Maternal Instincts

Deborah Haywood began her film career working as a script reader and script editor for producer Sally Hibbin at Parallax. She went on to make several short films, including the award-winning Sis (2011), before writing and directing her first feature Pin Cushion. Nominated for the Douglas Hickox Award at the British Independent Film Awards in 2017, the film is a harrowing study of the parent-child dynamic as a socially-awkward mother (Joanna Scanlan) and daughter (Lily Newmark) try to make a new life in small-town Britain.

ASFF: What was your starting point on Pin Cushion? Was it Lily’s character, Iona?
DH: It was. At the beginning, I was talking to somebody and they were telling me about a girl. I was asking: “Is she like this? Or is she like that?” People from round our way, they talk about people who are promiscuous – girls – and they’d say: “Oh, she can take more pricks than a pin cushion!” That was the start.

ASFF: Can you talk about the design of the house shared by Iona and her mother?
DH: We didn’t really design that much about it. It was already there! I just looked at loads of images; if an image looked like Pin Cushion, then I went with it.

ASFF: Where did you find Lily? This is her first lead.
DH: Well, Kharmel Cochrane [Casting], their team got loads of people to self tape or they asked people to come in. So I was going through all these faces, all these girls, just sitting and doing Iona impressions. Some of them were really beautiful or really good, but it wasn’t the essence of Iona, but then I saw Lily and I thought she was off the street. You know before you press “play” [on the tape], it’s a still … I saw her and thought, “She looks like a beautiful, rare salmon!” I wanted something a bit fairytale. Some of the stuff we talk about is quite hard-hitting, so I thought if I present it as extra-real, extra-ordinary, it would work.  

ASFF: Do you know people who experienced bullying? It’s a big part of the film.
DH: I know kids who have gone through it and I was bullied at school as well, and I think that’s where the fantasy [sequences] came from. When I was at school, and I was being bullied, I used to go into my imagination and things were good and I was getting revenge on the bullies. I think I still do it now. I caught myself doing it this morning. I was absolutely petrified to show the film. This is me. This is my DNA. I literally took my belly out and smeared it over the screen. I could get really bullied here myself. So I was daydreaming.

ASFF: What was it like shooting in your home town of Swadlincote, in Derbyshire?
DH: That’s even my old school [in the film]! The last time I was there, there was graffiti everywhere that said, ‘We hate Deb Haywood!’ So for me to go back there, it was really quite painful.

Pin Cushion opens in cinemas on 13 July. For more details, click here.

1. All stills from Pin Cushion. Starring Lily Newmark.