HORNY – POST-SHOOT Q&A

Hannah Leopard Found

POST-SHOOT Q&A WITH HANNAH LEOPARD - WRITER/DIRECTOR OF HORNY

LOGLINE

An anxious teenager, who is terrified of losing her virginity, discovers a horn is growing out of her forehead on the day she’s meant to do it.

[/vc_row]

Did the script go through any development from the time that you entered the Fund to when you went into production? If so, what were the main changes?

I actually changed the ending of the film. After many conversations with my producer, Karima Sammout-Kanellopoulou, we decided that the original ending which was more open-ended and mysterious was perhaps better suited to a feature film. Another ending had been circulating in my mind for some time which celebrated sexual self-discovery in young women. As soon as I wrote it, we both immediately agreed it felt bolder, more courageous, and more like the film we both wanted to make.

 

Were there any last-minute changes that happened during production? Any changes to the story that were the result of practicalities or obstacles that came up during the shoot?

There were no changes to the story, but we did end up dropping an important scene on Day 2 because we just didn’t have time to shoot it in our very intense schedule. Thankfully, we managed to arrange a half-day shoot with a skeleton crew for the day after we were supposed to wrap. However, we had to shoot the scene in a blacked-out studio space (at no cost) instead of a night-time garden because we couldn’t afford to rent the location for another day. Luckily, because the scene is magical and surreal it transferred well to the blacked-out studio.

Talk to us about your choice to shoot on film. First of all, what did you shoot on (type of film, camera) and what inspired your choice to shoot on film? Were there any unique challenges or surprises that came up?

We shot on an Arriflex 416 16mm camera. I have always loved the look and feel of film – the grainy, textural depth feels like memory to me. I loved the idea that this film might subtly remind the audience of their own teenage memories of sex and their fears & confusion around it. 

In terms of challenges, you have to be more sparing when shooting film because film cans are expensive. On day 1 we used up a lot of film and my DP, Nina Oyens, was a little concerned that we would run out, so she suggested we do more in-camera rehearsals before we shot. I didn’t mind this at all and think it made us more focused. It does mean that there is perhaps a bit less material for the edit than when shooting digitally, but I think overall, shooting on film was wonderful and not something to be feared. I will definitely shoot on film again – you just can’t get the same look & feel when you go digital.

How did you find the cast? Did you get much time to rehearse with them before the shoot?

We had a wonderful casting process with our Casting Director, Claire Bleasdale, who arranged an open street casting to find new young talent for the three main teenage roles. We also saw young actors with agents, but ended up casting all three main teenage roles from the street casting: Kelda Willenbrink as Lily, Toni Olabanji as Adam and Didi Hicks as Holly. They were just all so good and naturally embodied the spirits of the characters. For the two adult roles, we went the usual audition route and were thrilled with our fabulous actors – Art Campion & Natalie Radmall-Quirke.

 

It was always important to me that if we went down the street casting route, we had to save budget for rehearsal as I wanted the young actors to feel grounded and connected before their first time on set. There are two sex scenes in the film and so it was vital that we had the time both to block them and support Kelda and Toni in their journey towards feeling safe enough to be that vulnerable on screen. We managed to rehearse for 5 days with Kelda who plays Lily, bringing in the other actors at different times to rehearse with her, which is quite a significant amount of rehearsal time for a short film.

 

Kelda has Tourette’s Syndrome and after we’d cast her, she told me that she thought she’d blown it when she came in for her second audition because she had a lot of ticks which can flare up when she’s feeling anxious – but despite her fears, it was still easy to see her natural talent and intuitive connection to the role. Having rehearsal time was essential for both of us to get to know and trust each other. We ended up having a blast rehearsing together and I’m sure this prep time helped because Kelda and all the cast absolutely killed it on set.  

Did you film on location, in studio, or both? Can you talk a bit about how you found your locations and obtained permission to shoot there?

