and make one that could be sent out as it’s own thing. Luckily independent filmmaker called Rob Savage was very encouraging and had read my script for Valentine and told me he would shoot it. He made his first feature for the price of a cheap holiday in Ibiza so I couldn’t say no and I’m so glad we did. It was my first film to play at those bigger festivals worldwide like Palm Springs, Flickerfest and it’s had such a positive reaction from people in the industry like Lisa Albert (producer and writer of Mad Men) to being featured by places like Hunger Magazine, Ain’t It Cool News to the Londonist.

Rest Stop is your latest short, and seems to be reflect the growing recognition of your work, with a higher budget and a more recognisable name, is that fair to say?

As someone who loves comedy I feel very fortunate that from the off I’ve got to work with really talented comedians across all my films. I’ve always felt the cast are recognisable in comedy circles – they are people I’ve seen doing great work for many years and been so flattered and lucky to work with them. Rest Stop was most definitely a step-up though in terms of the support I had from the wonderful LOCO London Comedy Film Festival on their mentor scheme. As part of the scheme I got to meet some of my comedy heroes like Robert Popper (Look Around You) and also received mentorship from Sky’s Commissioning Editor at the time Saskia Schuster (who is now Comedy Commissioner at ITV).

Your job is to tell the story and bring the best people who know what kind of film you are making and are excited by it.  Also coffee is vital.

Having someone that senior read my script and develop it with me was an amazing opportunity. It also meant I had a script that I could send to the fantastic Ben Willbond and catch his attention. I absolutely love Horrible Histories and The Thick of It and feel very lucky I got to work with him. He’s an incredibly humble, funny and generous man.

You have another short lined up called Fan Girl, how did this project come to fruition?

I was given an opportunity to make a new short film and was busy writing my feature so was keen to work with writers who weren’t me on my next film. I’d been a fan of Jessica and Henrietta Ashworth’s (Screen International Stars) writing for some time. It’s funny with heart but then has this underpinning of being slightly deranged which is completely my taste.

I remember they brought me the idea of exploring the ‘Fan Girl’ through a female friendship which I completely related to and also loved the idea of getting to look at the early noughties pop scene, which I grew up with. It’s now finished and on the festival circuit, we premiered at London Short Film Festival where we were nominated for Best Director and Best Comedy. It stars some really exciting new acting talent as the super fans and Steve Oram as a faded 90s pop star.

What can we expect from you for the future?

As mentioned Fan Girl is on the festival circuit but I am mainly locked away writing at the moment and that is my main focus, day and night. I am writing across a few feature projects one which has Katie Mavroleon (David Brent: Life on the Road) attached to produce and I am also writing a feature adaptation of Rest Stop taking Meredith to an even bigger, more miserable story with my co-writer Monica Heisey (debut novel I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better recommended by the New Yorker and Lena Dunham) so you can expect writing, lots and lots of writing. Fan Girl Still

What kind of camera/equipment do you find vital to your work as your film-maker?

I don’t actually have a go-to camera or equipment. I remember when starting to make films feeling really worried about this, in that I wasn’t shooting on the latest shiniest thing but there was no way I could of afforded that. I’m very excited by how readily technology is available now and what awesome voices could come through it. I shot Valentine on a very old early 00’s video camera with an adaptor using lenses that I borrowed from my dad’s old camera and Rest Stop was shot on the Black Magic 4K.

The vital part of both of these films isn’t what we shot on,  it’s that I had two very talented DoP’s operating them. I’ve been very lucky to work with very talented people in front and behind the camera and that is the most vital thing as a director. Your job is to tell the story and bring the best people who know what kind of film you are making and are excited by it.  Also coffee is vital.

Female Film-makers who have inspired you and your work?

There are seriously too many so I will keep this brief but in particular my big inspirations for me are Jill Solway, Julie Delpy, Lena Dunham, Nora Ephron, Leslye Headland, Gillian Robespierre, Marielle Heller, Sophia Copolla, Lake Bell. In the UK feature directors making comedy like Rachel Tunnard, Chanya Button, Destiny Ekaragha really inspire me.

There’s this damaging belief which really irks me that the reason of lack of female directors was due to women not being interested or there not being enough of us which is nonsense.

I also couldn’t list every member as there’s over 100 of us just in London but I am part of the London chapter of feature directors collective Film Fatales (founded by Leah Meyerhoff in NYC 2013) and everyone of those women excites me. There’s a terrible misconception that women are supposed to be in constant competition with each other but this group is about support and passing on what we have learned. The numbers are only growing and I am always excited to see what any of them making.

Have you felt there have been any barriers to creating your work because of your gender?

I’ve self-generated a lot of my work so have been lucky in that nothing major has stopped me at least not yet or I’ve ignored it. Of course the higher the budgets go up there are barriers and with groups like Film Fatales and the Geena Davis Institute flagging and drawing attention to the severe gender inequality in directing I hope this will change.

There’s this damaging belief which really irks me that the reason of lack of female directors was due to women not being interested or there not being enough of us which is nonsense. I see headlines like ‘The Lack of Female Directors’ or ‘Female Directors Missing in Hollywood’, like we’re this rare creature lurking on a mountain side, clutching a camera to our chests, living in some remote country that people haven’t found yet. The only thing missing and lacking are opportunities to help women take that step up. This is why it’s so vital for men and women in positions of power to champion female talent. It shows to the industry, public and most importantly women who are thinking about filmmaking for a career that they aren’t alone. There’s loads of us.

What was the last film you watched?

This is a slight cheat as I didn’t watch these last but one positive thing I did want to mention is that I went to the cinema about two weeks ago for a triple-bill. I didn’t realise until I got out but all three films I had watched (The Witch, Zootoopia and 10 Cloverfield Lane) were female-led.  These films couldn’t be more different but were absolutely fantastic. Also my latest favourite film, and one that has a female director, has to the The Invitation by Karyn Kusama, I saw it as Cucalorus in North Carolina when Rest Stop played there and it just blew me away. It should be coming to the UK soon I hope so encourage people to seek it out.

Kate currently has two shorts screening at the LOCO London Comedy Film Festival on Sunday 23rd April.

Buy tickets for Rest Stop  and Fan Girl  via LOCO’s site. 

View trailer for Fan Girl

Follow Kate on TwitterVimeo and her Website 

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