Hey Lovelies,

Yesterday I spent the day at the LFF Afternoon Tea sessions with a number of directors, but before I attended the event I was lucky enough to speak to a number of directors who are also showing their work at the event, including the amazing Esther May Campbell, who is presenting her feature film, ‘Light Years’ at this year’s festival.

Speaking about the inspiration behind the film, the impact ‘Skins’ made on her career and her future projects, Esther allows us into her world and the world of this film lovelies, which I hope that you all enjoy…

After making such amazing shorts for years, what made you want to turn to feature films?
I loved this story. And this story could only exist in long form.

How did you find the cast for the film? What was it about the chosen figures that appealed to you?
I allow script and development, pre-production and production to overlap. We looked for cast a year before shooting. For Dad, I kinda wrote the part for Muhammet, who I had seen in ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA. I knew I wanted a singer or dancer to play Moira. I felt someone who uses their body as a tool might express well the potential loss of losing one's physicality. Beth is so strong and vulnerable at once. Tender and vital. Qualities needed for the part. For the young people, I went into schools and youth groups to talk with kids a similar age while looking for potential cast. Sophie, who plays Ramona, came with a mate at an open call. She had no interest in acting, but her physicality, where she was in her own teenage years, how her body and mind were pulling in different directions – was just perfect. James too. Big feet and long limbs, but also a very conscientious and ambitious soul. Diligent and thoughtful. Zamira, who plays Rose, was a surprise. She wasn’t the live-wire I had imagined when writing. She was grounded and focussed – a great counterpoint for the neurosis of the rest of the family. Each actor needed different notes and guidance. A day didn’t pass that I didn’t wake up excited to work with them.

What would you say to people Light Years is about if they have not heard of it?
A story about love and loss. A family aching to reconnect. A ghost story propelled by a young girl called Rose. She reckons a family is like a constellation – all connected, hanging up there, in the infinite.  Stars can feel each other, even if some died millions of years ago.  Even if they’re light years apart. Over the course of one day, a mother wills her distant children closer, and Rose’s fractured family pulls achingly back into its constellation. It's anarchic, funny and very tender.

How did you find the story for Light Years? Was there something that inspired you?
I had the idea of someone following a bus route by foot to find the person they loved. I had met people who knew their time was short, that within their family there was an inherited sell-by date. I was touched by the layers of sadness and denial, but also great wisdom and presentness I found from these encounters. From this I asked what if a child wanted to find her missing mother, but in finding her came to know her own fated future? What would it mean for the people around her who love her? This enabled me to work on a film of many stories and perspectives. It allowed me to look at the question of time philosophically and formally. If we are running out of time, what qualities of the heart might we develop?

What was your favourite moment or scene from the film? Or the scene you are most proud of?
There are many... I love the moment mother and daughter finally find one another, and walk and talk through a beach forest as the light changes around them. Mum describes the Big Bang and all that came after and as we listen we realise we are falling into the darkness of the woods and then into the cosmos and then we come back out into a shimmering world where Mum looks up - with the forest reflected in her eyes. That shot of Beth always makes me catch my breath! It’s the heart of the film. People together but apart. Connected and longing. Conversations humorous and metaphysical at once. Behind them is this emotional well of the past. This emotional big bang. In front of them is an uncertain future. But everything is light and soft here. In the sound and images. I love it.

You have worked on pieces such as ‘Skins’, did you feel that this helped you capture the essence of a young person’s journey?
Maybe I am just a 15 year old girl at heart, stomping around the edgelands, wanting on a great adventure, trapped by a body that will only do so much, fighting and loving those close to me! Identifying into a young person’s point of view has never been difficult for me.

How does it feel to have the support of the BFI behind you for your first feature film?
I have great admiration for the BFI & CE execs involved. They financed the film and also allowed us to push the process and experiment, while offering feedback when needed. There is a sense they are looking for cultural films. New ways of looking at UK stories and landscapes. Light Years fulfils this brief (being the only UK film at Critics week in Venice and in competition for the Sutherland Award).

Finally could you tell us anything about any future projects you are working on?
I have an idea for a love story, and a feature length doc. The former is set after the great floods and looks at the many flavours of love, and the psycho/spiritual needs of humanity after mass human loss. The doc is based in a small rural community and digs into the relationship between time and the human soul – why some folk drop out of economic time, but find a path connected to a temporal rhythm that enables life to flourish. Can’t say much more than that for now. Both will be written with a more radical process in mind.

The film is screening at the festival tomorrow and on Saturday lovelies, so if you would like to get tickets, just click here:  https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::permalink=lightyears

Blog Soon,
Joey X

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