Clare Holman & Veronique Christie: Making a villain sympathetic

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Writing tip: forget about restrictions when you start writing your story! Watch Clare Holman and Veronique Christie tell us about the making of the powerful short film "Only The Lonely", streaming now on Klipist.

00:48 – The true stories that inspired “Only the Lonely”
01:50 – How do you make a “villain” sympathetic?
03:38 – Filming the last scene was a fight for survival
04:25 – The difference of mindset as an actor and as a director
05:19 – Writing with restrictions stop you from telling powerful stories
05:52 – What’s next?

The Interview

Welcome back to another Klipist interview! Today we have Clare Holman and Veronique Christie from “Only the Lonely”, joining us for a lovely two-person interview. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this.

CLARE: Thank you!

VERONIQUE: Thanks, it’s nice to be here!

“Only the Lonely”, streaming now on Klipist – I would like to know why, Veronique, for yourself, as the writer, why you decided to write it, and Clare, as the director, why you decided to direct it, and what drew you to the project.

VERONIQUE: I just want to say that I’m not the only writer – there is a co-writer, Elaine Spires. Elaine had an auntie who was brought up in the East End. My background is, my parents were immigrants, came over to the UK, and that’s how the story developed. So, her auntie Winnie, as the changes in the East End happened, she felt very isolated and alone as she got older. And then we brought the two stories together, really. It really started with the kind of image in our heads of this very isolated lady being quite terrified of the changes around her, and that’s kind of how it happened.

And Clare, what about yourself? How did you come to be attached to the project, and what drew you to it in the first place?

CLARE: There were some major challenges for me in the piece. I think it was about so many different things, but obviously about loneliness and grief, but also intolerance. And I think one of the major things that attracted me to it was, how do I, how do we make somebody, who has essentially got racist tendencies, in any way sympathetic? I think what we’ve tried to do with the film, which has been quite a challenge, is to not look at systemic racism but to look at these small pockets of individual racism and how it works.

What we’ve tried to do is to not look at systemic racism but to look at these small pockets of individual racism, and how it works.

You could say Elspeth is the… kind of villain of the piece, to kind of go forward, and a lot of the audience watching it from the start would be like “oh I hope she gets her comeuppance and that”. And it’s such a stronger choice to have her vulnerable and to have her, you know, reasons for it, and her to come around. Was that there from the start, or did you kind of discover that whilst writing? 

VERONIQUE: No, it was there from the start. Because we knew it was going to be a challenge, and possibly a little bit controversial, so we knew that and we played with it. I think we talked about it, and sometimes we would even fall out about it, you know, it really kind of… It was quite funny because we’d get quite cross about things, and like, say “Well she can’t say that!” and I said “Well, why can’t she say that?” because, you know, and that’s the challenge.

How was it for you to try and bring that, the balance of, you know, the hatred, the racism, the turning point, all around to “together”?

CLARE: I remember, when we were filming it, that particularly that last scene was very difficult. I think it was about, in the end, a kind of fight for survival for both of them, which was part of the piece.

VERONIQUE: It really came across, I mean, you could hear a pin drop on that set. That moment, it was amazing.

This isn’t the first thing you’ve directed, right? You’ve directed a couple of other things.

CLARE: This is my… this was my third short film. But I’ve also directed for TV, so I’ve done Doctors and Holby City and yeah, I mean, I love it! I love it, it’s a massive responsibility. Every time I do it, I think “I’m never going to do that again”, a little bit of that feeling, just because of the stress of it.

What is the different mindset you have to be in, as an actor and director, when you step on set?

CLARE: I think being an actor is usually subjective, and being a director is objective. So you just have to take it back on that, and look at the whole picture. As an actor, you’re like a detective about your character. It’s quite internal work and this is all about the story that you want to tell, and how can I get everybody to come to that place.

Being an actor is usually subjective, and being a director is objective. As an actor, you’re like a detective about your character.

I want to ask, from a writer’s perspective, when you go into writing, do you write with restrictions in mind in order to get it made, or do you kind of write completely free, and then try and make it?

VERONIQUE: Yeah, no, no restrictions. I think restrictions stop you from telling the powerful stories, actually. It starts a conversation, doesn’t it? And these are difficult conversations.

Restrictions stop you from telling the powerful stories.

Awesome. And yeah, I’d love to ask you what’s coming up that we should be watching out for?

CLARE: I’ve got a film coming out. It’s just got signed up for a theatrical release, which is great. So it’s by… Prano Bailey-Bond is the director, it’s her first feature, astonishing director, called Censor. It was in Sundance, and then has gone to Berlin, and it’s now got a theatrical release, so that’s really exciting. And directing a short film that starts on Sunday… Yeah it’s been a kind of strange time for everybody, but yeah, it’s just beginning to shift so I’m quite excited. 

Veronique, Clare – thank you so very much for coming on and chatting with me this morning, it was great!

Please check out Only the Lonely streaming now on Klipist.

Watch Only the Lonely Short Film

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