Debut director lives Cannes dream

By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News, Cannes

Image caption,
Deborah Hadfield at work on her first feature film

It might be where the stars come to tread the red carpet, but the Cannes Film Festival is also an important place for new talent to win their big break.

There is business to be made on the French Riviera, which is why first-time feature director Deborah Hadfield was so desperate to get here.

She endured a 20 hour mini-bus ride from England, travelling more than 1,000 miles overland because the volcanic ash cloud grounded her flight at the last minute.

"We were lucky to get a mini-bus so quickly," she reflects, remaining upbeat despite the prospect of a repeat journey on the way home.

At the moment, however, only one thing matters - finding a distributor for her romantic thriller The Kindness Of Strangers.

The film, which screens at the festival on Friday, stars David Prowse - best known for playing Darth Vader in Star Wars - as a man who searches across Europe for the truth behind his sister's death.


"The dream is that we secure a high level distributor," she explains, which could give the film commercial life.

"The great thing about being here is you have a chance to meet people that, otherwise, it might take years for you to get meetings with."

Ms Hadfield, who only started shooting short films in 2005, confesses she is starting to feel the pressure about publicly unveiling her movie for the first time.

"Showing the film to industry people is very nerve-wracking," she says.

"Up until now it's been my pet project - my baby - and having it scrutinised is the moment you find out if it's more than just a dream. It's the moment of truth.

"But at the same time, it's a dream come true to actually have a film screened at Cannes.

"I think it's going to be quite an exciting moment. That's the beauty of Cannes. It makes you believe that your dreams can come true."

However, making the film was not an easy task. Ms Hadfield - a former journalist - says finding the finances to make the movie was the "most difficult challenge I have ever undertaken".

She adds: "If you're an established director it's tough enough to get money, but if you're a first-time director it's virtually impossible."

'Chasing the light'

It seems the mother-of-one relishes a challenge, but even she was surprised at just how much she had to take on.

"Most people when they do a low budget feature film would keep it to a local location with a very small cast," she says.

Image caption,
Hadfield worked with actor David Prowse on the film

Instead, Ms Hadfield took her entire cast and crew to Rome and France.

"We only had nine days to do it and we covered probably about 4,000 miles there and back."

Short of time, they worked long hours - some nights only getting an hour of sleep - before starting again.

"We were always pushing time. It was never about where can we eat and sleep - it was always about chasing the light," Ms Hadfield explains.

The actors rehearsed in the back of the minibus while they travelled, whilst Ms Hadfield spent a lot of her time trying to solve problems that arose during production.

"We were constantly having to be creative about how we did things and where we did things," she says.

Despite the sleepless nights and hard work that has gone into the project, the newcomer is already planning her next film.

"Film is a very difficult industry to survive in," she admits.

"One day it will be nice to be in competition with a major film and to get to that level, but for now to take this first step is exciting."

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