Director Carol Morley tell us all about about her Lockdown Film Club – and her future plans.
When the first lockdown got under way back in the spring of 2020, director Carol Morley sprung into action. She took to social media and came up with something that brought film fans together.
“It was very instinctive,” she says of her Lockdown Film Club. “We were going into lockdown and I put on Twitter ‘should I start an online film club?’ Hundreds of yeses and it was like oh god I’ve got to do it now!” she laughs.
“The instinct to do it was a fear, well not fear but a feeling of missing cinema. Most of us can all now watch a lot of films at home via different streaming platforms, but I wanted to recreate the chat after, or the sense of being in a cinema with others.”
The Lockdown Film Club’s only conditions were that everyone watched the films simultaneously (Friday 8pm), and that the films were freely available. Carol told me what she particularly loved were the friendships that the club created.
“Everyone was so supportive of each other. There was a sense that it had really helped people through a difficult time, because they felt a connection and purpose. A bit like what I felt… I knew what I was doing on Friday and where I’d be, especially during the first lockdown where we didn’t necessarily know how to shape our lives.”
Film club ‘members’ even received ‘#fridayfilmclub’ handicraft badges through the post. “It started to feel like an entity” she explains. “And I realised how much people did need it, even though it was what I would call a simulacrum of that real experience of community – it felt like it meant something to people, they connected it with that.”
We discussed too the female focus of the films she chose to include, ranging from Ruth Stuart’s Doomsday (1934) to Celine Sciamma’s Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (2019).
“In the public domain there are sadly not as many films directed by women. Everybody seemed to know something that somebody else didn’t, so it became a real platform of contribution.” She mentions British director Muriel Box: “the most prolific maker of films made by a woman ever, but a lot of people haven’t heard of her.”
A strong female focus is what draws me personally to Carol Morley’s own films: the collectivity of a girl’s school in The Falling, the female detective in Out Of Blue, and her exploration of a forgotten woman’s identity in Dreams Of A Life.
2020 saw a record number of female-directed Hollywood films, and with films such as Kitty Green’s MeToo drama The Assistant and Sarah Gavron’s Rocks, female representation in the industry seemed noticeably more prevalent. But it is still hard to believe that in 93 years of the Oscars, only one woman has won the Best Director Academy Award (Kathryn Bigelow with The Hurt Locker in 2010).
“There certainly is a concerted effort to correct imbalances, in terms of all kinds of cinema that has been marginalised,” Carol acknowledges.
“There’s Hollywood obviously who have addressed it somewhat I guess… but I think if you look in ten years it won’t be that significantly different… I mean I hope it will be. I think women telling stories is particularly challenging because they might not be considered valid or interesting, I think that’s where it comes from.”
Carol recounts the difficulty in financing her first film The Alcohol Years: an intimate reflection upon her own sexual experience as a young woman.
“There was definitely a sense of prejudice towards the subject matter, and also a prejudice towards the way I wanted to make it. I felt that in itself was a prejudice towards female subjectivity.”
Twenty years on, it’s a film that still resonates with viewers.
“You certainly get much more mainstream representations of female sexual experience [she references I May Destroy You and I Hate Suzie], but I think some of the attitudes towards women have remained.”
Carol hopes to shoot her next film Typist, Artist, Pirate, King later this year: an imagined couple of days in the life of writer Audrey Amiss.
“It’s making my mental health remain kind of intact, because I’ve had that focus,” she tells me. Although Carol does add that the films she makes are “in a difficult place for the return to filmmaking.”
She went on to stress the damage mainstream blockbusters do to independent cinema.
“I wrote the other day about having a blockbuster recompense fund where you syphon off some of that money and put it into other kinds of filmmaking, because they swamp the cinemas and have a strong effect on what else gets shown – they are very, very powerful machines.”
I wondered whether another Lockdown Film Club could be on the horizon?
“I think certain things have the right time and I feel it belongs to the first lockdown. If I did it again it would have a different sentiment to it. Cinemas opened again and then shut, now it’s just wait and see.” She adds: “20 films, 2020… it belonged to the time.”
So, what, I wonder does she think COVID will mean for the future of cinema?
“Lots of cinemas may never come back and a lot of distribution companies will be in trouble,” she states. “But it’s a human necessity to engage with other stories told through different mediums.”
She adds optimistically, “it’s clear that cinema is not on its last legs whatsoever… just going through… I think they call it a ‘seismic shift’.
“People are going to want to go out more than ever, so I actually think there will be a renaissance. If the industry has survived the blow that has been taken, there will be a re-centring of cinema… not many places like cinema. I have great faith in it.”