Nadia Fall may be one of the most established names in the UK theatre world — she has directed at least 10 plays at London’s National Theatre and holds the post of artistic director at Theatre Royal Stratford East — but when it comes to directing her first feature film Brides, even she admits to feeling “a flash of imposter syndrome”.

“It is a bit out of my comfort zone but that is often where I find my most interesting work comes from,” says the director, who together with writer Suhayla El-Bushra and producer Nicky Bentham of Neon Films is currently at the casting stage for Brides, which is due to start shooting in the autumn.

Backed by the BFI as well as national and regional Italian film funds, the story centres on two 15-year-old girls who leave home in order to make their way across Turkey to the Syrian border, before starting to question their decision.

“I felt more strongly than ever that it was us that had to tell this story and that the only medium was film,” explains Fall, who was born in London to South Asian immigrant parents, going on to get a taste for the arts while living in Paris. After returning to the UK, she completed an MA in directing before finding a home at the National Theatre.

“It’s a subject matter that can trigger heated debate, but our film is about creating empathy, not about othering. It’s also a road-trip movie about the intimacy of female friendships and about those risky choices we make as teenagers,” says Fall, who previously collaborated with El-Bushra on the Film4 short Bush in 2018.

Fall’s transition from stage to screen was accelerated by the pandemic. “Theatres were physically closed. The only way to tell stories was through film,” says the director, who made the Sky Arts film No Masks — based around the testimonies of real-life frontline workers during the pandemic, given voice by actors including Russell Tovey, Lorraine Ashbourne and Anya Chalotra — as well as one episode for the 2020 reboot of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads.

Having been granted “maternity leave” from her artistic directorship to make her feature, Fall will continue to embrace what she sees as a natural bridge between the two mediums. “The brilliantly subversive originality of new plays can make for amazing films, and that might just be where my future lies,” she says.

Contact: Rose Cobbe, United Agents