The loss of a friend in school still cuts deep in Ellie Rogers’ beautiful short film They Found Her In A Field. Here the director talks to us about shooting on 35mm film and dealing with a sudden snow storm during production.
How did you get into directing?
ELLIE: I was one of those annoying kids who always made little movies and put on plays with my brother. It was always about experimenting and having fun. At school there weren’t any media courses available to me so I just continued making films throughout my teens in my own time, roping in friends to help out. It wasn’t until I went to university I was able to study filmmaking and specialised in directing at Bournemouth Film School. After studying, I was lucky to get a gig directing educational comedy history videos for a newly established company. I’ve continued to work with them and really enjoy it but my heart will alway be in writing and directing narrative drama. I’ve been making short films on the side, experimenting and building up a slate of work.
Where did the concept of the story come from?
ELLIE: There’s a really great quote from the book Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, ‘Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.’ I always had that in the back of my mind while making the film because it beautifully sums up what I wanted to explore and express. I was really interested in the cyclical nature of trauma and it’s effect on memory. There are important moments in our childhood that are milestones and will forever be imprinted in our minds, but what happens when those memories become tainted by a traumatic event? I wanted to take the audience on a visual journey through the protagonist’s memories and show this struggle between the painful and beautiful.
Did you come across any obstacles during the making of the film?
ELLIE: The biggest obstacle we faced was the weather. It decided to snow on the weekend we were shooting. This was mid March in London so it wasn’t something we had anticipated and it had a big impact on the production, from continuity to health and safety. We had to rethink a lot of things very quickly but despite this I think the film is all the more atmospheric for it and I’m really glad we powered through.
What was the best part of the experience of making this film?
ELLIE: My favourite part is always the edit. It’s like a giant puzzle that you get to build and I love the challenge of it. This was quite an abstract piece compared to other films I’ve done, it was so much more about the atmosphere and the feeling of each image and cut, so I really enjoyed that. It was also my first time shooting on 35mm which was beautiful to work on, and also my first collaboration with the director of photography Adam Barnett, who’s work I love and am very keen to work with again.
What was the reason of your choice to focus on the trauma in the long term rather than straight after the tragic incident?
ELLIE: For young people, shame and fear are so much a part of growing up. This is particularly true for LGBTQ+ people who may find it harder to feel safe to express themselves when they are young. But children are astute, they can sense and feel things very deeply. As a child you become really good at burying things and keeping secrets. It’s not until you are older do you begin to reflect and try and make sense of what you may have felt or experienced as a young person. This is why I felt it was important to have my protagonist recollect her experience later on in life. She is still trying to make sense of it all and she still holds all of these secrets.
I was also interested in exploring a sense of a place in the film and how places can change over time. We’ve all experienced that moment where you remember a place very vividly in your mind, but when you return years later it’s very different. Time was always an important part of the story.
What do you want the audience to take away from your film?
ELLIE: The film was always an experiment in creating an atmosphere and feeling. I hope an audience can get a sense of the rawness and pain Martha, the protagonist, is left with. I hope that the images stick in the audience’s heads, much like they do in Martha’s.
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?
ELLIE: I’d say don’t be disheartened, it is starting to shift and change. Now more than ever there are schemes and programmes out there that want to help and encourage young women who are starting out in the industry. Different voices matter. Don’t try to emulate, find what it is that inspires and excites you and start from there.
Aside from the usual advice of get out and make things, I would also say that you need to support each other. Woman are amazing at championing each other and so you should seek out others who are at a similar level or maybe even further in their career and talk to them, follow their work, ask questions, connect.
What’s next for you?
ELLIE: I’ve got a few projects I’m developing and researching at the moment. I’m really excited to experiment with tondoscopic cinematography. I think anything that makes you rethink traditional forms of filmmaking is interesting and challenging so I’m developing a short using this format. Off the back of They Found Her in a Field I’ve become more and more interested in the themes of trauma and guilt. I’ve started developing a feature about a forensic artist who falls in love with the sister of a young girl who has been missing for twenty-four years.
Interview by Sophie Duncan & Caris Rianne
They Found Her In A Field 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.