Midlands Interview - Emmeline Kellie
From Nottingham's Film and TV Tweet Up to acting in recent action film Outlawed, Emmeline Kellie is a force to be reckoned with after being involved in film in front of and behind the camera at every level of production.
With such a diverse cinematic background and with her new project Keep Breathing recently launched, Midlands Movies writer Guy Russell speaks to Emmeline about her short film which has been created in light of the #metoo movement.
Guy Russell: You’ve recently launched the funding campaign for Keep Breathing, is crowdfunding a format you have used before and if so were you successful?
Emmeline Kellie: Nope, this is the very first time! I still feel extremely nervous about it even though we’re already two weeks in! It’s been really hard because all of us have been working full time while running it so it hasn’t had the TLC it needs. I’ve come to realise that Crowdfunding really is a full-time job. I probably wouldn’t advise doing it unless you have a dedicated team to do shifts, or you can take four weeks off of work!
Please tell us more about Keep Breathing, I understand it tackles the importance of sexual consent?
Keep Breathing is a powerful and incisive look at attitudes towards consent, rape, and victim blaming. It has a tightly plotted script that challenges two characters that don’t conform to the typical depictions of victim and perpetrator. The situation we explore is extremely common and goes widely unreported, yet when it is reported, both parties often have very different perceptions about what they’ve encountered. Not every victim of rape says no, and not every perpetrator understands the boundaries of consent. This film will engage the audience, provoke thought, provide a voice and encourage discussion, which is the essential next step towards changing attitudes.
Whilst the message is extremely important to us, the script is actually something we’re very proud of as well. It has interesting characters and it’s gripping, pacey and emotional. The message is actually drawn out very subtly through it. Most of the dialogue is ambiguous and laced with deeper meaning, so it’s a drama on the surface, but an eye-opener underneath.
What has the reaction been so far?
Amazing. Of those who have been sent the script, we’ve had a few say it’s the best short film script they’ve read which is so encouraging. I think the last person to read it was a documentary filmmaker called Miguel Gaudencio who our writer Tommy Draper worked with about ten years ago. He said “I think this is Tommy’s best script. I LOVE it! It screwed my head, which is great, and I love the fact that characters are not stereotypical. It’s a very powerful drama and so well set up.” I was quite pleased with that reaction! Especially as Tommy’s other work is just incredible.
Since putting the campaign out there, we’ve also had a lot of people getting in touch saying much it resonates with them and how glad they are that we’re trying to do something about it. So overall, a really positive response!
Was there a specific moment which inspired you to start writing Keep Breathing, or was the idea brewing for a while?
I believe it was at 2:39am on Christmas morning just gone. I was in bed and couldn’t sleep. My head was swimming with #metoo stuff, and how even though everyone else had publicly nodded to their experiences of sexual assault and rape, I hadn’t felt I could because there were some incidents I just didn’t want to open myself up to talking about, and then there was one where I was still convinced that what had happened was my fault. I was drunk and had said no repeatedly, then after about half an hour of persistence while I was trying to sleep, I gave in because it was easier. I didn’t say the word ‘yes’ but my body gave in. Why didn’t I stagger out of there? Why wasn’t I firmer with him? Why did I even agree to staying there? But I was so drunk and verging on the edge of consciousness. He was sober. It really messed with my head afterwards for so long. But why? It seemed so trivial- just one of those things that happen when you get too drunk.
I then deliberately shifted my mind onto film because I didn’t want to think about it anymore. I said to myself “Right, come up with an idea for a film with two characters in one location so we can just crack on with it and make something decent in a month’s time”… and that’s when the idea just came to me. Checked the time. 2:39. Bam. Except it grew into something so much bigger that we wanted to put a lot more time and effort into, to do it justice.
You co-wrote Keep Breathing with Tommy Draper, what was Tommy like as a writing partner?
Amazing. The thing I’m really bad at is writing a first draft, but he did it quickly, threw some brilliant ideas into the pot and then we had a really solid foundation to work with. Mark, our director, was also involved every step of the way giving notes on every other draft. The first two drafts we did actually went in a completely different direction, and then we sat down to work out exactly what we wanted the piece to say which is what turned it into the compelling story we have now. Tommy and I took in turns to play with the script. He was fine-tuning the action and the drama while I was fine-tuning a lot of the dialogue. We had a good balance and I don’t think we had any disagreements. Having said that…. I’d love to see his response to this question! Probably quite different!
