Deborah Haywood: Swadlincote’s Angela Carter

Hi Debs – What was the time line between writing Pin Cushion and seeing it completed?

It was 10 years from having the idea, writing the treatment and making the film.

I wrote it as a feature treatment in 2008, I was influenced by Agota Kristof  – Hungarian writer who wrote a very blunt, direct version of fairy tales. I went down a few alleyways that went to nowhere and ended up with this result.

Did you ever want to do an animation of this film?

Ooh I’d have loved to, I don’t really have the skillset – but  I had thought of turning it into a graphic novel before we were able to get funding for the project.

2.What was the high point for you in the whole process? 

I think the creating of it, pre-production and seeing it all come together.. I’d been living with images in my head all the time and when I gave you these references, that I’d been saving for years, and see you go away and working your magic and coming back with a far enhanced version of what I had first thought of and far more than I could have imagined. I think if you are going to make something then why be restrained!

That must have been a lot of fun as I know that in your short films you did absolutely everything yourself.

Yeah I did, it was knackering… You just have to chuck everything you have at trying to do it in such a short time period, you can’t concentrate on everything at once. Whereas with Pin Cushion we had more time, more money and it was fantastic. 

And what about when you found out that Pin Cushion had been accepted for the Venice Film Festival?

That was amazing! When you’re making a film everything feels like a battle, a mountain. You do it inch by inch, millimetre by millimetre. You’ve got no idea how it’s going to be received; it was all hard work but good, fun work as well and I was always learning new stuff, but when I heard we’d gotten into Venice I was like OH MY GOD.

Amazing, proper validation.

I was high for 4 days – couldn’t sleep, I was so excited that the life of the film was about to begin and it was going to have such a great birth that it meant it could have a nice life and you know, it does! Venice itself I can’t really remember as I was so nervous!

I was so sad that I couldn’t make it to Venice – and seeing you and all the gang (including Maggie Monteith – the film’s producer and fellow founder of this website) over there and all the press that it generated was so fantastic.

Afterwards everyone gave us a standing ovation for 5 or 6 minutes.

Were there tears?

There were tears at every screening I’ve been to. I think it’s so important to create a film that does provoke emotions, in life now we spend so much of our time pretending that we feel differently to how we really do. Everything is online, we live our life in public, not in private and we try to project our mask. I think cinema is one of the few places that we go and we can feel our true feelings and it’s ok – it’s acceptable.

What was the lowest point in the whole process? The thing that really hurt?

Oh my god, it was my own mistakes – if someone else makes a mistake you have empathy for them but when it’s your own I beat myself up for weeks.

How was it for you having a much bigger film crew than you were used to in your previous work? 

Well I found it a joy actually. I found it much easier to make a feature film than a short because I had a team around me, and for all their talent. There’s nothing more exciting than coming up with an idea and then finding a team so talented in their field, they enhance your ideas.

Tell us about your Swad (Swadlincote – Derbyshire) upbringing and what brought you to write this film?

Well I did draw on my own experiences of being bullied which started when I was at junior school and went on to secondary school, that was a starting point really – I never really meant to set the film in Swad but everything I write I automatically set it there as I know all the locations and it just comes quickly to me, but I’m really pleased that we did do it there because Swad is an ordinary place and I’m really interested in making the ordinary extraordinary and when you really look at it is actually extraordinary. I remember when Joanna (Scanlon) first came up she said that she’d travelled the world but never seen anywhere like Swad.

Did you see any of your previous tormentors when we were all up there making the film?

No I didn’t, I did wonder if any had come to the screenings. The film ended up having a 7 week run in the Odeon in Swad, and it was the highest grossing film in that cinema in that period. Hopefully it’s been really good for Swad.

It must be fantastic and very cathartic to feel like you are now an anti-bullying figurehead!! Are you going to continue with this theme in your next script or will it be something completely different?

No I’m not and the anti-bullying thing was a complete surprise, and I’ve done various talks on the subject even though I don’t think I’ve got the authority – all I can say is, this is how it was for me and this is what I’ve learnt from it and this film is the result of it but I’m not a psychologist or an academic so I just talk about how it was for me . 

I’m going to write a gothic horror about a woman with post-natal depression which is inspired by a recurring nightmare that I had when I got post-natal depression (Deborah had a baby at 17) I’m going to write a musical about childhood innocence but obviously going to the dark side! I’m drawn to darkness… and also I’m writing a biopic.

Final (longish answer question). What advice would you give your 16 year old self, if any? And do you think that anything in your life path up to now would have changed if you had the advice  that you are going to give your younger self now?

When I was 16 what I needed most was a hug. That would have been more valuable than advice. I think if I’d had any advice it may have changed the direction of my life. I think it was important for me to live how I lived and to make the choices that I made even though I’ve made a million bad choices, but I think it’s important to have those experiences and that’s how you discover stuff. If I came along as my older self and plonked all that I know now on my younger self I would have denied myself the discoveries that make us who we are and forms us as people. Having said that I do think that one piece of great advice I would have loved was “keep  a notebook and start writing.”