Evey Swayland’s career started at a young age and during her university days, the short films she produced were nominated for some prestigious awards around the UK. ‘Belle’ a short film she produced, wrote and directed was shown in over 23 festivals worldwide as well as winning her Female Director. Evey’s independent projects continue to expand in budget and viewership.
When deciding whether to join a project as a producer, what do you look for in a script?
Whether I can commit to it. It sounds silly, but if I had to produce something that didn’t involve any element I was drawn to, or was interested in, it would just be work. One of my biggest fears is working on something I absolutely hate which makes me not want to get out of bed In the morning -but that’s everyone’s fear, isn’t it? I have been very lucky that every project I have done has been so weird and wonderful I’ve invested myself into entirely. So before I pick up a project, I make sure I can give the writer and director the fully invested producer they need, it isn’t fair to anyone if you can’t give your all.
Tell us how you go about selecting a director. What are some of the qualities you look for?
How they conduct themselves. I’ve worked with some incredible directors, even at university, I was surrounded by these intensely passionate people that wanted to make intensely passionate things. I follow a lot of directors careers and it’s so interesting to see how each one has a different approach. Social media portfolios sort of dominate these days, but when you work with someone who has worked with someone, and they say ‘that director helped me when I first started out’ or something similar, you know that person is not only a fierce professional, but a bloody wonderful human being. Good directors care about their work, great directors care about their crew. I don’t think there is a more powerful lead on the floor than a lead that has their whole team rooting for them.
You are working on a project with expensive special effects never attempted before. How do you stay under budget?
Planning. It’s all down to planning. Don’t touch a thing until you know, and you are absolutely certain, what and how it is going to work. Everyone needs to be concerned about the budget. Every department works together to ensure the safety first, and the budget second, isn’t that the saying? Safety first then team work? Working within the budget is a joint effort from everyone and sometimes other departments need a leg up from the team and that’s okay. As long as everyone is on the same page and understands the end goal, everything else is a negotiation.
Give us some examples of changes you’d make to a movie you produced in the past. Why would you do it differently?
My award winning short film Belle. Story wise, and reception wise I wouldn’t change it for the world. Cinematically and editorially speaking, I’d delete it off the face of the earth.
Speaking of Belle, upon release it went viral accumulating over 6,000 views in a weekend and was even posted to reddit. How did the success make you feel?
It was bitter sweet. The premise of the film is a little girl protecting her teddy from an alcoholic mother. I had many people of all ages reach out to me, some to console me, some to offer support and others to ask for help. It’s funny, people I would never have thought were victims to an abusive childhood were, and these are people who I look up to and admire – people I thought had it easy. It goes to show, you never know what battle other people are fighting.
Belle won Female Director at Cardiff Mini Film Festival and was nominated at FFresh and RTS. The opening screening of Belle saw an audience present of 250 people. Was this one of your proudest moments?
I’ve never felt more nervous in my life. It’s like spending months on a painting and then holding it up and everyone just blinks. You never know what the reaction was. When the film finished half the audience were hysterically crying and the other half looked bored. The little girl who plays Belle, Diana Starbek, came bounding towards me crying for a hug. It was all very overwhelming. I find Belle’s success is in the amount of people who reached out for help after seeing it, as opposed to any awards or accolades it received.
Is scripted fiction something that appeals to you for the future?
I am currently writing 3 short films, all with large budgets and being shot internationally. I produce anything I write so I have full control over what makes it to the screen. I find that tensions rise most between gelling producers and writer’s expectations vs reality. I always said I would direct something scripted and bigger when I have more life experience. I want to watch how the greats move with the cameras, how the writers become the characters –and what the smallest things such as an eyebrow raise do for the audience. I’m sure one day I will conquer scripted, but right now I’m happy with my cars.