EXCLUSIVE: Writer-director Corinna McFarlane and producer Nicky Bentham talk about working with EON’s Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson on The Silent Storm and their upcoming psychological thriller.
UK writer-director Corinna McFarlane, producer Nicky Bentham of Neon Films and executive producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson of EON Productions are reuniting after their work on drama The Silent Storm to develop a new psychological thriller set in the California desert.
That project, set in the present day, is now at second draft script stage and Bentham says of Broccoli and Wilson, “it’s great to be working with them again.”
The Silent Storm, McFarlane’s fictional feature debut, premieres tonight at the BFI London Film Festival (WestEnd handles sales). Set on a remote Scottish island in the 1950s, it follows a 30-year-old woman (Andrea Riseborough) who is caught between her overbearing minister husband (Damian Lewis) and a charismatic 17-year old criminal (Ross Anderson) who is delivered to them as part of a rehabilitation scheme.
This is a rare independent film executive produced and financed by James Bond royalty Broccoli and Wilson. Broccoli met producer Bentham as a mentor on the Guiding Lights programme backed by Lighthouse and Creative Skillset. Bentham remembers, “I thought I’d get to have a cup of tea with her that that would be inspiring…I was really surprised to learn when she takes something on she commits to it 100%. She took a real interest in my projects and career path.”
The fact that the Bond veteran came on board an indie drama isn’t so surprising once you know Broccoli, Bentham says. “She’s a film love and a supporter of talent…And she was excited to be involved with something smaller that has less moving parts.”
Broccoli and Wilson were keen to finance the project when they read McFarlane’s script. “She responded to the script in the same way that I did, it’s a raw and emotive piece of writing and creates an atmosphere you can feel on page.”
Wilson visited the set several times – not an easy feat given its location on the remote Isle of Mull. And Broccoli was on set for nearly every day of the five-week shoot. “They gave us a lot of practical advice along the way, but the biggest thing I got from them was just to keep going,” say Bentham. “It was amazing for me to have Barbara on set…to have someone like that to keep your spirits up and keep people going.”
McFarlane notes that Broccoli, who grew up on film sets with her father Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, was ready to pitch in on even the most mundane tasks to help the team. “She’s about the work, and she’s always working… Barbara was a doer, she just mucked in,” the director remembers.
McFarlane and Bentham had met when they both worked in production roles on 2005’s The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael. McFarlane previously co-directed 2008 documentary Three Miles North of Molkom, about a countercultural gathering in Sweden.
Of her mix of genres, the writer-director says, “I don’t want to be pinned down to anything other than good work.” But she sees some common themes across her films of “judgment, acceptance, truth, forgiveness and healing….and examining archetypal feminine qualities.”
Being identified is a female filmmaker is something McFarlane embraces rather than shying away from. “Other people say, ‘I am not a female director I’m just a director.’ But it’s more than a legitimate thing to say, it’s crucial. It’s important that it’s a female voice.”
Bentham’s Neon Films (the company she established after serving as co-producer on Duncan Jones’ 2009 hit Moon) is also developing another thriller with writer Joy Wilkinson (another Guiding Lights participant); and McFarlane’s ensemble screwball comedy Monk’s Apartment; plus some TV projects.