Sophie's BBC Radio Derby interview with Andy Potter

Hi Guys,

The BBC Radio Derby building
    Back in May, when I was excitedly preparing for my first trip to the Cannes Film Festival (and my first time abroad), part of the aforementioned 'press boom' for Ashes included a trip to BBC Radio Derby. There I was interviewed by the lovely Andy Potter - and given free coffee by some other equally lovely staff - and told him all about myself, my films, and particularly Ashes.

   The interview was then available to listen to on iPlayer for one week, and I promised to do a transcript afterwards for those of you who missed it. Now, I may be a busy beaver, but I don't break promises, so here is that transcript - better late than never!


Andy Potter: Now Derby, and Derbyshire, when it comes to the Cannes Film Festival this year - we're going to have so many people there (including me, just for a couple of days). But, you may have been watching East Midlands Today last night and heard all, and seen all, about Sophie Black. Her short film Ashes is going to be in Cannes, but before she packs her case, she's come into the studio. How are you?

Sophie Black: I'm not bad, thankyou.

AP: Ashes, then. And Cannes! Did you ever think?

SB: I always dreamed, obviously, as everyone does. It's an absolute dream come true to be going. It'll probably not going to sink in 'till I'm there, to be fair. Until I'm on the plane, maybe!

AP: How does it work, then? Because you go away and you make this film...

SB: Yeah.

AP: How do you know that you're going to take it to Cannes?

SB: You don't. You don't even know it's going to be any good until anyone's seen it! I mean, you yourself think it's great, and you put your heart into it, and everyone involved puts their heart into it. But it's not 'till people see it and go "yeah, go for it, it's good", that you think, "oh, okay, it might actually go somewhere". So we don't set out knowing it will go to Cannes, but you always hope it will.

AP: Are you nervous about this whole thing, then?

SB: Kind of. I'm one of those people where I just, sort of, do stuff without thinking about it. I just go and, you know... face the fear and do it anyway, if I can! But I probably will be nervous when I get there, definitely.
The lovely Andy Potter

AP: We were talking to Dominic Burns on the programme last week. The guys from Wasteland, which is another...

SB: Yeah.

AP: I'm thinking, slightly bigger budget, but not that bigger budget! That's in Cannes as well. You are there as well. What is it about Derby and filmmakers?

SB: It's just... it's a wonderful atmosphere. It's the network that's going on - everyone, sort of, revolving around QUAD. And all the local creatives, they're just so supportive of each other. It's this wonderful, huge network that we've got, and it's... it's wonderful, definitely.

AP: How did you get into filmmaking?

SB: I've been doing it since I was fifteen, when my parents bought me a High-8 tape camcorder [for my] birthday. And I set out filming my friends, and trying to recreate Lord of the Rings in our back gardens, with some very dodgy costumes! And I've been making them ever since.

AP: You've just said something else there: costumes. Because you are a costume designer, as well...

SB: I am a costume designer, and I do production design, which covers set design, as well.

AP: So are you a one-stop shop when it comes to any film, then?

SB: [LAUGHS] I don't know, I do... well, I think all filmmakers have to be able to every area, but then there's stuff we specialise in as well. So...

AP: Tell me a bit about Ashes, then. What can you tell me about the storyline, and how long is it?

SB: Well, it's a seven minute film, and basically it's about a relationship at breaking point, and the moment when it can go from something wonderful and so treasured, into something quite sour. And  basically, using the camera techniques and the production design, it visualises all the emotions which go through the young girl's head at this time of extreme change in her life.

AP: Seven minutes long, but it took significantly more than that to make, didn't it?

SB: Oh gosh, yeah. Two thousand pounds for a seven minute film. That's... I'm still paying that off. I probably will be paying that off 'till I'm thirty, to be fair!

AP: But when did you start to make it?

On the Ashes set. Photo: Rena Kalandrani
SB: We cast it in 2011 - cast two great actors in it, back then - and then we had a long haul trying to get it made, trying to get people to notice it. [We] had a very difficult funding process, we had crew dropping out, we had locations pulling out two days before the shoot when we were all ready to go, so... We finished it, we finally shot it in August last year, in my uncle's living room - because that we could get in the end! - and then we finished editing it in February of this year, just in time to get it in for Cannes. Literally a couple of days before the deadline!

AP: Did you ever think that it was never going to get made? Did you think it was cursed, having gone on for so long?

SB: Oh, we all did! It was so disheartening, because we'd all be ready to go, and the actors would be ready to come from London, and then we'd have it taken away from us again. So there were times when we just thought, "this is impossible - no one cares about this film, and it's never going to happen." But yeah... but the fact that we went through all that, getting it made, it just made it so much more rewarding, I think.

AP: What keeps you going?

SB: [Sighs] 'Cause it's all I want to do. It's all anyone wants. It's... I get up thinking about films, and I go to sleep thinking about films.

AP: But if there's a point where you're making Ashes, where you think it's never going to get done, do you have to start looking elsewhere, and put it on the back-burner?

