Celine Haddad in Film & TV

15/04/2016

Interview: Producer Diarmuid Hughes Talks 'Three Women Wait for Death' and iShorts 'Funny Girls'

Developed as part of Creative England’s iShorts ‘Funny Girls’ scheme, ‘Three Women Wait for Death’ is a short about family, money and caravans. 

Intrigued? So were our Film team. After being shortlisted for our ‘Funny Girls’ programme, developed with the help of comedy experts and shot on location in 35mm, the film is finally ready for its debut at LOCO Film Festival. 

To learn more about the project, its origins and gestation process, we caught up with Producer Diarmuid Hughes to find out what life was like on set with Director Isabelle Sieb and Writer Nat Luurtsema. Read the full Q&A below...

What can you tell us about your iShorts ‘Funny Girls’ project ‘Three Women Wait for Death’? 

‘Three Women Wait For Death’ is the story of Miranda and her daughters, Hester and Rose. Shot on 35mm in the summer of 2015, in a rotting little caravan, our characters are stuck there to be near their Gramps in his final days. His care bills are mounting and they discover that he’s hidden his savings and doesn’t remember where. 

What inspired the story?

The inspiration for the story came from a story Nat heard about an elderly relative who was “at Death’s door” every couple of weeks. All the family would rush to her bedside, loiter for a few days until she’d unexpectedly rally and they’d all go home again. Nat saw something darkly comic in that and she started playing around with the idea. She had originally written up the idea as a play, so when Isabelle and Nat sat down to discuss film ideas, they both felt this was the story that would best translate to the screen. 

The short has quite an impressive cast - How did Phoebe Nicholls, Lu Corfield, Nat Luurtsema and Alastair Roberts get involved with the project?

We always imagined Nat would play Rose, and she wrote the part of Hester with Lu Corfield in mind – a brilliant actor and a good friend. Phoebe was a fantastic fit for the pair of them and they quickly felt like a strange fictional family – I think you can see that on screen! Casting Director Lucy Rands was a great help, it was extra impressive how she put time and care into casting ‘Three Women Wait For Death’ in the middle of planning her wedding! She’s a multi-tasker, and she found us a wonderful cast. It’s impressive how many established actors are happy to give up their time and take a punt on a short film if they like the idea. Or just really like caravans.

What are your fondest memories from the shoot?

I think the fact we shot on 35mm was pretty special, so when I walked on set and we started rolling for the first time, the sound of the film running through the camera gave me goosebumps as a film nerd. I think the actors enjoyed yelling “check the gate!” after every shot too. The relief when we wrapped was a great moment too!

How have Creative England’s iShorts team helped the project?

The Creative England iShorts team are an absolute delight to work with. Celine and Peter have such energy and enthusiasm, which was infectious. They love film – it is their passion, so to be supported and backed by them, we always felt in safe, knowledgeable hands. Knowing they were fans of the project gave us the confidence to make the film we wanted to make. 

How did the funding your received from Creative England impact the finished short?

The funding was vital. Put simply, without it we wouldn’t have been able to make the film. I wish we were eccentric, film-loving billionaires but sadly we’re not.

How did the development support you received from Creative England change the short from script to screen?

I think the development notes helped us get to the main focus of the story. Earlier drafts explored various sub-plots and through development we honed in on the most important things we wanted to say and the best way to do so. The script went through quite a lot of changes actually, but because we were all clear on the theme and story of the piece, it never lost the important original elements. 

What support did you receive from Baby Cow/Big Talk?

Peter Spencer at Big Talk was fantastic. We sat down with him in Brighton during the workshops and his notes were succinct, clear and enhanced the story. It was great to have somebody like that, from such a powerhouse in British comedy terms, give us his feedback and help push the script to where it is now.

What was the most useful piece of information you took away from the Funny Girls workshops with Damon Beesley, Simon Bird, Tess Morris and Declan Lowney? 

There was so much useful advice from everyone, it is hard to pick just one. But I’m going to… Declan Lowney’s practical advice on shooting and directing comedy was excellent. He basically gave us his “Top Ten Tips” and given his experience and knowledge, I followed almost every single one when we were on set!   

What do you have planned for ‘Three Women Wait for Death’ in 2016?

We’re screening at LOCO in April, which is very exciting. Then we’ll do the round of as many festivals as we can – hopefully. We’re hoping for a big International premiere of the film, so ideally one of big US festivals. But we’ll see! I think if enough people watch it, like it and want to get in touch with Isabelle and Nat – fantastic.

‘Three Women Wait For Death’ will screen at LOCO Film Festival 2016 on April 26th. Head here to book tickets.

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