In conversation with Eva Riley

15 December, 2021

Screen and Film School Brighton were incredibly pleased to have welcomed award-winning Scottish screenwriter and director, Eva Riley, for a recent Masterclass in which she provided useful industry tips and advice for our students.

Eva is a long-standing friend to Screen and Film School Brighton. Having written and directed a number of short films, including ‘Sweetheart’ (2011) and ‘Joyride’ (2013), she graduated from the National Film and Television School (NFTS) with her final year film ‘Patriot’ (2015), which was selected to compete for the Short Film Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Shortly after this, Eva was commissioned to write and direct ‘Diagnosis’ (2017) by BBC Films and was named a ‘Screen International Star of Tomorrow’. Her short films have screened at festivals including BFI London Film Festival, Edinburgh, Telluride and the BAFTA New Talent Awards.

Eva’s first feature ‘Perfect 10’ (2019) premiered at BFI London Film Festival, and was described by Cath Clarke in the Guardian as “a dazzling coming-of-age tale lit up by a pair of remarkable first-time performances”. The film won The Discovery Award at the British Independent Film Awards in February 2021 and she is now working on her second feature The Circle.

Eva provided a detailed account of how she sourced the funding for her most recent feature film, ‘Perfect 10’, through iFeatures, and highlighted how this process differed greatly when compared to financing her previous short films.

“Generally, financing a feature film is quite different from a short film. ‘Perfect 10’ was low-budget for a feature film – half a million pounds – which is low considering the fact we had a lot of gymnastics, motorbikes, and young actors within it. Usually, with a feature film you would finance it through various sources – you might get a bit of private money and a bit of public money. But, with iFeatures it was quite unique. I called it ‘X-Factor for film’, because you went through all these stages from twelve groups to six and then a final three. So, you go through this strange process. But it was good, because once you got to the end, you knew you had your full production budget very early on.”

Eva went on to cover some of the main elements of consideration for feature film-makers, including financing, the casting process, rehearsals, working with crew members, post-production, film festivals, distribution and the use of colour, which is a subject she cares deeply about.

“Colour was always especially important to me. I had an early mood board for ‘Perfect 10’ before anyone else had come on board. I was very aware that the film sits within a tradition of social realism within British filmmaking. It’s about working-class young people facing up to difficult situations. But for me, it was important that this style was elevated as it was very much about celebrating youth. For me, when I think about memories of being young, I tend to remember light and vibrant colours in summer. So, we spent a lot of time getting this just right in post-production.”

As a young film-maker herself, it wasn’t that long ago that Eva found herself in a similar creative situation as many of our own students. So, for the benefit of the Masterclass attendees, Eva highlighted some of the key moments in her career.

“The first one was just making a short film at university when I was 19. Just having the people around me to make that film was a big deal because it made me realise I wanted to make films as a job.

The next one was the first bit of funding I got to make a film after university, which was a big deal for me, because it was £15,000. I just couldn’t believe someone was going to give me that amount to make a film! That was big for me, because once you have funding, it gives you a bit of legitimacy.

The next key moment for me was getting into film school, as it was quite competitive to get in there. My final year film ‘Patriot’ was a really big deal for me too. Up until this point, I was a new student filmmaker who was sort of ‘dabbling’. But, the film got into Cannes Film Festival. So, there was suddenly a lot of publicity around me, which just opened doors.

Things that I found hard to do, like getting meetings with agents or production companies, were suddenly much easier. So, that was really nice, and a bit of a morale boost. From there I got an agent which is what led me towards ‘Perfect 10’.”

Eva went on to answer questions from attendees, such as what it was like for her to live and work in Brighton as a filmmaker for the past ten years.

“I think there’s a lot of factual stuff being made down in Brighton, as well as a lot of commercial stuff too. There’s a lot of up-and-coming filmmakers making short films down there. So, depending on what department you’re looking to work in, it’s good to find people who work and are based in the city and reach out to them via email or social media to ask politely if they’ve any work opportunities coming up.”

Before the Masterclass drew to a close, Eva provided some sage advice on how to diversify your income and stay busy in the UK film industry.

“It’s tricky because you have to make a living as well. And making independent films in the style that I want to is not terribly profitable. You have to have a diverse array of things you’re doing. Directing TV is something which I also might do, and I might have the possibility of directing something someone else has written soon, or writing a TV series – which is just a bit more profitable.

We’re in a time and age where TV is really interesting, so there’s scope for doing something in my own way and also doing a bigger project like a TV series too. It’s a good time, but there’s so much being made. It’s a big pool, so you have to make sure what you’re making is interesting.”

Thank you Eva for a truly enlightening Masterclass and to our Industry Engagement Manager, Fiona Adams for orchestrating the session.

Screen and Film School Brighton have plenty more exciting Masterclass guests to come in the not-too-distant future. Watch this space for more updates.

Discover more of Screen and Film School’s previous Masterclass guests, here.


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