Actor and screenwriter Alice Lowe – known for films including Prevenge, Sightseers, The World’s End and Hot Fuzz – has a wealth of experience both in front and behind the camera. Ahead of an inspiring masterclass at ASFF 2018, Lowe discusses her multidisciplinary career and upcoming projects, whilst offering insights and key advice to emerging filmmakers.
ASFF: You have worked extensively both in front of and behind the camera. What are the challenges – and benefits – of an interdisciplinary career?
AL: It gives me a better understanding of what’s possible. When I’m writing, I am simultaneously thinking about practical concerns. How and where to shoot, what’s going to be a challenge to shoot, what problems to solve. I think it gives you a healthy respect for the different departments and how everyone pulls together to make the whole. Having a lot of experience of being on set I feel is invaluable when it comes to writing. Being on set as an actor constantly informs my writing. It inspires me, and keeps things alive. Whereas writing can be a lonely process sometimes.
Sometimes I do find myself overthinking things though. For example, as I’m writing I catch myself putting in too much detail about a facial expression, a prop or an intonation. Then I remember that you have to hand over the work to other people and let them make it their own. Which is the joy of filmmaking really. Everyone coming together and being excellent and creative within their field, creating something more than the sum of its parts.
ASFF: The industry still adheres to a certain amount of imbalance. How has this affected your career, and how have you overcome these obstacles?
AL: I think things have changed so much over the last five to ten years. I look back at creative battles I had to have, and know that now I wouldn’t have the same problem. I feel listened to and valued. Some of that is growing older and more experienced. But I do feel that there is a real interest and appetite for what women have to say. My opinions are no longer “outlandish”!
I think because I love creative work so much, that has fuelled me. I would have given up otherwise. I feel a compunction to make stuff. I’ve just ploughed on pretty much regardless of what anyone thinks of my work. If people like it, great. If not, it doesn’t matter. I’m having a great time. If I can do what I love and pay the bills, it’s amazing. I think you’ll only be happy as an artist if you do it for you and not anyone else. At the same time, I love crafting stuff for an audience. I’m a live performer, so I love audience reaction! I think you just keep growing and learning, and even if you feel discriminated against for whatever reason, eventually your hard work and consistency will be recognised. Or undeniable anyway! It’s a long road, but worth it.
Also, we’re in a time where people are interested in fresh voices. I feel this is really positive. Nothing is too weird anymore!
ASFF: What advice would you give those looking to take an idea from script to screen?
AL: I would say, MAKE IT! Or at least set it on its feet. Get some friends to read it out loud. Maybe some actors? Try and make a taster. Scrape together a skeleton crew and make something. Networking sites for filmmakers like Shooting People can be really useful for this.
Don’t wait for permission from your favourite producer or actor or whatever. Just get out there and do it! People notice innovation and industry. If you seem like you’re doing it without needing any help, people will be interested. Embrace your USP of being “new” and enjoy it! Respect the peers you’re working with, form your own “gang” – whether it’s you and an actor or a writer and a producer, or maybe even a new up and coming DOP. This is how people become robust and successful in this industry. If you look at any successful production company or show, the backstory will often be “two friends decided to get together and make Spaced or whatever.” Make a blood pact and promise to work together forever! (Make sure you like them and their ideas obviously!)
ASFF: What projects are you currently working on?
AL: I’ve just finished writing my next feature TIMESTALKER, which we’re filming next year. I’ve also just finished acting in a feature called ETERNAL BEAUTY, with Sally Hawkins, directed by Craig Roberts. And I’m writing a TV drama which is still under wraps!
ASFF: What are you most looking forward to attending at this year’s ASFF?
AL: I’m looking forward to being in York again. I’ve acted in two features shooting in York over the last year! I think the Mark Cousins talk will be great. And the Baby Cow talk will be a must for anyone interested in comedy.
Tickets are now available for ASFF 2018, running 7-11 November. Find out more here.
1. Stills from Prevenge (2016).
2. Still from Black Mountain Poets (2015).