The Alice Lowe interview: “Until you’ve made a film, people won’t trust you to make a film.”

Writing deadlines have always been important to Alice Lowe, TV and movie actor, writer and soon-to-be writer-director of another feature length comedy film – still under wraps. Writing deadlines are now set for her, at one time they were rather more self-imposed.

By 2010, Alice Lowe had already made her mark on the stage and TV comedy circuit having appeared in several UK TV shows including Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, The Mighty Boosh and Little Britain. She’d also made few short films with director friend Jackie Wright – however, this wasn’t enough. Alice and Jackie decided they needed to set themselves a tougher challenge. Alice said:

“We hit upon the idea of doing 12 short films in a year – one every month.” – Alice Lowe

“I’ve always been interested in film and short film seemed a more manageable way to start putting some ideas out there. I was also always attracted to doing something that crossed genres and that you could play around with a bit – so we hit upon the idea of doing 12 short films in a year – one every month.”

Alice Lowe on writing productivity

Whilst many budding scriptwriters initially opt for TV as their medium, Alice felt that writing for the small screen might be too limiting. With their 12 film project, the pair wanted to let their comedy imagination run riot and try out different styles and genres – from music video, mockumentary to horror – but do so with some serious deadlines in place.

“I need deadlines – clarity often comes in a moment of panic. – Alice Lowe”

“It was really just an exercise in productivity. We wanted to experiment and push ourselves to find out what we could really come up with every month. It was really useful to have the discipline of having to produce a film by a certain date – and to have an audience waiting for the next film to come out. I need deadlines as for me, clarity often comes in a moment of panic.”

alice lowe prevenge poster

Confidence and creativity

Although films were often completed just in the nick of time, Alice and Jackie hit their deadlines every month. The films were uploaded onto Facebook and the pair received a growing fan base as a result. Another benefit of producing so many films over the year was establishing strong working relationships with a tight knit group of creative collaborators who they could trust and who would trust them to deliver a quality production.

Alice also says she learnt a lot from jumping in at the deep end and having to handle every aspect of film making – from writing, directing, producing and post production. Confidence also came with making more films, as did the desire to get involved in writing, performing and directing. Alice said:

“It doesn’t matter if it’s rubbish – it matters more that you’re doing something because you learn such a lot on the way.” – Alice Lowe

“It was a real crash course in film making and a brilliant learning experience – one I would really advocate. Until you’ve made a film, people won’t trust you to make a film. You can show people scripts all you want but nothing beats actually doing something – making something to show people. People give you a lot of respect for just trying it – it doesn’t matter if it’s rubbish – it matters more that you’re doing something because you learn such a lot on the way.”

How Armando Iannucci writes

Alice Lowe on ‘dying for laughs’

Indeed, Alice’s first film Sightseers which she co-wrote and co-starred in with Steve Oram also has its roots in short film. Initially, the writers were using Sightseers’ two characters Tina and Chris – two multiple murdering Brummie caravan lovers – in a stage show. Then, they made a short film with the characters with the hope of securing a TV show. However, whilst a comedy homicidal pairing proved a little rich for TV producers, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz producer Edgar Wright stepped in and suggested it should be a film rather than a show. Alice said:

“If we’d have given someone a script they would have probably made us change a lot about the characters. However, having the short film meant we could prove the characters were funny and did make people laugh. We didn’t have to fight as many battles about who the characters were because we could just show people. It enabled us to make the characters three dimensional before we even got to the script process.”

How to be a gritty writer

Alice Lowe’s top tip tips for budding film makers:

  • “Have persistence and an ability and willingness to take criticism. But also enough self-confidence to see an idea through. It helps if you really really believe in a project. Ask yourself, is this an idea I’d live and die by, is it a story I HAVE to tell, is it burning a hole in my soul, is it the BEST I can do, will I be happy if it’s a footnote on my gravestone? Then you know it’s the right project.”
  • “Aspire! Don’t pick an idea just because you suppose it’s commercial. Be ambitious with your themes. Make them noble, lofty! The best ideas come from the heart and soul. That might sound a bit pretentious, but it’s vital. Even if you’re doing comedy, sci-fi, whatever. Respect your characters, respect the story, give it weight and dignity. If you don’t believe in a project no one else will!”

About the author: Co-founder and writer in residence at Prolifiko | Ex-philosophy lecturer | maker of unpopular short comedy films.