Lucy Brydon chats to us about writing for film, and shares some top tips that she picked up on her journey to directing.
- Embrace change:
I developed both [my novel and film writing] at the same time. I graduated from the English and Creative Writing BA at Warwick, and I went to China when I was 21. I thought I’d only be there for a year. I ended up staying a bit longer. I was applying for journalism training programmes with major newspapers back in the UK – I thought that’d be my main route. It could have worked so differently. I don’t know if I would necessarily have gone into film.
- Keep busy, keep learning
I stayed in China, was studying Chinese and started working at a fashion start-up, and I was writing for them and doing marketing stuff. And at the same time I got interested in film, so I started participating in this local group who were making short films. I was helping with production and then they asked me to do the scriptwriting. And then from that, I got a job being an assistant producer. And I would write little scripts for them and got more involved. Also, at that time in China there were lots of opportunities which made everything seem very easy, so by age 22, I was associate producer on things. If you were in the right place at the right time, looked the part, and had a good degree in English and Creative Writing, God, you were like James Joyce.
So I walked into a few good script writing gigs, and figured how much I liked it. I started making short films with that group of people, and then worked at different production companies, and scriptwriting. I also did a novel adaptation called The People’s Republic of Desire. That was a big learning curve. And at the same time, I got commissioned to write my novel by a guy who had a publishing company in China.
But then I moved to Columbia in New York to do an MFA. It was a good traditionally-minded course, but I dropped out due to finances, moved back to London and was still trying to finish this novel when the publishing company said the novel had diverged too wildly from what was anticipated – something very commercial and soft and fluffy. I had signed the contract when I was 23 – I wouldn’t do it now. It’s the kind of thing you do when you’re young and ambitious. I got another publisher for the novel eventually in London, and it came out in 2015. While I don’t think it’s a reflection of me as an artist, I like it.
- Network, network, network
Then I looked for new film opportunities and built relationships with producers, which is very important in our world. When I moved, I had no connections, so that took some time. I did some talent development programmes with the Edinburgh Film Festival and other film festivals. I met Dan, who ended up producing my feature film, Sick(er), which I’m finishing now. For anyone who has perhaps just moved and doesn’t know anyone in the film industry, I recommend these sorts of talent development labs, because you meet lots of people.
We worked together on the film script for about a year and tried to make a short film. We had the film picked up by Film London for development which was cool because they had this first time feature filmmaker’s scheme. We got through the selection process and were commissioned in 2016, but we had to do a lot more development work on the screenplay. It took time to get it into production (it’s that difficult period where you’re not being paid yet people have other jobs or gigs to support themselves and when you live in London, it’s not the easiest place in the world). And then we had to fight for finance, which was quite traumatic at times.
- Be kind to yourself:
I personally wish I had said that it’s okay to do one thing instead of everything at the same time and push yourself so hard. I spent most of my twenties thinking about things I had to accomplish before I turned 30. There was something about turning 30… I’ve always been very impatient, and I think one thing I would really encourage young creative people, especially in their 20s, is to be patient with themselves. And you know, try to not look at social media too much. That stuff just makes you feel bad about yourself, comparing yourself to the idealised versions of others. I think being kind to yourself is important, and giving yourself the space. I’m very hard on myself, and I think I could have been kinder.
- Keep an open mind for the future:
I’m looking at getting another project into development. I’m keeping an open mind. I’m interested in doing something that plays more of a genre. Having written and directed a drama, I’m quite interested in thrillers, horror (body horror) and potentially, later on, sci-fi. I don’t consider myself as someone who has to stick to one genre. I’ve got a couple of TV series ideas but I just really want to wrap up my film. That’s my primary focus right now. We’ll see where it goes in the festival world and in terms of distribution. But it’s a good idea to have different projects going on together, even if in the background. You never know when something may (or may not) work out, or when it may be the right time for a project. No matter how good your projects may be, timing is still very important.
From Edinburgh, Lucy Brydon received a First Class BA from the University of Warwick in 2005 before moving to Shanghai. She lived there until 2010, writing, directing, and producing short films, commercials and television dramas as well as learning Mandarin. She then studied Film Directing at Columbia University, and on her return to the UK continued to work in film. Her academic and research work has featured in publications by Intellect Books and The University of Washington Film and Video Conference. Her debut novel, Shanghai Passenger, was published in 2015. Her debut feature film Sick(er) was commissioned by Film London with support from BBC Films, the BFI, Bright Shadow Films and the Wellcome Trust. The film is currently in post-production (see more at https://www.sickerfilm.com). She is Screenwriting Fellow on the University of Warwick’s Creative Writing Programme. She also blogs for Little White Lies about filmmaking. She is represented by Ian Benson and Nicola Biltoo at The Agency. lucybrydon.com
For more on the Warwick Writing Programme: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/writingprog/