Lucy Brydon is a director, a screenwriter, a teacher, a published author, and releases her debut feature film, Body of Water, this month.
Graduating from Warwick in 2005 with a First Class BA in Creative Writing, Lucy moved to Shanghai, where she began writing, directing, and producing short films and television dramas. She then moved to New York to study Film Directing at Columbia University, before returning to the UK to work in the film industry – and returning to Warwick, where she now leads the Screenwriting course on the world-renowned Writing Programme.
Lucy spoke to us about her new (already critically-acclaimed) film, her hopes for the creative industries in the pandemic age, her time at Warwick as both student and teacher, and the importance of being kind to yourself.
Your debut feature film, Body of Water, tells the tale of a celebrated war photographer who is living with an eating disorder, while navigating the complexities of ordinary life: motherhood, family, romantic love, and staying well. Could you share a little about the story you wanted to tell, and what your motivation was for communicating it?
I wanted to challenge the misconception that eating disorders are the preserve of young, predominantly female, middle-class girls. I had issues with food in my twenties, as well as anxiety and depression, and so I'm passionate about opening up conversations around mental health. It was important that the character is successful and strong, outwardly. That the grip anorexia has on her is not about vanity. It's an expression of control. I wanted to explore how this could infiltrate all aspects of her life, her relationships with her daughter and mother most specifically but also how she relates to the world around her.
Body of Water premiered at the 2020 Glasgow Film Festival – the last physical film festival to take place in the UK before lockdown. You’ve called filmmakers “tough” and “the best kind of crazy”; with cinemas closing and artists struggling, in what ways to do you think the industry can adapt to survive the pandemic?
Filmmakers are a funny bunch. As with all creative people, they tend to be a bit 'different'. But film and television is particularly unforgiving because it's very high stakes in terms of financial investment in a way that say, poetry is not. For that reason it also attracts some fascinating egos. For most independent filmmakers, the amount of knocks you get weed out the people who can't take it. I've thought about quitting, everyone I know has. Because having your voice heard and your work looked at is not easy - far less to have it stand out.
The temporary closure of Cineworld and Picturehouse and the reduction in operating hours in other cinema chains is a real blow to the industry. However, I'm hoping that this might lead to a resurgence of smaller, independent film venues that also give more space to smaller independent films like mine. There's also an incredibly high level of content consumption going on at home as we know, which is good news for makers. Especially considering the slow down in production over the past few months. We will all have to adapt to survive, but I'm hoping that the creative limitations of lockdown might result in some clever thinking and filmmaking ingenuity. But for entry level people in our industry, it's going to take its toll as people get more desperate for work. There's no doubt we're in for a bumpy few years as we right ourselves again. I don't think filmmaking - or any industry - will ever be the same. I feel glad I shot my debut before this happened, to be honest.
Do you have any specific advice for how be creative during Covid?
What I've found is it's great to have real time and space to absorb. Alongside that, it's a bit of a battle to focus and stay motivated when the world is in such a state of flux. Just being patient with yourself and trying to use the time as best you can is key. We're living through something that's once in a lifetime crisis. If you need to take a few hours to read lightweight magazines in the bath, do it. Mental and physical health must come first. The rest follows.
When giving tips to aspiring writers and filmmakers, you have said in other interviews that it is important to be kind to yourself. Could you elaborate on that?
A lot of artists I know are pretty hard on themselves, myself included. Give yourself a break. Nobody is going to know your work better or be harder on it than you. That can be debilitating. You have to let go sometimes. Giving yourself the freedom and confidence to do that is an important gift - an act of self-love. But it's much easier said than done. It does get easier with age and experience though. You find yourself giving less of a sh*t.
In 2005 you graduated from Warwick with a BA in Creative Writing; since then you have lived in Shanghai and New York, you have published a novel and created film and television. Now you have returned to lead the Screenwriting course on the Warwick Writing Programme -- how does it feel to be back?
I love Warwick. I have incredibly fond memories of being an undergraduate here. When I was studying on the WWP, it was one of two or three Creative Writing programmes in the country. Many more have sprung up since then but I do think that we are special in that our teaching staff are all brilliant at their work and motivated to do their best for our students. I maintained contact with Maureen Freely for the ten years after I left uni and before I started teaching - that's something really special. We build a community with longevity - which is what a career in the arts needs to be about. We are friends.
Some of your former teachers have become your colleagues – like Professor Maureen Freely. What have you learnt from them that has helped you?
I remember being in a seminar with Maureen and her saying that you know, as a writer, you need to live a little. I definitely took that to heart. You can't tell stories without living them out yourself. I definitely tried to have adventures. I still do (perhaps in a more responsible way). Storytellers do tend to be adventurers. You've got to be!
For you, what is the importance of creative writing courses in higher education, like those on the Warwick Writing Programme?
It's about fostering a community. I am still in touch with people I studied with at Warwick and at film school. These are my peers. We share work, experiences, feedback, war stories. All of it. Yes, a degree classification is important, but for a certain kind of person it's only a first step.
Body of Water has already received critical acclaim, and it is being released online and in selected cinemas on 16th October. What do you hope that audiences will take from the film?
Even the strongest people have struggles that we don't know about. Not everyone gets better or gets a happy ending. Let's just be as kind as we can to each other. The world's a tough enough place as it is.
Body of Water will be released on 16 October in selected cinemas and online (Sky Store, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema, HOME, Broadway). More info from Verve Pictures here.
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