Female Directors Season: Deborah Haywood

With her upcoming debut feature film Pin Cushion, Deborah Haywood speaks to us about her inspirations behind her work and the challenge from moving from shorts to features. 

Interview by Charlotte Von Waldenfells

Your films are about the working class in Britain, about female identity and sensations of belonging. Where do you take your inspiration from? What filmmakers inspire you specifically?

I hadn’t realised my films ARE about the working class! That’s definitely not a conscious thing if they are. I suppose I write about what I know, and, coming from a working class background myself, (and proud of it as well) I write from my experience. How I see life and how I’ve experienced life. I think that is my inspiration more than filmmakers specifically. Although I think I am inspired by Jane Campion, Lynne Ramsay, Sofia Coppola, Andrea Arnold, Catherine Breillat, Sarah Polley… Kelly Reichardt. Because they make beautiful thought provoking films I identify with, and also inspire me by the act of doing. And for being bold. Shane Meadows, because he’s from near where I am and I relate to that. And I love his sense of humour and sensibility.

Twinkle Twinkle deals with heavy questions, of suicide, depression, and how children deal with it. How did you experience working with child actors on such a difficult topic? Did they change your approach to making the film?

Not really. I’d worked with them before and they’re good pals of me, as is their Mum. It was fun! And because I know them so well I know how to bring the best out of them. Although thinking about it I could tell Billie was tired one day, and that she’d be no good without a nap, so I drove her around in my car for an hour and a half when we were supposed to be filming. But she was on such good form after her sleep that it was worth it. Basically I just let them rule the show and have fun! And they didn’t know what the film was about. Filming out of sequence helped with that, and the fact that it is in subtext that they were too young to pick up on. So it was ‘fun’ to hang off a beam, and to sit in a wigwam… that sort of thing.

Still from Pin Cushion

Still from Pin Cushion

In Sis the neighbour is portrayed as a victim (specifically of the sisters boyfriend, who beats him up), while still being very clearly singled out as a pedophile. Do you find there to be a moral dilemma in this?

Not really. In my head he isn’t a pedophile. He is labelled one by the estate. And he doesn’t ever touch the girls. So for me he is a loner who gets called names because he’s not ‘normal.’ But equally I like that it’s a bit ambiguous because of course he could be one for all we know. We just never know (unless someone’s on a register).

There are many stereotypes about being a female director - how many of the problems you anticipated did you actually encounter? Is it hard for you to be a woman in the industry?

find this a bit hard to answer because I haven’t experienced life as a male director. I think I found it hard for male crews to take me seriously in the beginning. Or at least struggled with that fiction/ perception in my head. Probably my own insecurities… I think where I have noticed a difference is that when females make a successful short film they have to then go on and prove themselves again. And again, and possibly again. Whereas male directors seem to be able to make one successful short and then go on and do TV or a web series. But they may have a different viewpoint to this!

Still from Pin Cushion

Still from Pin Cushion

Is there a project that you would love to do, but that you don't feel you are ready for yet?

Not really… not that I can think of, anyway. I think the best time to make something is when you feel you’re not ready for it. I don’t think you can feel ready for anything like this. All you can do is prepare and hope, jump in and hope the water’s not too cold.

Why do you think people will want to see ‘Pin Cushion’?

‘Pin Cushion’ is about an oddball co-dependent mother and daughter who move to a new town. I think people will want to see it because it’s about a subject that females especially will identify with. Most of us are daughters, and a lot of us are also mothers of daughters. 

How did your approach to a feature differ from your approach to shorts?

My approach wasn't that much different from how I approached a short, except it was on a bigger scale and I had a producer to share all the decisions making with. And the execs. I felt very supported and actually found making a feature a lot easier than making a short because of that.

Deborah on set of Still from Pin Cushion

Deborah on set of Still from Pin Cushion

Will your next film be a feature, or a short? Where do you feel more at home?

I think my next film will definitely be a feature if I am lucky enough to make one. I feel more at home with a longer story and a longer shoot. And I reckon more people are interested in watching features than they are in short films?

With ‘Pin Cushion”, which stage of production was your favourite? Every stage of production is my favourite with ‘Pin Cushion’. Honestly every stage has had its challenges, but every stage has felt creative and has had more rewards than challenges. And I’ve learned so much - including that I’ve got a lot more to learn! But that, I’ve also learned, is the drug…

You can see Deborah's work on the below links

Vimeo / Twitter / IMDB