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We sat down with Lucinda Spurling to talk about her work and career as an award-winning filmmaker. We talk about her personal highlights, as well as what she sees as some of the challenges faced in a competitive, creative industry.

(Oliver Tucker) When did you first know you wanted to do film?
(Lucinda Spurling) I have always loved movies and books and I always wanted to be a storyteller. I took my first film course in high school, but I only realised it might be possible as a career in college when I interned with a documentary filmmaker, Stevenson Palfi.

 

(OT) Who was your main inspiration for getting into film?
(LS) I have always loved Bette Davis and I have always wanted to be able to write a movie as good as All About Eve by Joseph Mankiewicz. Still working on it!

 

(OT) Out of all the awards you have won, what is the one you’re most proud of?
(LS) I am most proud of two, the Best Screenplay award I won last year for Me & Jezebel at Worldfest Houston, a film I am in the process of bringing to the screen. Me & Jezebel is a true story about Bette Davis and how she moved in with her biggest fan in suburban Connecticut to escape the eye of the paparazzi in the 1980s. It is a drama/comedy about how she turns the life of the family upside down but ultimately right side up. The judge said it was the best screenplay she had read in ten years ( I am bragging now!) and the Audience Award for The Lion and the Mouse at the Bermuda Film Festival in 2009. Who doesn’t want to win the popular vote! I value and trust that more than critical acclaim.

(OT) What can be done to get more exposure for film in Bermuda as a destination?
(LS) Bermuda is a beautiful location and lends plenty of production value but it is too expensive to make sense on paper, especially for large productions unless we created a huge tax incentive. Until then it will be a good place for smaller crewed independent films with less overheads to make low budget films and trade on that production value, and find ways to cut costs during production. Independent filmmakers are good at being thrifty and the challenge of Bermuda in exchange for its beauty, promise of good weather and proximity to the United States will be worth it for many independent producers. It is not out of the realm of possibility that a small film shot in Bermuda could become a huge Oscar winner, and then the payoff for Bermuda would be in the exponential exposure and how that could translate into increased visitor and visitor spend. Maybe one day there will be more people on earth that know where Bermuda is than those that think we are in the Caribbean!

 

(OT) What can we do to produce more filmmakers?
(LS) I think we already are producing more filmmakers. I think finding new ways to support small businesses, and create a sustainable cost of living would encourage the creative arts which is easier said than done. It is such a small marketplace in Bermuda that in order to make a living you must devote yourself to several pursuits, and it takes a long time to mature as a filmmaker. It is also a challenge to find your place in the global industry, being from such a small place, but it is possible.

 

(OT) In your documentary “In the hour of victory” What was your biggest challenge telling a story which had already happened?
(LS) I think the biggest challenge was deciding only to use Toby Smith’s letters, his actual words to tell the story and not use narration. That restricted us and forced us to go on an exhaustive search for archival footage to match what he was describing. We did have to do one shoot in Yorkshire, and the rest were recreations in Bermuda. It was also tough to do our 1940s recreations in colour. We needed them to be in colour to contrast the black and white archival footage, but it made getting the era right a bit tough on a small budget.

 

(OT) What was the most eye opening aspect of making Poverty in Paradise?
(LS) That there is so little political will to make simple changes that would make lives easier especially for single moms and their children. You can have a mother jailed for several hundred dollars in unpaid bills, who is owed $80,000 in child support. Poverty is a vicious cycle and there needs to be systemic change in the community to find a realistic way out for these families.

 

(OT) How was the film perceived in Bermuda?
(LS) There was a true grassroots movement around the film, and many people chose to show the film in their churches, and in their homes. There was an outpouring of compassion for these women and children, and the curtain was pulled back on our society and many people were able to look through a window into a social problem that is usually hidden from view. At the same time the film was optimistic that there are simple ways to change our society for the better.  We had hoped to engage the Government in a dialogue, but their response was overly bureaucratic and they tried to shut down the movie by way of various legal avenues, which were eventually abandoned. I guess you could say it touched a chord or perhaps more than one.

"Bermuda is a beautiful location and lends plenty of production value but it is too expensive to make sense on paper, especially for large productions unless we created a huge tax incentive."

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