Your short film Cadence was quite the success, it has had over a million views and is currently being used as an education tool about driving awareness, is there something similar you’d like to achieve with Keep Breathing?
Definitely. We want to tour it around schools, colleges and universities with a workshop and presentation. The film will get students’ attention (we all liked watching videos in school!) and afterwards, we can kick off the conversation with a discussion about the story and characters. Getting people talking about it, thinking about it, and aware of it is the first step to solving it as it should mean that they are more mindful when in the moment. Once it’s done its educational tours and film festival circuit, we want to release it online with a campaign, containing some facts and statistics found in our on-going survey and research. Hopefully the festivals will help give it the buzz it needs for a strong online launch.
Keep Breathing and Cadence are quite similar in the sense that both short films have an important story to tell, they have narratives that will feel familiar to a lot of people but are not shown enough in the media. Is there a reason you’re attracted to telling stories like these?
I think the reason I found an interest in filmmaking was because of how movies made me feel, and the things I learned from them. For example, take the film The Butterfly Effect, this film realigned my thinking and outlook on life. I’m not even sure it intended to. I used to constantly be living in the past thinking “what if I’d done that differently, where would I be now?”.. I’d really dwell on my decisions after I made them, and it’d keep me awake at night wondering if I’ve done the right thing. Even when I was 6 I ran down to my mum crying at midnight because I regretted the choice I made about which sunglasses to buy three weeks previous. The Butterfly Effect made me realise that going back and trying to fix things would disrupt everything else, and that everything happens for a reason. Some other films that have influenced my thinking or taught me something valuable are Seven Pounds, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Detroit, The Day After Tomorrow and tonnes more. Filmmaking is such a powerful tool. It provides entertainment and escapism, but it can also change the world.
Alex Stroud & Emmeline Kellie at the Midlands Movies Awards 2018
You’re an Actor, Producer and Writer, do you have a favourite and why?
I’d say my heart belongs to acting but I really do love it all.
Do you see a future where you actively undertake all three roles or is there one you would like to focus all your efforts on in the future?
I think acting is what I actually want to do for a career. I really, really want to go into TV and work on lots of amazing projects with talented and inspiring people. In an ideal world, acting is where I’d make my income, however, I think I’m always going to have a passion project on the go as well. If I can produce at least one really decent film every year, I’ll be happy - it’s such a fulfilling experience.
What is your experience filmmaking in the Midlands, is it a good region to make films in?
The East Midlands is fantastic. We have such a wonderful close-knit film community and everyone is so keen and supportive. I think everyone has worked with everyone at some point, and we have at least a handful of amazingly talented people to fill every single position in a film crew. Apart from a grip maybe- I’m not sure I know any grips.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you knew you wanted to embark on a career in the media/film?
Not that I can remember. I’ve always wanted to act since I was small. I loved school plays, loved going to the Valle Academy of Performing Arts and loved making my mum sit through many private performances that I’m sure she was a huge fan of. Film came about quite suddenly when I was presented with the brief for my GCSE art coursework. My teacher said “you can do whatever you like, whether it’s a painting, a sketch, pottery, a sculpture, a cross-stitch… hell you could even make a film if you’re crazy enough!” … I chose crazy and I loved it. Picked up a crappy digital camera from my mum’s drawer, flicked it into video mode and bribed my friends to act for me, and then started shooting. Never looked back.
What should the industry be doing that it currently isn’t for independent filmmakers such as yourself?
Funding. I just feel like the amount of hoops you have to jump through to get any kind of funding secured for a film, whether it’s a short or feature, is soul-destroying. Although I do understand that there’s sadly not much money in the pot anymore. Maybe there should be more peer-mentorship and shadowing opportunities set up with the people who are achieving the things we all want to be achieving. I don’t really know but it’s so hard to move forward.
Keep Breathing aside, have you any other projects in the pipeline?
There’s lots of ideas being thrown about at the minute - I think it’ll either be a fun, snappy short that we can do on a couple hundred quid, or our first feature!
If people would like to take part in the funding for Keep Breathing, how can they do so?
You can find all details on our campaign page: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/kbshortfilm
Be sure to check out all the rewards! The campaign ends on 17th September at 10:00am.