Amy Wilkinson in Film & TV

29/04/2016

Creative England funded feature ‘Adult Life Skills’ gathers momentum at Tribeca

Rachel Tunnard's directorial debut had an impressive reception at Tribeca Film Festival, leading to the win of the prestigious Nora Ephron Prize. The feature hits cinemas next month.

The ‘Adult Life Skills’ journey from conception to screen has been an unusual one; Rachel always envisaged it as a feature film and applied for the iFeatures programme, where Creative England helped to support the project through mentoring and script development.

On realising that Rachel needed different support to that which iFeatures offered, the project was  taken into further development by Creative England, and when the BFI NET.WORK was launched, a short ‘pilot’ titled ‘Emotional Fusebox’ was produced through the Emerging Talent Fund. The short was a festival success, gaining nominations for a BIFA and a BAFTA, and led to the feature project securing Creative England production finance to fulfil Rachel’s original ambition of making the full feature film.

When asked how the project benefitted from Creative England’s involvement, Rachel said: “I am not independently rich so the support of Creative England meant that I was financially able to ‘have a go’ but equally importantly, the fact that they were willing to take a punt on me as a relative unknown gave me the confidence to think...'Well maybe…’ Without Creative England the film wouldn’t exist!”

Filmed on location in Yorkshire and Derbyshire, ‘Adult Life Skills’ has travelled to Tribeca Film Festival in New York for its world premiere where it received critical acclaim. In her Screen Daily review Wendy Ide says “The performances are disarming and the emotional candour around the subject of bereavement is refreshing,”, while in her five star review in The Upcoming, Patricia Contino says that the film “deserves to be seen by a wide audience.” Stage Buddy’s Elissa Suh recognises the same potential in Tunnard that Creative England saw: “Tunnard elevates an age old tale with a new setting and a smooth script, frequently hilarious, making her a filmmaker to watch.”

The critics weren’t the only ones to acknowledge Tunnard’s talent;  she won the prestigious Nora Ephron Prize at the Tribeca Film Festival awards, receiving $25,000 – a remarkable achievement for a low-budget directorial debut. Waking up to her achievement, Rachel said: “Huge thanks to Creative England, iFeatures and BFI NET.WORK for supporting me all the way from idea via short film Emotional Fusebox - right through to the massive hangover I now have this morning.”

Paul Ashton, Senior Film Executive at Creative England, said: “We are thrilled and humbled by the overwhelming response to ‘Adult Life Skills’ at Tribeca. Creative England has been able to play a crucial part throughout the development of the project - and the nurturing of Rachel as an emerging writer-director. Seeing the finished film receive such positive reviews, and the support of such an engaged audience at a great international festival, has made us all incredibly proud. For Rachel to also win the Nora Ephron prize is, I think, true testament to how regional talent can flourish when given the right access to meaningful support. I can’t wait to see the public’s response when the film is released in UK cinemas later next month.”

 After an extremely positive reception at its world premiere, ‘Adult Life Skills’ is set for its UK theatrical release this summer by Lorton, with the trailer debuting on the Guardian earlier this month. Read our interview with Tunnard on her experience of making the film here, and catch the film on the big screen from June 24.

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