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Debates can rage as to what’s better: the practicality of digital or the look of film. However, Lady makes a strong case for the latter, with its’ stylish grainy textures making the movie look like it’s from another time. This is appropriate as the short focuses on the titular character lamenting nineties ‘ladette’ culture popularised by ‘the greats’ Zoe Ball, Sara Cox, Denise van Outen. Witty, visually attractive and addressing how feminism has evolved in the past 20 years, it’s worth a watch. I spoke to writer-director Will Nash about the movie.
Congratulations on the film. How would you describe the short and how would you define ‘ladette’?
Thanks! It’s been an absolute pleasure making it. I would say the best way of describing it is that it is literally a window into Lady’s world and her views on gender equality. I wanted to use Super 8mm in a similar way to how it was used in French New Wave Cinema, making an audience aware that they’re watching a film – not being fully immersed into a world as you normally would be. Breaking the forth wall so it feels more like you’re a voyeur.
The term ‘ladette’ is normally described along the lines of ‘a young lady who is boisterous and behaves in a crude manner often engaging in heavy drinking sessions’. But from what I remember of the 90’s ladette culture, it literally was ladies behaving as badly as the men on nights out, showing they can do what we do just as well, if not better and not giving a shit about who thinks what about them (on the surface). For me as well, these were icons I held just as high if not higher than those from the ‘lads culture’ of the 90s that was so prevalent in publications such as Loaded and FHM.
Where did the idea for short come from? What made you decide to shoot on Super 8mm?
Before I developed the narrative, the idea for the short initially came from wanting to get back onto film instead of shooting digital. It’s becoming popular again to shoot on Super 8mm and I wanted to get on that. I wanted to shoot something that would allow me to use the different Kodak stocks that are currently available (unfortunately we couldn’t get our hands on the elusive Ektachrome which a lot of us are waiting for it to comeback).
Because of the want to shoot on different stocks I was then starting to think about how colourful and vibrant I could make it; not just visually but with the narrative too. Ladette culture had been popping up again on social media which I thought would be a suitable topic to shoot on Super 8mm. Then just lots of research. Quite early on, after the first draft, I got in touch with Amy Doyle (recently in Ghost Stories). We started breaking down our protagonist and the themes within this subject.
I also opened the door to all the other creative teams involved, offering a platform for them to try anything they wanted and hadn’t been able to on previous shoots. Make-Up and costume designs were fantastic from Shauna Taggart and Lois Tag, in post sound design was lovingly made by Michael Chubb and the music was beautifully composed by Hollie Buhagiar, you should go and check out her work!
And technically the work of Adam Singodia (100 Streets, Nothing Like a Dame) on camera and the editing by Lindsey Woodward (Taboo, No Offence) were spot on. Always a joy being with those two!
The message I took away from the short is that although gender labels like ‘ladette’ are unfair in the sense that no person is just a label, in the 90s, that term did help younger women see that they did not have to conform to ‘the conservative ideals of what a woman should be’. Is that the message you were hoping to impart, and do you think the movement is due a resurgence?
Labels are never fun but we always categorise everything to help us understand things. That said, we must remove ourselves from using harmful labels, something a lot of people do without thinking about their implicatations. Fully grown adults who you’d think would know better. I think the term ‘ladette’ was most likely intended to be unfair but if anything it was then twisted on its head and embraced. I don’t know if it’ll make a resurgence as a full-on movement again because I think it’s still here under a different label. Recent movements for feminism have been received in the same way ladette culture was by the stiff single-minded types. Feminism is all about equality, levelling the playing the field. That’s what ladette culture was for.
I want to touch upon the performance by Amy Doyle as Lady. She’s very fun delivering this almost theatrical monologue and utilising many different accents. How did you go about casting her?
Amy’s fantastic isn’t she! Amy and I are with the same agency. They run workshops bringing together their writers, directors and actors. It’s like the industry version of going to the gym. We met at the first of these sessions and stayed in touch afterwards. When I began writing the part and thinking of who to cast I remembered her work at that first session and got in touch straight away. There was a lot I wanted to try with this film and dipping in and out of accents was one of those which I think Amy smashed!
Can we talk about the breakfast scene? I think it’s kind of the key to the movie in how society expects certain behaviour from one gender but not another. Would I be right?
Yeah! That’s hit the nail on the head. Lady eats breakfast how she wants to eat it, not how a ‘lady’ is expected to. There’s also a slight nod that she might actually be upper class. This was a layer we spoke about a lot, the fact that she might have broken free from the constraints of what was expected of her and her gender. Now she does what she wants, when she wants. Also, I have to say, Amy isn’t a fan of baked beans which we found out on set, so I cruelly got make up to leave some on her chin, no doubt she’ll get me back for that at some point!
You worked on T2: Trainspotting which I think is so underrated. What was that experience like?
I was fortunate enough to be part of one of the additional units on the film. There was a lot going on, but the one thing I do remember vividly was the exterior calmness of Danny Boyle and Anthony Dod Mantle DFF, ASC, BSC. There’s been a few directors I feel I’ve been influenced by throughout my career. Matt Lipsey and Simon Hynd are both fantastic on set, calm and collected, Louis Sutherland is always a fave and top dude. If you ever get the pleasure of meeting him, you’ll leave with a smile on your face! That’s something I’d like on and off my shoots. After all, as fun as it can be telling stories, we’re not doing anything as important as saving lives.
What are the release plans for the short? Will Irish audiences get a chance to see it soon?
I hope so! I’ve got family over in Cobh so with the power of the World Wide Web I’m hoping they see it too. The release date will be the May 15 this year, a very important date for all your diaries.
What are you working on next?
I’m in talks at the moment for a few projects which should line up nicely allowing me to do them all. Hopefully more on film too!
Lady will be available to stream online from May 15
Featured Image Credit: Will Nash