SB: Hmm. It is disheartening, definitely. But, I mean... I've not really stopped working for the last few years, on films. So I always had plenty of other films to work on. And working on those, with other people, inspired me to keep going - and seeing how they worked definitely inspired me to keep going, and pushed me on. So... yeah, I don't think there's ever a point where we stopped trying to make it happen.

AP: We'll talk more about what you went through to make this film after a bit of Status Quo. Sounds a bit apt, this - Whatever You Want! More with Sophie Black and Ashes after this...


AP: My guest in the studio at the moment, Sophie Black. Her short film Ashes is going to be in Cannes next week. Sophie's going to be there as well. You're flying out, what, Sunday?

SB: Yeah, Sunday, early morning, 6am flight!

AP: What do you want to get out of Cannes, then? What is it for the film - or what is it on a personal and professional level?

 SB: Oh, on a personal level, it's just experiencing it, being there and learning. I've not got as much of an action plan as some people might have, because I just... I want to take it in and learn everything that I can... excuse the pun... But, erm... while I'm over there, myself and my colleague Neil Oseman - also known as 'the Spielberg of Hereford' - have arranged... we're meeting three short film distributors. We're taking Ashes to show them. We're also gonna show Stop/Eject, which was filmed right in Belper and Matlock. So we're going to take that over with us as well, and [try] to see if there's any interest over there, definitely.

AP: And this is basically putting your CV on the line, isn't it?

SB: Absolutely, and just... getting that accreditation on the short film. Because there's so many short films out there, distinguishing which ones could actually, you know, be something is so important. And just saying, "yes, this was shown at the Short Film Corner in Cannes" - having that on it can help it go further. Which is what I want not only for myself, but also for the crew and the cast as well.

AP: It's a real struggle for any filmmaker in this country. Whether it be finance, or whatever. Why do you do it?

Me with one of my first cameras
SB: Because we're crazy. We're crazy people and we can't help it. It's like breathing, I don't know! Well, I think it's just such a wonderful thing. For me, the best thing about directing or producing a film is... not for yourself, but bringing together so many disciplines, and everyone showing the height of their talent, bringing it together in one format. And no film belongs to one person. It's just bringing out the talent of all the different people, in all the different areas - it's just the most wonderful thing to see happen, definitely.

AP: So for you, then, is it big screen features - is that the way you want to go? Do you want to work in television? Or do you just want to be somewhere where you're behind the lens?

SB: Well, if a studio production came knocking I would just revel in the experience. Even in a low-down job, anything, getting coffee, I don't mind. But, at the same time, I wouldn't want to go to a big film and leave the people I've worked with behind. So the dream for me - I mean, for any filmmaker - would be to not only write and direct your own films, but to pick who you work with, and to find work for all the people that have supported me along the way. Definitely.

AP: Is it nice to see so much of Derbyshire now, on film?

SB: It's wonderful, yes. It's such a rich area. We've got everything you need in the heart of Derbyshire, particularly... I'm from the Peak District, I was raised in Belper, and just the surrounding area offered so much to myself and my films over the years.

AP: Do you look at life, then, as if looking through a lens?

SB: Absolutely!

AP: Have you got filters on this afternoon? Are you looking at the studio thinking, "well this is how I would shoot it"?

SB: Give you a close-up, definitely!


SB: I don't know. Ooh, definitely, I can't shut it off. Ask anyone that knows me - I can never shut it off.

AP: And do you storyboard? Do you sketch what you're going to do, then?

SB: I do, yeah. Because I've had paid work as a costume and set designer in the past, I've obviously got a basic level of art skills. So I do bring that into storyboards - not just for my own films but other peoples'. It helps me plan exactly how it's going to look, and then I can show people how I want it to look, and they can help make that happen.

AP: When will we know, then? If you fly out Sunday morning...

SB: Yeah.

AP: When will we know if we're moving forward?

SB: [PAUSE] It's take them a while to decide. As soon as they let us know, I will let all my followers know, definitely.

AP: Will we hear the cheer from here?


SB: I don't know - I'm quite a loud cheerer! Possibly.

AP: So, you're out Sunday - when are you coming back?

SB: We're coming back on the 22nd, in the afternoon.

AP: And you're hoping not to come back with a tan, but with a contract?

SB: Hopefully, yes. Or just having had a wonderful experience, and ideally getting Ashes into more festivals. 'Cause I don't just want to stop at Cannes, I want to get it into any festival I can do over the next two years.

AP: Listen, I wish you every luck.

SB: Thankyou.

AP: Hopefully I'll bump into you as well, with my bucket and spade, on the beach! Sophie Black, her short film Ashes, then, going to Cannes this coming week. As soon as we get any news about what happens - hopefully it's going to be good stuff - we'll pass it on to you here at BBC Radio Derby.


    So, there we have it. A massive thankyou to Andy and all at BBC Radio Derby. And I apologise now for my overuse of the words 'definitely' and 'wonderful'!

Sophie x


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