FAST-RISING producer Arabella Burfitt-Dons had not one but two hit films screen at this year’s Raindance Film Festival.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up Arabella to reflect on her recent success and talk about her ambitions for the future.
Q: Two of your films – ‘We The Kings’ and ‘Love Possibly’ – have premiered at Raindance, and that is only a month after ‘F.U.B.A.R’ premiered at FrightFest. How are you feeling? Have you been able to enjoy the culmination of your hard-work?
A: IT is a whirlwind experience to have multiple films released at one time, and all on such prestigious platforms.
Raindance is a fantastic festival and I feel so honoured to be able to show two films here this year, it’s quite surreal! And Frightfest is also a brilliant festival. They’re both festivals I had in my mind for the films from the beginning, and it’s actually happened. I feel quite emotional to be honest – it’s been an up and down few years in my filmmaking career, at times I thought I was definitely taking on too much. But when you have sell-out screenings, personal ‘thank you’s from members of the public for their cinema experience, people in the audience laughing and crying, and five star published reviews – it suddenly all feels real, and so worth it.
Q: Can you give us taste of what we can expect from both ‘We The Kings’ and ‘Love Possibly’?
A: WE The Kings is a stunning, gripping, gritty story. Expect suspense, and bring tissues… just in case. I won’t give much more than that away, the story unfolds so beautifully that it’s best to just watch and enjoy the experience. There are several performances in it that deserve an Oscar, again if you watch it you’ll know exactly the ones I mean.
Love Possibly is an original spin on a rom-com, it has some dark humour elements, poignancy and incredible performances. Alex is an anxious, romance-obsessed virgin, Lana is a young mother and a Moldovan mail-order bride. Their characters, although humorous, are so believable and honest at times it’s almost hard to watch – but that’s what makes it so brilliant. It’s a charming, hilarious and moving film that everyone can relate to in one way or another.
Q: Can you tell us about some of the differences between working on a thriller like We The Kings and a rom-com like Love Possibly?
They’re completely different! But that’s what I love about making films of such variety, its always a very different experience. Comedies are a laugh a minute, everyone’s always smiling and it can be a genuine problem if the crew can’t stop laughing! And although it’s still good fun, making thrillers can be quite tense.
Most of We The Kings was filmed in a bungalow in Kent, so as you can imagine, that house filled with hot lights, a lot of haze and some very emotional scenes got quite intense at times! But it’s a special environment to be in – you get immersed into the world that you and all the talent has created, and it’s a magical feeling.
Q: I’ve seen four excellent films so far at Raindance, all of which came from female filmmakers. How proud and excited are you to see so many talented women showcased at a prestigious festival like Raindance?
A: I am so proud! It’s amazing to see so much female talent at the festival this year and the incredible amount of support and encouragement for females in film. I think the F-rated system is a very clever way of recognising the female talent behind a production and also highlighting that there is currently still such an in-balance overall. I’d love to see even more F-rated films at Raindance next year.
Q: We rarely hear about how people get into producing. What led you to this profession?
A: I didn’t go to film school, believe it or not I actually have a civil engineering degree. I just fell in love with the industry and the art of film and I knew in myself that my passion for it wouldn’t ever go away, so I basically just threw myself into it! I mostly self-taught with experience in production on films and projects, till I decided to take the jump from line producing to producing – and just went for it.
Q: What would your advice be to people, particularly young women, who want to get into producing?
A: TO not to be intimidated. There’s a lot of support out there at the moment for female filmmakers, which is amazing, but in reality it is still very difficult. You may find yourself in positions where you’re patronised or put down because of your age and gender. You just have to be really strong and believe in yourself.
Q: Producers often don’t get the acclaim of actors or directors. What are the joys of your job?
A: SEEING a project go from a discussion and words on a piece of paper, to a packed out cinema at Raindance and beyond – there are endless joys in that and at every point in between. You get a fantastic sense of achievement being able to bring a film to life and to make things happen. I mean I could really go on and on, there are so many joys. It’s not about the acclaim at all; it’s about being able to make the films that you want to be seen by the world.
Q: What are your ambitions for the future? What kind of projects and people would you love to work with?
A: MY aim is to produce a BAFTA-winning film and also to direct. But most importantly, to continue making films I believe in. There are quite a few British actors on my list I’d love to work with one day – Maggie Smith, Olivia Colman, Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet. I’d also love to work with American director Drake Doremus one day because Like Crazy is my all-time favourite film.
Q: I know you are busy enjoying Raindance, but do you have any upcoming projects to tell us about?
A: MT next film to be released is Iris Warriors – The Birth Of Colour directed by Roydon Turner, a ballet film set in world war two starring Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey, Black Mirror, Guernsey Literary and the Potato Peel Pie Society) It’s something incredibly different that won’t come close to anything that anyone’s ever seen before. Jessica is a stunning actress and carries the lead role beautifully.
I love producing films that showcase under-represented themes and art forms. Ballet is rarely shown in films and I wanted to be part of creating something really different and special. I’ve got some other really exciting projects in the pipeline which I can’t reveal just yet, but it’s definitely going to be another crazy exciting few years ahead! And I can’t wait.