A multi-award winning director of television drama and music videos, Louisa Fielden joins us on Directors Notes today with People You May Know – a film which although created before the incendiary spark of #MeToo, embodies the movement’s calls for accountability for past actions. Louisa spoke to us about taking on multiple creative roles on the project and the script development process which laid the foundation for this prescient dramatic calling to account.
Where did the inspiration for People You May Know originate from?
The idea came from a simple image in my head, of a man and a woman meeting after a long period of time apart. The release of People You May Know happens to coincide with a huge social movement, but we actually shot the film in the summer of 2017, months before the current incarnation of #MeToo arose. It was clear to us early on that we had made a film with a subject matter that would high-five the social zeitgeist, particularly because of our use of Facebook.
After the initial idea came to you what was your approach for developing the script across its various drafts?
Firstly there was a massive amount of research for me to do and after that, I wrote an outline in the form of a very intricate and detailed beat sheet. I then revised the script over the next two months, which included many re-writes. I was working on it almost every day. Also, I had a great Script Editor, Ryan Hogan, whose insights were invaluable, even in the edit. Late on in the development process, I met with the actors and they also provided their own notes and ideas too, which we incorporated into the script.
The roles of writer, director, and executive producer can be highly complimentary on a project this size and I found it quite liberating.
Understandably given the subject matter, your actors needed to tap into some very powerful, raw emotions. How did you prepare them beforehand and then create an on set environment conducive to those intense performances?
Aiysha (Aiysha Hart) and Joe (Joseph Timms) are both very professional and are well prepared when they turn up on set. It was a two day shoot, but they recited 28 pages of dialogue in one day, which is no mean feat, particularly considering what they were required to play. I gave Aiysha a lot of research material to work with beforehand and we had a day’s rehearsal where we established some personal connections to the material. In terms of the atmosphere I like to cultivate on set, I’d directed both Aiysha and Joe before on Atlantis, which was a fantasy drama series for the BBC, and so there was trust there already, which is a vital currency with a project like People You May Know.
What would you say is the most important aspect of building a character?
I think giving a character a clear point of view because that drives a story forward and gives the audience a strong through-line and point of connection.
How did you effectively balance fulfilling the multiple roles of writer, director and executive producer?
I was very fortunate to have a wonderful Producer, Will Nash, who carried the logistical weight of the film, so I could focus exclusively on the creative. Truthfully the roles of writer, director, and executive producer can be highly complimentary on a project this size, and I found it quite liberating. Once the script was perfected, I was happy to put my director hat on. I have a strong background in visual effects and photography, so I’m not ever bogged down with the technicalities of shooting. This meant I could focus on supporting the performances through the rehearsal period, and on set, which was a joy.
People You May Know is very different from the work you have made previously. Where is your work headed in the future?
My future definitely lies in television. I am working on another relationship drama, this time about teenage girls and social media. And I also have my own comedy-drama series in development.