EXCLUSIVE: Sightseers co-writer and star is directing and starring in Prevenge while seven-and-a-half months pregnant.
Sightseers co-writer and star Alice Lowe is set to start shooting her directorial debt feature, provisionally titled Prevenge, on Thursday (Oct 29) in Cardiff. Western Edge Pictures/Gennaker is fully financing.
Lowe, who is seven-and-a-half months pregnant in real life, also stars as a pregnant woman on a killing spree, targeting individuals from different walks of life. Her motivation for revenge is gradually revealed.
Lowe described Prevenge as a “post-feminist revenge movie”. The writer-director has structured a narrative for the film and said it is “a classic revenge tale and very episodic, so the structure was quite laid out,” but will also employ improvisation on set.
“We’re using improvisation a lot and that’s quite a good tool if you are confident enough to use it,” Lowe told ScreenDaily.
“You can get really, really exciting results from that that give it a freshness. It’s kind of exciting and kind of terrifying at the same time.”
Lowe’s pregnancy certainly gave the team a firm deadline for production before she gives birth in December.
“It’s been unusually quick [in development and planning]. [Being pregnant] gives you a fire underneath you to get going,” she said with a laugh.
“You can be in development for years and years but you need something to get you over the hump to make it happen, so it’s been quite galvanising. It has to happen now because of the factors involved.”
Cast and crew
Even with the shoot starting imminently, Lowe is still confirming schedules for the rest of the cast, drawing on her wide network of past collaborators. Two already confirmed are her former Sightseers co-star Eileen Davies, as well as Red Road and The Witch actress Kate Dickie.
The crew includes DoP Ryan Owen Eddleston and editor Matteo Bini.
The producers are Jennifer Handorf (Borderlands), Jamie Adams (who directed Lowe in his recent comedy Black Mountain Poets) and Western Edge Pictures’ Vaughan Sivell, who wrote and produced Third Star and recently directed boxing documentary Mr. Calzaghe, set to be released Nov 20 by eOne.
Lowe says the project came about after talking to Adams, who suggested they collaborate on another film after Black Mountain Poets.
She recalled: “I first said, ‘I can’t do anything now because I’m pregnant.’ Then I thought, ‘Hang on, I could make a project around that!”
Of the film’s tone, Lowe predicted: “It’s going to be quite bloody and it’s probably slightly more serious than Sightseers. It operates in more of a real realm and the humour comes from the reality of the situation.”
She will shoot the “very low budget” film over six days in Wales with several days of pick-ups in London.
“Jamie and Jenn are also used to working in tight budgets,” says Lowe, who recently also directed her first short film, Solitudo.
Western Edge’s Sivell and Franki Goodwin were quick to get the film greenlit. “Vaughan could make the project happen quickly and they were really excited by the idea,” added Lowe.
Western Edge has an exclusive deal with financier Gennaker Films, which is fully financing Prevenge.
Sivell said: “We’re so thrilled to be producing Alice’s first film at WEP/Gennaker. It’s going to be a uniquely dark and edgy film, but as with all she does, still driven by her gift for comedy.”
Working on a ‘strong female narrative’
Lowe also has a higher-budget feature in development at Film4, but did not want to wait until after the birth of her child to get her directing career jumpstarted.
“I knew I would have to take some time off after the baby,” she said. “With your first film you just have to shoot it. You just have to go out and do it.”
Lowe recalled that after acting and writing, the next logical step for her career was to direct, and she wants to work on films with strong female characters.
“I feel strongly about female narratives,” Lowe stated. “People can get scared about a new type of female character. You have to have a real passion and belief that it can work to drive it through.”
The way people “infantilise” pregnant women was one inspiration for her script.
“It was based on my real experience of being pregnant,” said Lowe. “People automatically assume you’re a lovely person because you’re pregnant.
“They coo over you, they help with your bags. You think, ‘Well I might be a horrible person, I haven’t changed just because I’m pregnant!’. That was one of the original thoughts behind the story.
“I wanted to write something which defied that image of the pregnant woman as this safe, sweet, kind person… I felt like motherhood is a crazy, interesting experience and it’s rarely seen on screen.
“If it is, it’s usually in comedies, from the man’s point of view, the comedic woman squeezing his hand and screaming at him.
“Pregnancy could be a very alien, existential experience and we don’t show it on screen in those terms. I wanted to defy people’s expectations of what that character was and could be, and get some humour out of it more from the female perspective.”
More pregnant actresses on screen
Lowe also didn’t want being pregnant to pigeonhole the way she is seen as an actress, or keep her out of work for nine months.
“Why don’t we have more pregnant actresses on screen?,” she asked. “Yes of course, sometimes pregnant actresses can’t do stunts but for some kinds of characters. But why can’t we see pregnant women in a role with a job? Rather than just disappearing.”
Of directing herself, Lowe had experience from her short Solitudo and said: “You hope you’re so busy that you stop agonising about your performance anyway, you just get on with it.”
She added that there is no fixed timeframe with the edit for Prevenge but she will continue to be directly involved even after the baby’s birth.
“I worked with an editor recently who has two young kids, so he was getting interrupted,” said Lowe. “But if we have this industry that is 24/7, then there should be more flexible working for women and men with kids.
“Childcare and flexible hours should be more available. I hope some of those issue will be raised by the film in a way.
“Why is it taboo to have kids in the film industry? It’s forcing the issue into people’s faces.”