It’s not all love’s young dream during a getaway at a British seaside resort, Ali Kurr’s short film Sparrow set in Skegness is showing at this years BFI Flare festival, here she speaks to us about getting into directing and how she made the short film along side a music video by bending the rules.
How did you get into directing?
ALI: Film and music were escapes while growing up in the middle of a zero phone-signal, dodgy internet, hamlet on a hill in Surrey. When I left school I moved straight to London and while I was at University I serendipitously began making music videos for friends. In fact, due to totally unforeseen circumstances, although I was making films my first three videos all got canned...I didn't care though and became engrossed in filmmaking and decided to become a director after graduating. My first film that was eventually released got a bit of traction and things spiralled from there as I began making more music videos, short films, documentaries and recently commercials.
Where did the concept of the story come from?
ALI: Sparrow came about after seeing predominantly LGBTQ films one festival run that focused on 'coming out' stories or 'first time experiences'. Now, I love a romance but sitting in the audience, amongst a group of likeminded queer people, I felt like saying think we've all be out for awhile now! I wanted to make a film that focused instead on a different experience, where the fact that the two characters were women was inconsequential to the plot. During this time I was awarded a music video and since I had never made a short and was fresh to directing (I had graduated two months previously from the Courtauld Institute of Art, which does not have a film programme), asked the band I was making the video for if I could use the £700.00 they were offering me to shoot a music promo alongside a short film. The band were game and so I set out casting and writing the project in the weeks prior to the shoot.
Did you come across any obstacles during the making of the film?
ALI: With a £700.00 budget all in, it was very much a beg, borrow and steal kind of job. The producer, Sorcha Bacon, also did the sound recording on the day and the DOP, Nick Morris, actually used an umbrella once to shape the light in the caravan along with some lights.
What was the best part of the experience of making this film?
ALI: The five of us headed up to Skegness for the weekend, not entirely sure what was going to happen, and it was one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had. There was this amazing synergy that I only rarely experience on set, when everyone clicks and some kind of alchemy happens. Waking up at 4am and breaking onto Skegness pier to shoot some of the last shots was insanely beautiful.
Why is the setting so influential/important to the story and the relationship of the protagonists?
ALI: Locations allow a story to come to life for me, and Skegness did it exactly that for the women in 'Sparrow'. The film's protagonist's are two young lovers who are throwing away a perfectly good relationship because they just can't really be bothered to really make it work anymore. Their behaviour is wasteful, and the old iconic seaside towns of Britain remind me of 'our' wastefulness. Skegness to Southend-On-Sea are these beautiful relics that were once titans in a British holidaymakers calendar that have been totally discarded. In 'Sparrow' we have a couple taking an unlikely teens romantic holiday to Skegness who continue to whittle their time away.
What do you want the audience to take away from your film?
ALI: To cherish those around you. We're constantly searching for something better, something new that will come with the next swipe when what sometimes what you have in front of you can be worth working out.
Only 4% of the highest grossing films in the past decade were directed by women, being a female director can be disheartening in this environment. What would your advice be for aspiring female directors out there?
ALI: It sounds odd, but having only gone to all girls school and then a predominantly female led university I was never really aware of being 'female'. I've always been a bit of a 'tomboy' and suddenly I find myself being referred to as a woman all the time. I actually introduced myself as a female director the other day because I hear people tell me I am and had to quickly retract my introduction! Now that I'm aware of my being 'female' (lol) I'd tell other 'female's' that you should, in a way, just keep gunning for it by telling stories that resonate with you. I'm confident that there will be a shift and one day 'we' will not be referred to as 'female directors' but just directors.
What’s next for you?
ALI: More narrative filmmaking of all kinds! I just shot a punk-period micro-short film that will be coming out in a month. I've also got another project on that came about after being diagnosed with vulvodynia a couple of years ago. 'Outercourse' is a short I'm writing with Charlotte Hamblin that I'm shooting later this year. I've also been made a 2019 NYFA emerging brit, so I'll be making a pilot for a TV show I've written with them too this year!
Interview by Sophie Duncan & Caris Rianne
Sparrow showed in the CALM INSIDE THE STORM shorts collection on Sun 24 March. For tickets and information please visit here. You can view the links to the film makers social media platforms below.