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FrightFest: Interview With Emily Booth Writer And Star Of Selkie
By James Whittington, Saturday 23rd August 2014

Selkie_cover_image1The Short Film Showcase at FrightFest always highlights the best of new horror making talent out there. Someone who is stepping into film making for the first time is our very own Emily Booth whose short film Selkie is showing today.

Here she chats about this project and her hopes for the future.

HC: Where did the idea for Selkie come from?

EB: Selkie is the amalgamation of my love for the sea and particularly my hometown of Hastings – it has some superb locations and both my brother and I have always wanted to make a film set here, so I wanted ‘the sea’ to be a theme. I’ve always been attracted to the female creature or monster in mythology, I love all the old stories of mermaids, medusa etc.! But also on a personal ‘wish list’ level I always wanted to have my own ‘transformation’ scene in a film. My dream role would involve some kind of creature metamorphosis so I began playing with those themes and ideas and did some research and found the “Selkie’ storyline and fell in love with the multi-layered meanings behind the significance of one’s skin and identity. And that natural calling one feels for the sea and where that comes from. Also I have done so many interviews now where I am interviewing directors about their first short or feature and always wanted to be on the other side of the mic so I just finally said one day – I’m gonna do it! I’m going to make my own damn movie as Lloyd Kauffman would say!

HC: Did it take long to write?

EB: It took around 2 months, only because this was a project that very much evolved naturally it was not rushed. Me, my brother and my partner Marc would send each other emails containing story ideas and developments until we had a basic story on one page, then Simon wrote it into a 10 page screenplay.

HC: It feels like a traditional, good old fashioned fairy tale, was this your intention?

EB: I’m not sure what my intention was! I did want to do an adult fairytale yes, it’s quite closely based on the traditional myth of the Selkie with some artistic licenses! My favourite kind of films are those like Neil Jordan’s Company of Wolves, they take a classic tale and give it darkness.

HC: How do you prepare to play a character like this one?

EB: Well it all came quite quickly in terms of playing the role of Selkie as I produced the whole film on my own too – so to be honest I was really wrapped up in making the film happen, from organizing the Kickstarter campaign to locations, costume, props, food, call sheets, shooting schedules you name it I did it – so it was almost like I was thinking ‘Oh yeah I’m on set now playing Selkie – must concentrate on that bit now!” I was so familiar with the story and with her that I just did it on set using my instincts. Also – she does not talk – which was intentional – whenever I tried writing dialogue for her it just felt wrong – so we made her very ambiguous and animal by not giving her English speaking language. It’s all in the eyes for her! I just kept my ‘drive’ really simple. She craves the sea, she craves her true self and that’s the only thing driving her. Until then she’s in a pretty miserable state of pure existence!

HC: It’s very sombre, what was the atmosphere like during the shoot?

EB: The atmosphere on most sets in never like the atmosphere conveyed in the actual film. Of course we took it seriously when prepping and rehearsing, but we all just had fun too. It was very intimate and small and personal. A skeleton crew and the other actor that I had to do a few uncomfortable scenes with was a chap I’ve known since I was 18 so we already had some chemistry.

HC: How would you describe this short and would you like to extend it into a feature length piece?

EB: I’d describe it as a moody adult fairy tale! Very sparse, all atmosphere. It’s kind of melodrama for the first half then full blown fantasy for the last! I wanted it to almost switch genres in mood, tempo and style too. So it’s all just melodrama first – an unhappy abusive relationship, a trapped woman, a domineering man. But there’s something mysterious going on too – his hold over her represented by her skin kept under lock and key. Then when she reclaims her skin after all those years the film changes style completely and becomes total fantasy with evocative colours, intense music, experimental editing. I really wanted the ending to wrap people up in her mental state of ecstasy – of her transformation. So you almost feel it with her.

HC: What’s it like producing a short piece and what advice would you give to anyone who was thinking of doing the same?

EB: Its still a lot of work even though it’s a short! We took it very seriously in terms of production values and every process involved in a feature still applies to a short film, so it can still take time and money! But it’s the best learning curve and we were lucky in that we had no deadline and just enjoyed the process. My advice to anyone else would be to really budget it as much as you can! Save money where you can (I was not so good at that bit!) Location is key to making a good short and making it easier on yourself – so think of somewhere you can access that is also cinematic to look at. I mean it depends on what kind of short it is! If it’s just set in one room – make sure your script and characters are really tight and well written as this is what will drive the piece. Ours was more evocative and dreamlike – so the locations and feel / mood were more relevant than script and dialogue.

HC: So what are you working on at the moment?

EB: I just had my second child – I was pregnant when I shot the final scenes in Selkie of her crawling back to the sea!!! So I am actually just getting my head around being a mother again and getting back into work next month for Horror Channel.

HC: Emily Booth, thank you very much.


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