Meet the 2011 Tribeca Filmmakers | “Lotus Eaters” Director Alexandra McGuinness

Meet the 2011 Tribeca Filmmakers | "Lotus Eaters" Director Alexandra McGuinness
Meet the 2011 Tribeca Filmmakers | "Lotus Eaters" Director Alexandra McGuinness

In “Lotus Eaters,” we follow the story of two young people. Alice, an ex‐model and struggling actress, finds herself unable to keep up with the extravagant living that her so-called friends furiously pursue. She spends her time dodging bailiffs and sliding from one bed to the next. Struggling to make sense of a life that she has become indifferent to she begins to feel that Felix, an old friend, is her chance at redemption and finding something real. Drifting through this alluring and hedonistic scene, consumed by a manic, clingy girlfriend and an abundance of fairweather friends, Felix also searches for something more. [Synopsis courtesy of the film’s website]

“Lotus Eaters”
Primary Cast: Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Benn Northover, Cynthia Fortune Ryan, Johnny Flynn, Liam Browne, Amber Anderson, Katrena Rochell
Director(s): Alexandra McGuinness
Screenwriter: Alexandra McGuinness, Brendan Grant
Producer(s): Mark Lee
Editor: Bert Hunger, Emer Reynolds
Director of Photography: Gareth Munden
Production Designer: Richard Hudson
Co-Producer: Morgan Bushe, Kyle Blanshard

[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Tribeca Narrative, Documentary and Viewpoints sections to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, indieWIRE asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]

Responses courtesy of “Lotus Eaters” director Alexandra McGuinness.

Why filmmaking?

I guess a love of escapism, dark rooms, accessorising with belts and most of all other movies.

Making choices…

“Lotus Eaters” is all about choices. At the beginning of the film there are an overwhelming amount of choices for all the characters, it’s kind of like a buffet that’s about to go rancid but you can’t see that yet and that idea of a gilded youth was a starting point for the script. I think there’s an awful moment that every generation has when it’s still “golden” but it hasn’t realized that that’s about to snuff out, when it’s at its most messy – you know, the fall of Rome, end of the Jazz Age, last days of disco stuff. In “Lotus Eaters” Alice and her friends haven’t had to grow up yet but it’s got to that point where it’s got to happen.

The movie came together very quickly, it’ll be pretty much a year exactly from preparation to its first screening.

“…the type of film I wanted to make”…

I wrote the script while I was living in Berlin, spending a lot of time on my own but thinking about the time I’d spent living in London. I was taking a lot of black and white photographs and watching films from the Sixties and Seventies that weren’t necessarily plot heavy, but had a very definite feel about a time and place and I knew that was the type of film I wanted to make.

We spent a lot of time and effort getting the cast right because I knew that would be the key to making “Lotus Eaters” work. I wanted this gaggle of energetic new young actors to make this world breathe. Some of them, like Antonia Campbell-Hughes, I’d worked with before and had a lot of work behind them but are still pretty much unknown, and then others like Gina Bramhill and Jay Choi are fresh out of drama school.

The clothes and the music were really important to me, I wanted to use the most interesting designers around and have everyone looking really beautiful and stylized in every scene, so I chose a fashion stylist instead of a costume designer – Ruth Higginbotham. I think people who aren’t even interested in fashion will really enjoy some of the costumes.

There are four live performances by bands at parties within the film. We shot those with three cameras and combined the musical performances with bits of story going on with the characters at the parties. Those sections were really fun to film, we’d just turn up the speakers really loud and go for it and I’d run around moving the cameramen and the actors where I wanted them and everybody would just dance.

Working with little…

It was a very low budget production and that brings a whole slew of challenges, sometimes we didn’t know if we would make it through to the end of that week of shooting. Every time we thought we had a big problem, some other bigger problem would come along and eat that problem and make the previous problem seem [small]. My producer, Mark Lee, whom I’ve worked with since film school, and I would just sit down and tough it out and figure out a way of carrying on.

Pig bites!

We shot in the countryside in Ireland for one week and there were some pigs that managed to bite three of our actors on separate occasions. I just saw the wounds, not the actual biting. I think as a director, you’re often quite removed from the rest of the set so, in some ways, you know the least about what goes on behind the scenes.

In the works…

There are two projects I’m working on – one is a psychological thriller set in Paris and the other is a doomed love story in New York, so we’ll just see which happens first.

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