Carys Watford’s award-winning short film, Space Girls, is an endearing tale about four young girls who are space obsessed.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with Carys to talk about inspiring female agency and her life-changing experience touring with the film.
Q: ‘Space Girls’ follows a group of bright young girls who are obsessed with space and science. Why did you want to tell this story?
A: I wanted to make a fun adventure film about the wonders of space and the importance of space travel with a band of girls as the protagonists. The four lead characters in the film are 9-year-old girls who are unapologetically passionate about science and space. I think that it is inexpressibly important to have that represented on screen to inspire female agency and science positive goals for the next generation.
Q: What were your passions growing up?
A: I was always the kind of kid who was absorbed with stories and creation. If my head wasn’t in a book, I had my paints and a canvas out, or was coercing my friends to put on a show.
As a teenager I did a lot of acting in school plays and I originally thought that was the path I wanted to go down. But soon as I set foot on a film set I knew that directing was for me. I love building a world & all the details that go into creating the whole.
Q: This is a wonderful young cast. Can you tell us about working with them and what you learned from them?
A: This was my first time ever working with children. On my previous short films, I had pretty exclusively cast my friends. So it was a whole new experience for me working with actors that I didn’t already have a relationship with and added on to that the fact they were children. But I learned so much!
I originally made the film for a NASA short film competition and I only found out about that competition six weeks before the deadline. It was quite a rushed process writing the script, decorating the set, assembling the crew, casting the child actors (and all the paperwork involved in that) in order to leave enough time to finish post-production to hit the deadline. This meant that the children weren’t able to meet each other before they set foot on set. So I definitely lucked out with their chemistry!
Q: I loved the NASA outfits – and the bedroom reminded me of my own as a child. How much fun did you have putting together the finer details on this project?
A: So much fun! The room we filmed in is my parents’ spare bedroom. I was so lucky that they were willing to give me free rein to do what I wanted in there. It also meant that it was all set up before the shoot which saved time on the day.
But yes, I did the set design myself and had the best time sourcing all the decorations and creating the bedroom which I wished I could have had as a kid. This involved lots of stencilling stars, posters of vintage Apollo missions and twinkling fairy lights.
It also sadly made me aware of the gender bias that still exists in children’s toys and accessories. In most stores, the only place I could find space-themed bedspreads, curtains and toys would be in the ‘boys’ section of the website. But, if anything, that just made it more evident to me how important it was to make this film to inspire young girls that being an astronaut isn’t just for boys!
Q: ‘Space Girls’ continues to have a fantastic festival run. How much have you enjoyed sharing the film and its message with audiences across the world?
A: It has been a life-changing experience travelling the world with this film. It has been my most successful short film to date and I’ve travelled to towns and cities I would never have thought of visiting before.
It’s a special thing about independent film festivals where the local community come out to see world cinema and you are immediately welcomed into that community with open arms. Film festivals are my favourite place to be. A celebration of film, new friends, parties and panels – all my favourite things!
Thus far we’ve screened at over 30 festivals worldwide (predominantly in the US) and it was amazing to win the Grand Prize Children’s Live Action Short Award at the Oscar-qualifying Rhode Island International Film Festival.
Q: I imagine this will be an inspiring and warming experience for audiences. Have you had any notable reactions to the film so far?
A: Our festival run has taken us to all the corners of the US (Mississippi, San Jose, Iowa, Oklahoma, Florida, Ohio, Maryland, LA, Georgia & more) as well as Australia and Canada. I’ve loved having people come up to me after the screening to tell me about their children of nieces who love science and want to be astronauts when they grow up and how glad they are that I’ve made a film encouraging that ambition.
At Cinequest Film and VR Festival, someone who works on a program that teaches young students how to code robots ready for the International Space Station saw the film and it was great to share the film with his students.
Q: Do you have a favourite astronaut?
A: I don’t think I can say one. But I loved researching the history of space travel and investigating the women involved. Sally Ride, Katherine Johnson, Eileen Collins, Mae Jemison. Please don’t make me pick one!
Q: Your last short film, ‘Theatreland’ was based on your own experiences working Front of House in a theatre whilst also pursuing your filmmaking ambitions. Can you tell us more about your background and the trials of pursuing a career in the arts?
A: Yes, Theatreland follows an aspiring actor working as an usher in the West End. The vast majority of ushers in the West End are artists between jobs (actors, dancers, writers) with the evening working hours leaving daytimes free for creative pursuits. Whilst you serve ice creams and show people to their seats, the actors are on stage fulfilling your dream of performing to adoring audiences ever night. It was this complexity which I want to explore most in the film.
I’ve worked front of house for the past few years whilst pursuing filmmaking and it was great to be able to create something with all my friends who work in the building with me. Not only as a creative outlet but also to showcase how talented they all are.
Filmmaking (along with most creative pursuits) is a precarious career. Whilst you’re creating a portfolio of work to prove what you can do and establish your style it can be difficult to earn money from it. But I couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything else. I’m hoping that my drive and focus will lead me into the right direction!
Q: What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
A: I’m currently writing my first feature script & hoping to have the first draft completed in the next couple of months. So this year will be all about trying to get that into production.