Portrait of a Serial Killer, Aesthetica Short Film Festival, Online Exclusives, Caroline Burns Cooke, Myra

Incorporating creative programming and alternative venues, the Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) is the latest addition to the film festival circuit. To celebrate the launch of ASFF, we are running a series of interviews with the filmmakers throughout October. Here you can find out more about what motivates our filmmakers, and ASFF will give you the opportunity to experience their short films first hand. To watch these films, visit the Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) website to purchase your ticket. Don’t miss your opportunity to experience short film in the historic city of York!

Experimental short, Myra, adapted for the screen by Dan Smyth and Caroline Burns Cooke from Caroline’s award winning stage piece, Suffer Little Children, was inspired by an article written by Myra Hindley in The Guardian in 1995. We spoke to Caroline about her part in this lyrical memoir to Britain’s most reviled woman and the challenges of making a zero-budget short with only two other crew members.

You can see Myra in the following venues during ASFF:
Friday 4 November: Barley Hall 10:00 – 17:00 and According to McGee, at various intervals from 11:00 – 17:00.
Saturday 5 November: Barley Hall 10:00 – 17:00 and According to McGee, at various intervals from 11:00 – 17:00.
Sunday 6 November: Barley Hall 10:00 – 17:00

Firstly, congratulations on being in the Official ASFF Selection! What impact do you think this screening will have on your career?

And thank you so much for selecting us. Without being cringingly sycophantic this is the festival I wanted to get into more than any other and Dan Smyth (Director) rushed to get Myra finished in time. In terms of career, I’m not interested in the material side of the industry as much as getting my work seen by people who share my sensibilities and having read and enjoyed Aesthetica magazine I knew that ASFF would be right for our film and prayed we would be right for you! Whether making drama or comedy as an actress and writer I always aim for a serious exploration of both the depths and transcendent heights of the human spirit…depths in the case of Myra! My desire was to bring an experimental approach to the subject matter which I believe I did as the writer in the original theatre piece and found a director who could support that visually. So to finally answer your question, I would love to win of course ad get the pass to other festivals but to be distributed on the DVD is the dream (very x-factor) as I want the film to be seen by people who value art and art films as I do- and this is the Aesthetica readership of course. And attending the festival will be the perfect opportunity for meeting other filmmakers who may share our approach. As both actor and writer I would love my career to benefit from potential these collaborations.

How do you describe your work? Do you see it falling into the genre of Art/Experimental?

I would say I’ve answered that in some part-the film is a serious look at the concept of culpability, childhood abuse and labelling transgressive people (in this case a notorious child killer) as “monsters” as an easy way to avoid exploring the why. It’s experimental in approach, although it would usually be labelled as drama. The challenge was to make a monologue both cinematic and visually compelling.

Could you tell me a little about the film and how it came about?

I wrote the 20 minute monologue, then called Suffer Little Children, several years ago which won the ICA New Blood Award for writing and performing. I performed it in a 3 week run in a Fringe theatre in London. I’d always wanted to film it but it wasn’t until I met Dan Smyth, a Mancunian, on my MA course in Screenwriting that I found the perfect collaborator. Dan’s films are more realist, Mike Leigh influenced, and when he expressed an interest in trying something more experimental I knew it would work. He has a connection to the subject that many younger people would not and access to the actual locations- Saddleworth Moors and Hindley’s home, Gorton. He also had the secret weapon of his Dads’ working man’s cub, now sadly demised.

What were some of the challenges involved in making the film?

The challenge lay not in the filming which was a 2 day delight with just me, Dan and Matthew the sound guy but in taking a monologue and finding the appropriate visuals to complement and replace the words. We filmed the whole piece but in the edit Dan had to cut and re-order a great deal of material, which was hard for me as a performer and writer- always feeling your “best bits” have gone. It had to become a film, not a play anymore so my more dramatic elements needed to be ruthlessly expunged too! Ultimately I had to give over control to the filmmaker and I’m very happy with the result.

What is your all time favourite short?

I like Andrea Arnold’s Wasp and a gay short I just saw called Fuckbuddies – terrible title, funny film. But I’m a features fan- The Dardenne Brothers, Carlos Reygadas, Haneke, Bruno Dumont, Lynch…all the usual suspects.

What are you working on next?

I’m working as an actor, have just done an Edinburgh Fest play and have returned from the Iris Film Prize where I helped promote the film The Adored which was up for Best Film. I have a full length screenplay ready to find producers (about an abused woman who believes she gave birth to the Son of God, no less!) and Dan has finished his short film with support from the Green Shoots scheme, Manchester- Every Good Boy Deserves Fun. He also has a feature script under consideration with the BFI.

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival is the first film festival ever to be hosted in the historic city of York. The festival is a celebration of independent film from across the world with 150 films being screened from 30 countries. ASFF opens 3 November and continues until 6 November. For tickets and further information visit the website www.asff.co.uk or call (+44) (0) 1904 629 137.