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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
Duffy stones the Crow
Aaron in Crow Stone
Crow Stone: a boy's search for love.
British film-maker Alicia Duffy won one of three special prizes - the Cinéfondation awards - at Cannes for her film Crow Stone. The BBC World Service's Manuel Toledo spoke to her.

Last year your film Numb was highly commended at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, now you have won at Cannes one of the most prestigious international awards for young film-makers. What are you thinking of doing next?

I have been developing two feature film scripts, one with the writer Jim McRoberts who wrote Crow Stone and one myself. I would like to make one of those. Possibly another short, but I need to work on a script for that.

Alicia Duffy directing Crow Stone
Alicia Duffy directing Crow Stone
How long have you been making films?

Four years. I had only made one short before film school, which I finished three days before the application. I was not very experienced when I went to the National Film and Television School. I was probably the least experienced director on the course.

How did you start?

I had done quite a lot of things before. I had studied music, maths and history of art. Then I answered an ad to work on somebody else's film. By the end of the shoot, I was the assistant director and I had also cast some of the roles, and I loved the whole experience.

I sort of knew then that if you are somebody who does many different things, film-making can be the most satisfying job because it uses up so many different talents.

Speaking of talents, do you have any suggestions for young people who would like to make films?

I think the main thing for young people is not to be afraid to experiment and try to develop their own voice. In addition, to try to hold on to their confidence and maintain some belief in what they are doing. It is such a difficult thing to do.

Which are the main problems that young film-makers have to face?

Aaron Goodwin (left) and Craig Bird in Crow Stone
Aaron Goodwin (left) and Craig Bird in Crow Stone.
After coming back from Cannes and meeting young film-makers from all over the world, I was able to put some of our problems in perspective and I felt quite humbled by that.

In Britain, the main problem is that there is not a market for short films. There are distribution problems and probably there will always be.

But we are generally very lucky. Most companies are willing to lend us their equipment, and there are many funds that one can get money from if one is very tough and keeps applying.

Putting the financial problems aside, it must have been difficult for you to find the right actors and locations for Crow Stone. How old were the two boys?

They were seven and eleven years old. The whole casting process was very hard.

Crow Stone is about two brothers living in a very isolated farm in the Fens, and their mother who is very seriously depressed.

The cast
Aaron Goodwin (Aaron)
Craig Bird (Craig)
Rachel Power (mother)
George Hawkins (man at the door)
The older boy is trying to communicate with their mother, and ultimately fails. As a result, he has to find some kind of relationship with the younger brother. So, it's really about the two boys.

I spent several weeks near the location, which is in the Fens in East Anglia, visiting local schools, and I think I saw over a thousand children.

I needed to find local children who were not actually trained actors because I wanted natural performances. I had seen children in London who had acted a great deal but I felt it was a bit wrong to put them in this environment for an audience to believe it.

The two kids we found were amazing, and taught me a lot by the end of the shoot. They were extraordinary actors and really made the film.

Numb
Numb: a story about overcoming fear
Where would you like to see yourself five years from now?

I would love to be making really strong pieces, short or long. I would definitively like to have made a feature by then. It is a difficult business, and I have a lot of work to do to make that happen.

But I have spent the last six months developing the ideas I mentioned and hopefully at the very least one of them will come through. I think they are both very strong.

Has the National Film and Television School helped you towards achieving these goals?

I am a much better director than I ever was when I went there. And I did have to learn an incredible amount. The course was very tough, and I was in the last group that did it over three years, which was brilliant because with the lack of experience that I had when I went there, I needed that time.

It is a difficult course, which challenges people on the artistic level and personally. I had to struggle at times. But it seems to me that the work that has come out of it is competent, and I am proud of it. Hopefully one forgets the bad times and just thinks about the good work.

The crew
Director: Alicia Duffy
Producer: Hugh Welchman
Writer: Jim McRoberts
Cinematographer: Nanu Segal
Production Designer: Kem White
Editor: Nicholas Chaudeurge
Composer: Tara Crème
Continuity: Steve Guest
Casting Director: Amanda Tabak
Art Director: Stephanie Lister
Is Crow Stone going to be shown in other festivals?

Yes, it is going to Hamburg over the next couple of weeks, and Chicago. It is also being sent to other festivals, which will hopefully allow me to see other films. In Cannes, I was not able to see many, which was rather disappointing.

Your previous film, Numb, was also shown in Chicago last year. How did it fare?

I think it went very well. I could not get out there, but I heard good things, and they are inviting me back, which is the best one can hope for.

Do you get to meet many other young directors at these festivals?

Yes. At Cannes, there were 20 short films from all over the world in the competition. I met most of the directors. We spent a lot of time together. It was an incredibly friendly environment. We were all very supportive of each other.

And the work was really amazing. It was a great honour just to be in the same group with these people.


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