Here is the full interview from lunch yesterday at George with Caroline Harvey, Felicity Jones and Bonnie Wright:
the–miumiu–london is a very collaborative event, as is film. What have you learned through collaborating?
Caroline Harvey: Film is so collaborative. Working with Felicity so closely has given me a new perspective on how I would write a character in terms of what she would need and the muscle of how you write one. Her questions have really guided me as I continue to write. We’re quite like-minded so we’re heading toward the same goals.
Felicity Jones: I’ve learned so much. I think we bring totally complimentary aspects: Caroline’s worked for years in script development and with incredible directors, and my experience is in front of the camera, so it’s been a healthy fusion of the two.
Caroline Harvey: I’ve always been in the office with the writer and the director and my set visits were few and far between. The set is quite an intimidating place for me. It’s a big thing to direct a film when you’re little and used to being in the office, and suddenly have one hundred people with you. So having Felicity as my partner and collaborator — somebody who isn’t scared by that environment at all — gave me a lot of confidence moving forward. That really helped me. And we’re friends anyway.
Bonnie Wright: My film came from my degree. You’re thrown into a degree with 60 other people and who you work with comes from that pool of people. The choice of who you want to work with is put aside, which can bring out different angles in you, ways you have never thought of yourself. Each year 12 graduation films are made. You have to pitch your idea in your second year. I might have graduated in something different to writing and directing if I had not been chosen. Once you are chosen you have to pitch to the rest of those in your degree. I ended up working with people I had never worked with previously. Throwing yourself into this new mix of people and seeing what comes from that was incredibly interesting. And though we are trying to mimic the industry, you are also equally doing your degree, which is quite nice and brings down the directorial sense that “It’s my show, guys.” It was hard to gain that balance in collaboration because it was about degrees being equally marked. But at the same time if someone didn’t stand up and be the director the film would not have been made. Starting in acting and going to directing informs the work. It’s the same language, which has helped me massively. Where other classmates were concerned about communicating what they wanted, that was the thing I felt was my strength, where the tech elements were more my weakness. All the directors who came out of my degree are totally different: some more technically led, some did not write their piece. Being thrown into the group was the most interesting thing. My film would not be the same if it were not for those collaborators, such as costume, set design and others.
Caroline Harvey: There’s something about being able to tell your own story. Being an actress or being a script developer, or development person as I was for years, those weren’t my stories. I didn’t own them. As an actor you are a tool, as a script person you are a tool for someone else’s story. I wrote Emily three years ago, but Felicity saying, “I’m in London, let’s make this film,” was the kick up the backside I needed. Without Felicity’s partnership I would have never made the film.
Felicity Jones: I think you are always more powerful with other people than as a separate entity. I always used to think you had to do everything on your own, and then when you find the right people to work with, really exciting things start to happen.
How much thought goes into what you’re wearing in your own creative work as a director or costumes as actresses?
Bonnie Wright: So much. Even if it is not a costume, it matters so much if you want a character to feel or stand a certain way. When you see people walking in the street, you can judge, for example, if someone is dressed quite scruffily, you approach them or speak to them or create a whole life around them so differently. It’s interesting when you speak to actors in the costume process. For some people it’s incredibly important. You hear stories that some people want a pocket here or a pocket there to feel a certain way.
Felicity Jones: I think it’s absolutely vital. You use all these things as elements in building the character. One of the main ones is the choice of clothes, because that is a thing you have very tangible power over, and it’s how you express who you are in the world. It’s absolutely vital that you get that right.
And in directing, how closely do you work with the costume designer?
Caroline Harvey: For Emily it was a collaboration with the costume designer, but we knew what we wanted. We wanted it to be very simple and not particularly sexy. It’s really important. I wouldn’t be able to write a character unless I knew what they were wearing. It’s part of their environment, the same way set design, their houses are. Even what I wear on set, as a woman, it’s certainly about comfort, but equally there is a bit of an armor aspect to it, because you’re surrounded by men.
Felicity Jones: Something like a corset: you can find strength in it. It makes you feel very solid. You sort of have this armor, plates of armor. It gives you a certain authority. The posture forces you to be present.
Caroline Harvey: It’s the same way with wearing heels to business meetings.
Felicity Jones: High heels are quite a controversial subject, because I think we all would like to feel we shouldn’t have to wear them. Yet in the business context you need them to be taken seriously.
How does being a woman influence your work and your production?
Caroline Harvey: It’s hard because I would like to think of myself as just a person in the world. It’s only when my gender is imposed on me that I notice it. I look quite young for how old I am and people make assumptions about my work experience, and I’ve actually had conversations with writers where I’ve had to say, “Well no, I’m not.” I often find my power taken away from me, so I feel like I have to impose it. I think that naturally, that’s where my stories come from. Which comes out of my womanhood.
Felicity Jones: The ideal situation is where your gender becomes irrelevant. When you feel most creative in a group with both men and women is when you forget. The ideal state intellectually is having an androgynous mind: a balance within both men and women of masculinity and femininity,
Bonnie Wright: The main person I’ve collaborated with is a man. Creating what we create and the ideas that we come up with wouldn’t be the same if we were both women. I can be in touch with the masculine side and he can be in touch with the feminine side. When I was younger I was such a tomboy, and so often I still feel that side to me. It’s also the armor, putting on that gear when you are on set to be more masculine. But I do not feel that most of my generation would want to be a feminist because of the sort of death of that word.
How would you describe the spirit of London today?
Caroline Harvey: London is incredibly vibrant. I think it’s quite pleased with itself right now, in a good way, post-Olympics and all of the success it has had. I think people are really happy.
Felicity Jones: London always feels like a place where new ideas are born. Maybe because geographically it’s between so many other wonderful capital cities, it becomes this interracial hub of fashion, art, finance. Everything that could possibly be happening is happening in a very small space, so it’s inevitable that’s going to start influencing people. It is a difficult time financially, and at the moment London is fighting to retain its expression of artistry. It is a very expensive place to live, and what is important is to retain a sense of youth and excitement.
Caroline Harvey: There have been so many cuts in arts funding, and it brings people out fighting. It can also be when the most interesting things are said. There will be much more interesting voices and stories coming through.
Bonnie Wright: People spend a lot more time together when you take away that extravagant way of life and spending. But the friendship between people and your own home can be really important. It’s when you sit like now and take time to reflect. But hopefully it will continue to be vibrant.
And English film?
Felicity Jones: I think film as a whole is in a transitional phase. Obviously the Internet is completely changing how we interact with drama. I had an incredible time watching the James Bond film. Britain at the moment has an incredible technical side of filmmaking to it.
Bonnie Wright: Amazing TV as well. I guess technology does change how you watch things as well. The attention span of people has faded so massively. People want to watch quick things and if they haven’t grasped it in the first three minutes they won’t carry on, so even getting someone to watch a short film is difficult.