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Lucy Bridger: Stories I Want to Tell and Have Told


Award-winning director at Agile Films on capturing performances that feel real and what the future holds for her

Lucy Bridger: Stories I Want to Tell and Have Told

Lucy is an award-winning director based in London. She tells impactful human stories that are cinematic, intimate and absorbing. She is especially interested in telling stories of underrepresented and vulnerable characters in society.

Authenticity is key in Lucy’s work so she takes an encouraging and gentle approach to directing actors, often encouraging improvisation to get performances that feel real.

Casting is central to Lucy’s work and she frequently works with both experienced actors and non-actors. Lucy’s first short film Mothering won Best British Short at London Short Film Festival, Kinsale Sharks and UK Film Festival, whilst also screening at internationally renowned festivals including Slamdance. Her commercial campaign Hide and Seek for the domestic abuse charity Refuge won a Gold award at LIA, Silver at Creative Circle, Bronze at Ciclope whilst also making the D&AD Shortlist.

Q> Your work is very understated and you have a beautiful way of storytelling with characters that are under represented. How would you sum up your work approach and style?

Lucy> I think my approach is to try and make something that feels intrinsically very human. I’m attracted to female stories, because I want to see more complex and nuanced portraits of women. I always want to try and create something that feels intrinsically familiar and very much true to life.

I’m always striving to make films that feel intimate, but that are also photographic and considered at the same time, something that sits in between a place where it could’ve been a documentary but it's more a heightened version of realism.

Q> Do your own experiences influence your films?

Lucy> I like quite a lot of Japanese cinema. There’s two directors in particular who make quite thematically similar films; Yasujirō Ozu and Hirokazu Koreeda. Their films are often these delicate, powerful portraits of family life. They both show that you don’t need to shout in cinema to make something emotionally devastating. When you let things breathe, you can find a real richness and depth in those between moments. I think there’s a lot of similarities between Japanese and British culture. It's a society built on lots of tradition and order. There’s a degree of politeness and formality that we share. I think this it’s why these Japanese dramas really appeal to me, they relate to the stilted British social dynamic where we never say what we really mean. Outside of cinema, I love people watching. My friends and the people around me are definitely an inspiration and I’ve spent my life watching and studying the nuances of how people, especially the British, behave. We are quite restrained and we often communicate around the things that are really important, you have to navigate between the lines a lot of the time to figure out what’s really going on.

Q> Your short films such as Returning and Mothering (which won Best British Short at London Short Film Festival, Kinsale Sharks and UK Film Festival) have a sense of a quiet and intimate look at relationships and at times can feel a little uncomfortable in the silence. Do you think this is a way of creating depth and emotion with your characters? Is casting important to you?

Lucy> Our lives are full of silence, it’s around us all the time. I use silence to create a feeling that you're in a real space and that you’re in a world that could actually exist. The world is noisy enough and I think silence is a beautiful way of creating focus and letting the audience do some work. It’s a moment for them to ask what a character is really feeling.

Casting as well is hugely important. It’s very much at the centre of my work. I find that it's really important especially in commercials when you don't have a lot of prep or big rehearsals for the most part. My general approach is to cast people who embody the characters a bit anyway, because I think actors will always play a version of themselves.

Most of the time I’m looking to cast people who are the characters, and use people that haven't had much experience, especially when I'm working with people who are 16 or under, it means you don’t get so much over acting because they can just be themselves for the most part.

Q> Tom Chaplin’s short film/music video about a country musician and her complex relationship with her daughter was a Vimeo’s pick. How did this collaboration come about? How did you come up with this concept and story?

Lucy> Tom Chaplin’s commissioner emailed me and asked if I'd be interested in doing a short film for the song. It's not actually a single but he really wanted to put it out there in an ‘official’ way and it ended up being like a music video. Tom had seen my short “Returning” and really liked the ambiguity of it. He basically said I could do whatever I wanted, he’d imagined cowboys when he wrote it, but didn’t force the idea on me. I quite liked bringing in some elements of a cowboy type character. The idea started as a nomadic father but then it felt a bit boring and like something I’d seen before. Then I started to twist the plot into a female story about a woman who had a child because she felt like it was the right thing to do, or what women should do, even though she wasn't sure about it. I wanted to create this flawed and compelling character who wasn’t a perfect mother but also likeable and very complex internally.

We made it and Tom was very hands off so I had quite a lot of freedom. It's been one of the most amazing and refreshing projects to work on because of the creative freedom and trust he gave me and the team.

Q> Let’s talk about commercials! Your commercial campaign Hide and Seek for the domestic abuse charity Refuge won a Gold award at LIA, Silver at Creative Circle, Bronze at Ciclope whilst also making the D&AD Shortlist. With hard hitting campaigns, is it tricky to strike the right balance?

Lucy> I think these types of campaigns are definitely hard to strike a balance with but the creative brief was so considered and concise that I knew I would be tonally aligned with the creative team at the agency. The most important aspect for me was performance, not just the little boy but the parents' arguments. We worked a lot at trying out different things when we recorded it, it was quite disturbing to watch unfold, because that’s the reality for a lot of women. Sound was very much at the crux of the piece and something we developed a lot in the edit. Our editor Jack Williams actually built an incredible offline mix for our sound engineer Neil Johnson to elevate. It was being shown in cinema’s so it needed a very nuanced mix which Neil did an amazing job on.

Q> You’ve recently teamed with Cadbury’s and The National Deaf Children’s Society on a commercial about sign language. How important was this project to you as a director?

Lucy> Initially, VCCP agency came to me and it was quite developed already. They already had the concept of the subtitles being blocked by various people/objects. When I started developing it I realised that it needed a lot of precise pre-planning to make it feel simple. I wanted the camera team to be so well rehearsed before the shoot day that our main thing to focus on, on the day, was character performances. So from the beginning, we had to do a lot of testing. We used animatics to make sure things fitted in time and also to give us a rough idea of where the subtitles would go. Then we did a thorough tech recce test shoot with the main cast member. When it came to the shoot day it was actually pretty easy as we knew what had been approved and what worked so in a way, the production process was a lot more complicated than the shoot day. It was an amazing project because it was such a team effort from all the interpreters we worked with to the camera and art department. I haven't had a project where I'd learned that much and it really made me want to learn Sign Language!

We casted a native British Sign Language actress, who hadn’t been on screen before. I saw her on my way to the casting, getting off the tube, she got a bit caught in the gates and I thought she embodied the awkward, in between teenage years so perfectly. I was so happy when she was great at the audition. We also cast her mother in the commercial to create an authentic, relaxed on-screen relationship.

I also worked with the DP Nick Morris (again!). We collaborate together a lot and I love the culture he brings to set. He’s very collaborative and considered and it was a no brainer for me. He also makes everything look incredible.

Q> What does the future hold for Lucy Bridger?

Lucy> Commercially speaking, I would love the challenge of a Christmas ad. I feel like my intimate storytelling would sit nicely in a Christmas setting. I’m also developing my first feature at the moment, so hopefully that will get going soon. Mainly I just want to keep telling these real, human stories and to collaborate with creatives and performers who want to do the same thing


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Agile Films, Mon, 10 Oct 2022 12:38:12 GMT