Interview with Kate Cheeseman (Director of What Happened To Evie)

 

Hello Kate, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Firstly I’d like to ask how would you describe the plot of the film?

This is something we have struggled to describe succinctly without giving the plot away!  “What Happened to Evie is a complex thriller about a young woman piecing together and dealing with her memories of a sexual attack. Taking the audience through her own journey, this short deals with some of society’s own prejudices in a subtle and informative way.”

So that is our premise which I think says most things and telling more reveals the twists and turns too much!

Do you think work that exploring issues like sexual assault is more important to depict and discuss in film now than ever because of changing attitudes and the #MeToo movement?

I think we need to keep the debate going, so that it doesn’t disappear with nothing changing and film is one way to get people talking.  There is a lot that needs to be properly thought about which as a society we should all be part of debating, starting from how we portray people on screen and how those people relate to each other, love each other and how they solve problems.  Story telling is part of how we ask and talk about questions.  You also can’t tell young people something is wrong but glorify it continually on the screen.

Then, people never like being lectured at so what I hope our film does is make people think about some of the issues.  The guy who carried out the assault in the film was very clearly wrong, but those guys that helped her, though they acted as heroes their behaviour was not exactly good. This is something they realise at the end. I think for me some of the best feedback has been that that viewers really liked seeing this and were moved by that part of the film.  It made them think and talk about the issues.

Given the complexity and horrific nature of the central theme of the film, was it important to you to be always be aware of the impact the film would have on viewers who may have experienced something similar to Evie?

Of course!  I talked to a lot of people who had had similar experiences and they all really liked the script and many wanted to be involved, so they were helpful.  I also didn’t want the film to be voyeuristic which is why we did things like keep the heroine’s clothes on in the bath scene.  We shot it all very much from her point of view so that you felt like you were experiencing her pain rather than watching it from the outside.  I hope this meant it made it more sympathetic to woman (and indeed men) who have been through this.  Also, we cleared it with the Rape Crisis in Britain and had one of their ambassadors do a piece for our website so that anyone who needed help has a number to ring.

What was the casting process for the film like?

Casting was pretty much like any other casting; looking for the right person who was a great actor and could play the part.  It made it easier that they didn’t have to get naked I think, which was in the original script. Also, we choreographed the scenes very carefully with a fight advisor, so all the actors we saw knew that they would be in safe hands, both the men and women.  I think if people know something is going to be handled professionally, they are more willing to take part in something like this. There was one actor who was worried about playing a rapist and pulled out, but then we found Mike Jibson, who is a brilliant actor and felt that the film was important to make so kindly agreed to be in the film.

How does this film compare to other films you’ve worked on?

I hope each film I make is better than the last!  I’ve always wanted to make more thrillers so that was good and I very much wanted to explore the way memories rattle round in your head and small things trigger them and bring them to the surface, but not necessarily in the right order. So, as well as the content, I loved the script and the style I would be able to use.  Otherwise each film has its own challenges and things you love about it.

What would you say were your main influences when writing this film?

Carol Younghusband wrote the screenplay based on a real life experience a friend of hers had when she was young.  This girl was never able to tell anyone what happened to her apart from her friend.  Carol wanted to write something to help others talk; a bit like the #MeToo.  That is why the script is so good as she wrote it from her heart with a lot of passion.

How would you say directing a film like this compares to working on a television series like Call the Midwife? Do you feel you have more autonomy as a director with projects like this as opposed to a television series?

You work on different projects for different reasons, but Call the Midwife also raises really important and quite hard issues, celebrates amazing women and is a brilliant and incredibly popular series.  It does have a house style, but that is something you know beforehand.  As some famous person once said, and I can’t remember who, sometimes limitations make you more creative.  I love working with great actors and getting great performances. Whatever the programme or film, the two most important things for me are always the script and the acting. How many multi-million dollar movies have we seen with great shots but no heart?  So, whatever I work on these elements are the most important things and I feel both have that or I wouldn’t have done either.

What other projects are you planning on working on in the future?

I’m working on a number of feature films; one about a family dealing with loss. It’s a magical realist type film and quite exciting in its concept, a bit like Truly Madly Deeply in a way.  Then I also have a thriller about a girl who is stalked but, in the end, gets the guy.  A bit different though from the one just directed by Soderberg – Unsane, though it does have some common themes!  Then I have a few other ideas in early stages.  We’re mainly looking for development finance to be able to pay the writer, but that is tough to find these days!

With thanks to Kate. You can watch a trailer for “What Happened to Evie” below and make sure you try to see this fantastic film:

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