Interview with Filmmakers Emma Hughes and Ben Mallaby

The film Island Queen produced by Emma Hughes, Head of Fashion Photography at Falmouth University and directed by Ben Mallaby, Senior Lecturer at Ravensbourne, has been nominated for Best British Short Film at this year’s BAFTA Awards.

Created on a small budget and shot on location in Cornwall over a few days, the award-winning Island Queen was the result of collaboration between industry and community, featuring contributions from a number of Falmouth University staff and students. Pvt. Craine, another of Ben Mallaby’s films, was a Comedy Finalist in the Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) 2012. We talk to Emma and Ben about their practice and inspirations.

A: Firstly, what made you want to produce your short film Island Queen? Can you tell us about your inspirations?
EH: Ben and I have collaborated in the past. He got in touch about Island Queen and I jumped – it felt like a great project to be a part of and I was really keen to shoot a short using the diverse and unique landscape of Cornwall.

A: Island Queen won the El Rey Award for Excellence in Short Filmmaking at last year’s Barcelona Film Festival and was named Best Comedy at the 2013 European Independent Film Festival. How do awards help progress and promote your work?
EH: If you’ve made something you are proud of, I think it’s only natural to aim for more exposure. Film Festivals also present an opportunity to receive professional feedback about your work. Throughout my career I’ve always felt this is invaluable to your creative progression.

A: Ben, your short Pvt. Craine featured in the 2012 edition of ASFF. What are the main benefits you receive from being involved in film festivals?
BM:
Film festivals are a great democratiser. They’re a brilliant way to meet the community and to keep up-to-date with what other film-makers are producing. The endorsement of well-regarded festivals is really beneficial when applying for future funding, while audiences seem to really respond to a film that has plenty of laurels.

A: Emma, as Head of Fashion Photography at Falmouth University, how have you found your fashion industry experience have influenced your short filmmaking?
EH:
I think my professional background in fashion photography has been integral to my creative film-making. Both industries require appreciation of aesthetic and I’m fortunate in that I’ve been able to hone this throughout my career. When Ben and I make films together, Ben’s initial focus often concerns the narrative and its delivery, whilst my focus from the get-go is on the ambiance and ‘feel’ of the visuals, achieved through a careful consideration of colour, tone, texture, lighting, location, composition – all skills I’ve developed through working in fashion image-making.

In terms of my role as Producer for Island Queen, it really helps if you’re not wallflower. Life in fashion photography demands a fair dose of conviction and assertiveness, skills which you certainly draw from when you’re clearing a cinema or café ready for shooting, or stopping a boat in the middle of the sea to turn and face a lighthouse.

A: We’re really excited about our new category for ASFF 2014: Fashion Film. What are your thoughts on this genre? What do you think short films can contribute to the fashion industry today?
EH:
Garments are always designed to be worn and seen in movement and so the best way to see a garment as the designer intended is through Fashion Film. Fashion Film as a medium is inventing and defining itself and it’s great that it’s now a genre that is being more formally recognised in film-making. We teach our students about ‘fashion image-making’ not just fashion photography – incorporating photography, film and animation. The possibilities for still and moving image-making in fashion excites me and I love to work across all these platforms.

A: The community played an important part in the making of Island Film, which was shot in Cornwall. Can you describe this collaborative process?
EH:
It felt like a collaboration between friends. It was very exciting to work with industry figures and Cornish venues. We couldn’t have done it without everybody’s efforts and what really stood out was the backing we received from the region. People were genuinely engaged and excited about the film, they opened their spaces to us for free with real warmth and support.

A: Island Queen has recently been nominated for the Best British Short Film category at this year’s BAFTA Awards. You must be delighted with this latest accolade; what does a BAFTA nomination mean to you?
EH:
We’re thrilled. It’s just a wonderful surprise and an affirmation of our efforts. There is so much prestige attached to a nomination and we’re still shocked. Two weeks to go before award night and, for now, it’s all about finding that perfect dress!

BM: It’s a privilege to have your work acknowledged by such an established and highly regarded institution as the BAFTAs. I’m still pretty shocked, but very excited.

A: Finally, are you working on any new projects?
EH: Always! I’m working on a fashion film with some of my friends and colleagues from industry.

BH: Myself and Nat Luurtsema (writer and actress, Island Queen) have just locked down the financing for our first feature film Annie Has Boy Issues which we will be shooting in May 2014.

Watch Island Queen’s trailer on Vimeo.

The results of this year’s BAFTA Awards will be announced at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden on 16 February. For more information visit www.bafta.org.

Credits
1. Island Queen, (UK, 2012), Ben Mallaby / Emma Hughes.