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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

Lady Macbeth

by director William Oldroyd

Lady Macbeth was made in a spirit of true collaboration. It was a story found and adapted by screenwriter Alice Birch, produced by Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, financed and supported by BBC Films, the British Film Institute and Creative England (through iFeatures). Cast by Shaheen Baig, designed by Jacqueline Abrahams, Holly Waddington and Sian Wilson, it was shot by Ari Wegner and edited by Nick Emerson. Each character was brought to life by an excellent cast led by Florence Pugh. There were hundreds of artists and technicians who share responsibility for making our film.

I want to acknowledge this because throughout my creative life in theatre, and now film, I have always believed that two heads are better than one: that the best art is made when many people are encouraged to share their ideas and experiences and expertise.

As a theatre director I thrived in the collaboration of the rehearsal room—director, writer, actors, designer, stage management all worked together to understand how best to realise on stage what had been written for us in the script. It was a shared experience rooted in robust debate and trial and error, but one in which we had plenty of time to explore, change our minds and develop. Each night we played for a live audience and afterwards we could engage with those who had seen our work, hear their responses and make changes accordingly. The following night would inevitably be different because it was organic and shifting and alive.

When I came to make Lady Macbeth (my first feature film) I didn’t want to abandon the practises and culture that had worked so well for me in the past. It seemed a daunting prospect to oversee such a large scale operation and so I fought to have rehearsal time, to shoot the scenes in chronological order and to create an ensemble cast. But crucially I knew that our success lay in collaboration. Despite facing considerable time pressure, I wanted to guarantee that everyone involved was heard and that their ideas were explored fully, even if those ideas were not fruitful.

There are some filmmakers who have said that their preferred method of film production would be to put their heads into a black box and project the film they see in their minds onto a screen. This is presumably so that what they envisage would not be influenced or adulterated by the myriad of obstacles and problems of production. But, for me, it is exactly these difficulties and obstacles that force us to make better work. It is the problem solving, with all the members of the team involved, that encourages us to think harder and more creatively, to justify every single decision we make and hopefully create a better film as a result.

Even though the filmmakers may have finished their work, I know that the film is really only half way through its life—after all the reason we made our film is to share it with you on the big screen.

I have loved taking the film to audiences around the world at various film festivals and, just like in the theatre, loved hearing how it provokes and challenges each audience member. The audiences are important collaborators too, participating in this next phase and I really hope that it will make you want to debate and continue the discussion after you leave the cinema, in the bar, at the restaurant or on the way home. I hope you enjoy what we have loved making and will reach out and share your thoughts with us.

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