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TIFF ’09 | Kate Ogborn: “I hope that the film touches people”

TIFF '09 | Kate Ogborn: "I hope that the film touches people"

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a series of interviews indieWIRE will be running with the filmmakers screening in the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival’s Discovery program.

Samantha Morton’s “The Unloved” “is inspired by Morton’s own life as a girl in the British Midlands. Lucy (Molly Windsor) lives with an unstable, sometimes violent father, played by Robert Carlyle. When the local social services step in to rescue her, Lucy leaves the chaos of her family for the uncertain dangers of a care home.” The film screens as part of Toronto’s Discovery section. indieWIRE contacted the film’s producer, Kate Ogborn, to discuss her career and the film and gave Ogborn and others a free-form style interview…

You…

Random fact: My grandfather was murdered in Burma in 1933. I would love to tell his story.

Your Filmmaking Career and Process…

Once upon a time I wanted to be an archaeologist but then I failed my chemistry exams, twice. Next, a writer. After my final school exams, I worked for the British style magazine ID, stopping people on the streets to ask them about their clothes. It was great fun and got me into loads of clubs in London and New York. Then in my first year at University I got a commission to write a biography of Jean Seberg for a UK publisher. Fortunately I finished my degree before I learnt the painful way that writing books was not what made me happy, or what I was good at. Then I got lucky and found film production. This was it. And is what I still want to go on doing. The opportunity to work with brilliant, talented people, to help nurture and bring a film to an audience, to tell stories that matter to me. The first film that I produced was “Under the Skin” starring Samantha Morton. We had a fantastic screening at Toronto and won the International Critics Award. Now I am really thrilled to be back at Toronto with Samantha Morton’s extraordinary debut feature.

“The Unloved”…

Samantha and I first met on Carine Adler’s “Under the Skin.” Sam gave the most amazing performance and it was clear that she was a real talent. We were travelling to the US to attend a festival and Sam told me a story then, which was loosely based on experiences that she’d had. I thought it was fantastic and told her she had to do it.

In 2006 I was working at Revolution Films developing a slate of projects for Channel 4 Television with the goal of making ambitious films for television in the UK that would also have a theatrical life, as Revolution had done brilliantly with “Road to Guantanamo.” Sam and I started talking about the film again at the end of 2006. I was having lunch with Liza Marshall, Head of Drama at Channel 4, to discuss possible films for them. She was looking for ideas for comedies, which “The Unloved” clearly wasn’t. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that Sam’s story was really powerful and beautiful, so I pitched the idea of Sam directing a film about a young girl in care in Nottingham. And she loved it. From then on the process to production was pretty fast. Tony Grisoni, who I was working with at Revolution Films on the adaptation of David Peace’s “Red Riding” novels, came on board to write the screenplay and worked closely with Sam during the development.

We were greenlit in May 2008 with financing from Channel 4, EM Media and Revolution Films and started principal photography that November in Nottingham. On an initial recce to Nottingham, in February 2007, we visited the television workshop that Sam had been part of when she was a teenager. It was there that we first saw Molly Windsor, who would become Lucy, the film’s lead. Sam immediately connected with her and thought there was something really interesting about her. When we came back to the film a year later, the casting director went back and did a big search through all the schools and drama groups in Nottingham, and Molly came back through that route, but Sam always had Molly in the back of her mind as having a stillness about her and an immediately empathetic quality.

Given the subject matter of the film it was really important to us that we looked after the children we were working with. We were very careful to explain to the parents, particularly to Molly’s mother, what was going to be involved. Sam was also extremely good at ensuring that Molly was made to feel very safe and very well looked after during the shoot. Sam was very clear right from the beginning that she didn’t want to make a film about abuse during which we in any way exploited the children we were working with.

I am hugely proud of the film, Sam and the whole team who have worked so hard on the film. For me, it’s one of the truest accounts of the way a child experiences the world that I’ve seen. I really admire Sam’s courage and her faith in her own instincts. It was great to be part of a film which has something so rare, which is a profound spiritual sensibility.

Your Influences…

This is just an incomplete list of some of the things I love: “Singing in the Rain,” “A Matter of Life and Death,” “Taxi Driver,” soul music, swimming, the Scottish Highlands, Mexico, my daughter Cora.

The Future…

It is really exciting for us to be screening the film in Toronto as it is the first opportunity to show the film to an international audience and to an incredibly cine-literate and passionate audience. I hope that the film touches people and gives them an insight into what it feels like to be a child in care. And of course I hope that it sells.

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