‘Rest Stop’ dir. Kate Herron

Meredith, a young backpacker desperate to find meaning in her life, meets a mysterious stranger in a dingy British service station…claiming to know her..

Director: Kate Herron
Writers: Kate Herron & Monica Heisey
Producer: Geina Krassnig
DOP: Karl Clarke
Key Cast: Cari Leslie, Ben Willbond

C8: Last time we spoke to you was for your short Valentine. What have you been up to since then?

KH: I’ve been busy with Rest Stop on the festival circuit and also shot another short film, Fan Girl which is written by Screen International Stars Jessica and Henrietta Ashworth starring Steve Oram (Sightseers) as a faded 90s pop star.

C8: What inspired Rest Stop and how long did it take you to write? 

KH: It was born partly out of me wanting to exercise a period in my early twenties when I went backpacking around in the USA. I was 3000 miles from home and events that would normally be mundane, like a bus breaking down or buying a coffee were suddenly transformed into these wild and magical experiences. I thought I was this free spirit but I was basically an idiot with a blocked bankcard carrying useless items like water purification tablets. I remember feeling quite lost at that time and hoping that some wise guide would appear and tell me what to do. We wrote the film on a mentor scheme so roughly we were working on the script on and off for a few months.

C8: How did you work with your co-writer Monica Heisey on the script? How did you divide the workload? 

KH: With Rest Stop we were lucky that the script won us a place on the LOCO London Comedy Film Festival mentor scheme with Sky Comedy so we received mentoring on the script from Saskia Schuster, who at the time was Sky’s Commissioning Editor and is now Comedy Comissioner at ITV. To have someone that senior reading and help develop your writing was such an amazing opportunity. She’s worked with so many of my comedy heroes and on shows I love like Little CrackersYonderland and Psycho Bitches. For the workload we tend to discuss structure and what we want to talk about but then we write drafts separately which we pass back and forth between us.

C8: Cari Leslie is hilarious as American explorer Meredith. When did you first come across her and how did you go about casting her? 

KH: I did quite an extensive search for Meredith and saw so many fantastic actors but I remember Cari Leslie sent a tape to me via a friend of mine who had worked with her at Boom Chicago, which is basically an improv comedy powerhouse that runs in Amsterdam. Its alumni includes comedians like Seth Myers, Jason Sudekis and Jordan Peele. I was completely blown away by Cari’s tape. This made even weirder by the fact I had no idea her and Monica knew each other and I don’t think at the time Monica knew I was seeing her for reading the role.

C8: How did you work with Cari to create the character of Meredith? Did you have time for workshops or rehearsals? 

KH: Cari was based in Amsterdam so a lot of the discussion we had about the character was over Skype. She just really got what me and Monica were going for, so the rehearsal time was spent on having Cari and Ben working on the script and fine-tuning the the rhythm of the scenes and finding the right tone from a performance perspective.

C8: What obstacles did you face on set and how did you overcome them? 

KH: The main challenge, as the film is a conversation, was a careful balance of not wanting the camera to feel too intrusive but still keeping the film feeling cinematic and not feeling static. My DOP Karl Clarke and I looked a lot at the lighting to bring this atmosphere, in particular looking at Fincher and artist Edward Hopper. The conversation is essentially a power-play between these two characters so I was interested in using the camera and edit to show subtly show who was in control of the conversation by how much they dominated the frame.

C8: Rest Stop has played at several notable festivals and received a great reaction online. Did you anticipate the success of the film at an early stage? 

KH: I’m just very grateful people are enjoying the film. The response we’ve been having has been incredibly flattering and nice. I don’t think you can anticipate the success of any short film and how it will play on the festival circuit – unless you are making a film called “The Sad Man who broke up with his girlfriend and then stared out of the window” I’ve seen five adaptations of this just in 2016 and it always seems to be a festival favourite.

C8: Has anything surprised you about the film or its reaction now that it’s been released online? 

KH: I think the main surprise with any short is getting to watch it with an audience.

It’s always been really interesting seeing how different audiences respond to it as we’ve been in a real mix of programmes. I think my top two screenings so far weren’t actually comedy-themed, the first was Cucalorus where we screened at a showing for high school kids and the second would be London Short Film Festival where we were in their female-lead themed programmed. I loved that last one in particular as it not only showed such a great range of female roles but also as there were three women next to me who laughed, cried and gasped in every short. I want them to be at every screening I attend.

C8: What are your plans for the immediate future? Any exciting projects? 

At the moment I am writing across a few different feature projects, including a feature adaptation of Rest Stop where me and Monica are planning to take the character of Meredith to a bigger and more miserable story and another feature which has producer Katie Mavroleon (David Brent: Life on the Road) attached. I am also writing a sitcom. Translated this basically means I don’t see the sun and live in my pajamas.