Actor and director Wendy Morgan joins us on Close-Up Culture to discuss her film, Mercy.
You recently wrote, directed and edited Mercy – a film about the life of a factory farmed pig. Can you tell us more about the story and the inspiration behind this project?
Hello! Good to talk with you and thank you for this question. Mercy is a feature film which follows the life of a factory farmed pig and her family – with all the animals played by actors. The story is told through the point of view of Mercy and also through the perspectives of the workers and the consumers.
I began writing Mercy having followed a court case in 2011 conducted by Animal Aid after investigations into nine slaughterhouses in the UK. These investigations led me to go vegan and shook me to the core, and in order to process what I had seen I began to write and so eventually Mercy the movie was born.
Mercy is currently on the festival circuit. What conversations do you hope the film sparks?
Yes. It would be great if Mercy sparked any conversations about factory farming, the planet, our health, and the devastation caused by factory farming. Any conversation is good – any focus on this topic and any awareness of these issues. It is a subject that we don’t want to face, but hopefully the way the subject is presented, will make it possible for people to view this, where otherwise they might turn away.
You’ve got incredible experience as an actor. How did you find the challenge of directing Mercy?
Ah yes, I guess! A friend of mine just congratulated me for my 47th year in the industry. I didn’t think it had been that long! Time flies when you are having fun right!?!
I guess being on set as an actor, which I have many times in film and television – the process rubs off on you without realizing it. I have been lucky to work with incredible people and so my role models have been a lot to live up to. The need to tell this story overrode any fears about taking the reins myself as writer/director/producer. I knew my subject and simply had to tell this story. Stopping wasn’t an option. So, any difficulty I just had to find a way around or over or through.
It was enormously challenging to continue, not so much to start, because once you have started then you have to keep up the momentum. Nobody commissioned me and so keeping up the faith of the idea to keep going was challenging; Keeping going through all the different phases of film making which I never had to deal with as an actor – was challenging; making the final decisions; all challenging – but the joy was the collaborations – as filmmaking is totally a collaboration – a team effort.
I was lucky to gather around me a core of like-minded artists who believed in the project and then I had to face the challenge of not letting them down, of not finishing for example – so many times along the way it got so hard that stopping would have been the easy option but it was never an option ultimately – something deeper than anything I can articulate, spurred me on.
You’ve got so many exciting projects going on at the moment, including The Reverend And Mrs. Simpson and Edie. What do you look for in the projects you take on and the people you collaborate with?
Ah yes, I am lucky to have such great projects on the go and in the can.
I guess the script- the story – the role and then – the people – who will you be working with; and then the where! But always in that order. Is it a story you want to be a part of telling? Is it a character you want to explore? I have an exciting year coming up and it is so good to be around people again – being social – thriving on the combined energies – so so good. I am grateful for every day and every person I get to hang out with for a while.
What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
I guess the lean times are the greatest challenge – when work is more sparse for whatever reason. Those are the challenges as it is the self at rest and without the affirmation that working brings. That can be the challenge – to become really good friends with yourself, as you sometimes have to hang out a lot with yourself!
Not getting a gig can be a challenge – as it leads you to question – “why”? That is riding a tough wave so finding balance is so key, so simple and yet also so hard – to find a purpose beyond that of your work – to keep going when the odds seem against you – to find and maintain health and balance – essential if you want to go the distance. To keep that smile on your face and that spring in your step. To keep ready and match fit – even and especially during any times of void. Those for me are the biggest challenges.
And what is your biggest triumph?
I have loved doing all the work I have done but without a doubt my biggest triumph is my son.
Do you have any other upcoming projects or ambitions to share with us?
I have a lovely project being announced soon that I can’t share until that goes to press. I am off to Texas in June to work on development of a new musical… another one I can’t mention yet! So, it’s quite a theatre based few months coming up. Very excited for a movie that went to ground during lockdown – to go into production in the New Year – another project I can’t mention until it goes to press! Although you might find it if you look on my IMDB!
As for ambitions, I wrote a piece during lockdown that I would like to get produced into a series and having now experienced pitching in the Marche du film at Cannes. I have a few more insights on how to perhaps realize these projects and form a team to collaborate with. I have been talking with some fabulous people about this.
Also, I just want to keep on working with all the wonderful people and there are lots of talks about lots of projects as an actor, playing all kinds of people in all kinds of genre. I am so in love with film that if I could only have one type of job it would be to be on set every day – I love the whole vibe of film: the process, the waiting, the cast, the crew, the location/studio life the laughs the comradery. Sigh. The whole thing. The huge family all working for that moment between action and cut. Weaving together all these wonderful and important stories. Magical.
Thank you so much for talking with me and for your lovely and interesting questions.
Photos by Anna Lukala