There’s a whirlwind of activity for Vanessa Bailey right now. The talented actress is in post-production for Three Days, a short British romantic comedy which she co-wrote, produced and starred in. The film was funded by fans around the globe via four crowdfunding campaigns and has built up an ardent support base, something that is just as valuable as the funding itself.
The film was shot by double BAFTA Cymru winner Huw T Walters and Directed by Coup de Coeur winner Darren S Cook. Recently Chris Jones (Oscar-shortlisted filmmaker, creative director of The London Screenwriter’s Festival and co-author of The Guerilla Filmmaker’s Handbook) has come on board in post-production.
The film centres around Sophie, an emotionally guarded 43 year old and James, a restless-spirited 22 year old and their attraction to one another over the space of three days. Will they give in to their feelings, or let the opportunity pass them by? Three Days is proof that in a cynical world, romance is not dead and is very much beating in the heart of Britain.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get Vanessa to talk about Three Days, the pressures of juggling so many hats on a film, and the role that collaboration with indie artists and local business played in Three Days.
How did Three Days come into being?
Vanessa: Three Days was born out of a desire to create a role that allowed a woman over 40 years of age to engage in a romance as a central character, rather than act as an appendage to a male character and his story. I ran the idea for the film past my friend Suzie Boudier (who I had worked with before on the award-winning short film Bubbles by Leyla Pope) and she felt that is was something that had an audience. So we went for it. Suzie came on board to produce with me and that was it – no turning back! We’ve been very lucky to have an extremely talented team sign up, with some superb credits under their creative belts. They’re all very exciting people to work with.
Three Days is attempting to break the cliché of the older woman/younger man relationship. Does it frustrate you that this cliché is still so prevalent in society?
Vanessa: Well, clichés exist because they are partly grounded in truth – clichéd characters are people we recognise from real life. And from the various conversations I’ve had since starting this project there are, without a doubt, many women out there who enjoy a cougar lifestyle! But they become clichés when they are over-used and under-written. Even a cougar will have more to her than naughty underwear and body-con dresses. I think what frustrates me is there is more societal approval of an age gap relationship when the woman is younger, than when the man is younger. When the man is younger the women are most often seen in a negative light, often judged by other women.
We did quite a bit of improv throughout the writing process, to help us discover our characters and I remember one time we were out on Southbank and Richard (as James) was chasing me (as Sophie) along the walkway, trying to persuade me to have a drink with him. When I responded positively the reactions from the men watching were far more positive than from the women. It wasn’t difficult to see and feel their disapproval. I found their judgement disappointing, but I wasn’t surprised.
Richard Perryman (my co-writer and who plays the part of James) and I wanted to address that attitude of disapproval of older women entering an age gap relationship through the characters of Sophie and James. Sophie instinctively disapproves of her feelings for James. James is probably slightly less concerned with convention, initially. As writers Richard and I wrote it in a light-hearted way, but the thinking behind it is was in-depth. I think the same goes for when we were acting. We did quite a bit of work together on our characters before we got to the shoot. We had interesting discussions about the pros and cons.
This was your first time writing and producing a film as well as acting in it. What were the biggest challenges for you?
Vanessa: Initially finance. Several of us put in our own money, but we’re all pretty skint, so I ran four crowdfunds. Two on Indiegogo and two on Kickstarter. Then I would say my inexperience and limitations were the other personal challenge. I’d only ever worked in front of the camera before. I ended up producing by default very early on in the project and just kept going with it. However, I firmly believe that once you have discovered your limitations the challenge is there to push past them. I had to learn on the job and I couldn’t allow myself to say “I can’t do this”. It had to be “I have to find a way to do this.” Your mantras change. When your mantras change, you change. Recently I had to synch all the sound and video files. That taught me a lot about all sorts of things, not just editing prep. I would highly, highly recommend getting involved in the editing process. It’s a real eye-opener!
The fear of failure is also a big challenge. Re-define failure – our first two crowdfunds didn’t hit target. I had emails commiserating the “failure”. Our last two crowdfunds significantly over-funded. The first two crowdfunds were never failures. They were simply part of the process.
Was there ever a moment where, in the midst of undertaking the various roles of writer, producer and actress that you thought: “bloody hell! What am I doing?”
Vanessa: Yes. That was continuous! It never went away. You learn to style through it! The voice that says “You can do it” has to shout louder than the voice of doubt. This is why you need to believe 100% in your project. The belief will carry you through. Also, your commitment to your team. It’s no good saying “What am I doing?” You have to work out what you need to do and get on with it. Your team deserve nothing less than your very best effort.
How did Chris Jones end up coming on board in post-production?
Vanessa: I know! Hello? How did that happen?! I was looking for books on filmmaking and picked up the buzz surrounding his book The Guerilla Filmmaker’s Handbook, on Twitter. Through that I learned about The London Screenwriter’s Festival (compulsory for any writer!), which I attended the first year as a delegate and then the next year as an actor for the Table Reads. Having seen him in action in seminars, I was very drawn to his incredibly positive, empowering, aspirational and people-centred approach to filmmaking. It’s very refreshing and energising. So when I reached a point in post where I’d hit a bit of a wall I basically thought “What is there to lose? I’ll ask the expert,” and sent Chris an email, just asking for some general advice. I honestly didn’t expect to hear back from him. But I did. It snowballed from there. Next thing I know I’m sat in his office at Ealing Studios, synching files like a pro (ish). He’ll continue to be closely involved in post-production, mentoring me through it.
You collaborated very heavily with indie music artists and local independent businesses for Three Days. What were the benefits for the film and for the artists and businesses themselves by doing this?
Vanessa: Indie spirit is something that is definitely alive and kicking in the creative arts and I was keen to help celebrate that and promote, in a small way, some of the fantastic artists out there. We’ve collabed with Wonderlush, Ilya and The Rebecca Nash Jazz Trio. All very different in style and very accomplished. Our composer William Goodchild sourced two of these collaborations and we’re so lucky to have him on board to score the film. The music will be one more narrative voice in the final film, it’s so key. (Excuse the pun!)
I wanted to showcase my local areas of Bromley and Beckenham within the film, as I’m very proud of where I live and felt the area lent itself to the film’s story. I wanted the film to feel authentic - rather than try to dress a set to look like a café, I wanted to film in a café. With no budget! But local independent business in this area is strongly entrepreneurial, so we have been able to secure beautiful, evocative locations thanks to the wonderful owners of the businesses involved: Cinnamon Culture, The Lavender House Café and Beckenham Bookshop. We were also very generously supported by Red Boutique with gorgeous props and costumes. And we definitely could not have made this film without the financial support of Baccarat Hair Salon in Beckenham – watch out for them in the film! In return for their support I’ve tried to promote their businesses as much as possible through our various platforms. I’ve got to know the owners during the process of the film, their work ethics and their approach to business. I respect them all very highly for what they are achieving in their own fields, they are all so outward-looking and generous. I hope that when they see the final film, they’ll be as proud of it as we are.
Intrigued? Check out Three Days on the web HERE.