We shot on location in two different houses, on a London high street at night and in studio. As the cost of renting locations through locations companies is very high, we went down the Airbnb route. We saw a lot of different houses and negotiated with the owners about whether they would be happy for a film crew to come into their homes (not everyone is, of course!) but we were lucky and found wonderful spaces to shoot in. Exterior scenes can be tricky too because different councils have different (sometimes quite strict) rules and regulations for shooting street scenes, but we managed to find a great spot and all really enjoyed shooting our chaotic nighttime scene. Luckily, my husband has a recording studio business, so we managed to shoot the extra scene in there for free

 

What would you say is your directing style? Do you use storyboards? Allow your cast to improvise? 

I like to work really closely with the DP beforehand so when we get to set we are both feeling really confident and clear about the vision and how to achieve it. Then I like to really trust the DP to fulfil the vision without controlling much of their domain, so that I can place my attention more fully on the actors and their process. I love shooting handheld because there’s a fluidity that suits me (I was a gymnast & dancer in my past) and handheld feels liberating and more free-flowing to me. I find this infiltrates into how the actors feel too, particularly if it means you’re able to do slightly longer takes. It’s not always possible to do long takes, depending on your vision of how the film all fits together, but I prefer them as it allows the actors more space to get into the role. I love doing improvisation on set because I love trusting actors to create – these are always the most fun scenes for me because you can end up capturing some real magic – an interaction or response that feels so natural and real. However, the majority of this film is not improvised. I have always loved the idea of shooting a 100% improvised film – who knows, maybe one day?

 

 

How many days did you shoot for?

We ended up shooting for 4 ½ days but we had scheduled for 4. In an ideal world, I would have spread it further, but time is money!!

What did you enjoy most about the shoot? What was the most difficult?

I loved working with my all-female crew (there was only 1 or 2 men on set throughout the whole shoot!). This was the first time I’d ever worked with a female producer (Karima Sammout-Kanellopoulou) and a female DP (Nina Oyens) and I absolutely loved it. Alongside our Production Designer (Sehar Kidwai) and Costume Designer (Kathryn Poon), we all had a beautiful connection not only as colleagues, but we also identified with the story & I hope this mutual understanding & respect has reverberated into the film. The film is very much a woman’s story and it felt incredible to be surrounded by all these amazingly talented, powerful women in every position on set. 

The main sex scene was probably the most difficult thing to shoot. It was my first time shooting a sex scene, the room was very hot and we had the pressure of a big shooting schedule later that day. Sex scenes are quite intricate in terms of blocking, and they can be tough on the actors and the crew. I am so grateful for Veniece Ford, our wonderful Intimacy Coordinator, who gave us great support in this scene and helped keep our actors in good spirits. 

How is post-production coming together?

It’s going well. We got delayed for a number of reasons that couldn’t be helped, but the edit is now nearly there. Bringing the music in has been really exciting because it adds so much to the emotional tone of the film. It feels like the vision is really coming to life now.

What are your aspirations for the short once it’s completed?

To get it out there into the world and seen by as many people as possible! A film isn’t a film until it has an audience … the rest is up to fate.

Do you have any advice for filmmakers embarking on their first short film?

It sounds basic but my main advice is just to keep going. This film was a long time in the making & fortune really does favour those who keep plugging away –even when it feels like it will never happen. Get your script read by people who know how to provide good feedback (ie not your mum/best friend/boyfriend/girlfriend – unless they are script readers/producers!). Sadly, there seem to be fewer people supporting short film these days but places like Shore Scripts are hugely helpful – even if you don’t win the fund, you get feedback that takes you to the next level. Most importantly, if you believe in your story, don’t give up on it.

Our contests have helped over 100 writers kickstart their screenwriting careers

See how our Feature, TV Pilot, Script Development Fund & Short Film Fund Contests can help you break through as a screenwriter.

 


Don’t miss a deadline. Download our Contest Calendar!

[/vc_row]