‘The Expiration’ dir. Lotus Hannon

Inspired by John Donne’s poem, The Expiration is a beautiful, evocative, depiction of two secret lovers as they accept they must reluctantly part forever. Lotus Hannon’s film adaptation embraces the Renaissance concept of la petite mort that ‘to die’ was ‘to orgasm’ and explores the bittersweet moments of the last time a couple make love.

Producer-Director: Lotus Hannon
DOP: Anna Valdez Hanks
Key Cast: Oliver Huband, Azzurra Caccetta

C8: When did you first come across the poem by John Donne and why did you decide to adapt it?

LH: I’d been through a period of writing tightly structured thrillers and felt that I wanted to direct something more open and non-prescriptive. I felt adapting a poem would be a good way of doing this, so I got my John Donne book off the shelf and discovered The Expiration. I’d always been fascinated by Donne’s sensuous love poems as they often feature the Renaissance concept of la petite mort, that “to die” was “to orgasm”. For me, The Expiration embodies this concept in what is an incredibly moving and bittersweet poem: you can passionately love someone and yet know, you cannot be together. On first reading, the line, “Turn thou ghost that way and let me turn this”, evoked an overhead wide shot of a couple lying awkwardly back-to-back. This became imprinted in my mind and the adaptation grew from there.

C8: What did you shoot on and what was the reasoning behind this choice?

LH: Originally I had planned to shoot The Expiration with just a couple of actors on my iPhone, but as I began to develop it, it became evident I wanted a very beautiful heightened aesthetic. By chance I met cinematographer Anna Valdez Hanks and she was interested in collaborating. We shot on an Alexa, because I wanted to have the ability for good quality slow-motion shots. Anna also felt the Alexa was good in low light conditions, so for a one day shoot in February, it made the best of low light and a short shooting day.

C8: How did you fund the film? Did you receive funding from any film or poetry organisations?

LH: It’s a made-with-love production. Everyone who worked on the film was very generous with their time. I didn’t apply for any funding because it wasn’t originally going to be a very big project, it just quickly came together to become something more epic.

C8: There are very few poetry shorts, why do you think this is such a rarity?

LH: I hadn’t heard of any poetry films until I met director Anna Blandford. She and Anna Valdez Hanks made Goblin Market adapted from a Rossetti poem. I think within the traditional Film Festival circuit poetry shorts are harder to curate, I guess they’re a weird hybrid, not traditional narrative but not necessarily experimental, artist film either. Subsequently I’ve discovered there’s a growing global Poetry Film Festival circuit. In the UK, the poetry film pioneers are PoetryFilm.com. and filmpoem.com and in the U.S. movingpoems.com.

C8: Were you ever concerned about alienating your audiences with the language?

LH: A little, yes, however I always wanted the use of sound, music and images combined with the emotions from the actors to communicate the story rather than be reliant on the text. The full understanding of the poem, will not come in one screening, just as it wouldn’t in one reading either. I think the best way to experience this film is in a looped installation, like it will be shown at StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival in March; Or online where you can watch it again, if you choose. The joy of a John Donne poem is that you see different things, it hits another level of meaning each time you read it. I hope this film might do the same.

C8: If you had the opportunity to go back and do the whole process again what would you change?

LH: Not much to be honest, the process of making The Expiration was a wonderful experience, everything from the way the cast and crew connected to the piece, to finding the amazing location & getting a jimmy jib. It all came together very organically. Creatively I learnt so much and it was great to collaborate with such committed and talented people both on the shoot and in post.

C8: What had you done up until this point in your career and what have you done since?

LH: My first short film Man of Me Dreams, was selected and screened by the British Council, the Cinema Programme and various international festivals. From that I went on to be employed as an Inserts Director, Assistant Director and Researcher primarily in primetime TV comedy and light entertainment, working for Jonathan Ross, Mark Lamarr, Jack Dee and Peter Kay. Whilst working in TV production, and then having my children, I kept writing and in 2008 I won The Script Factory Development Scheme with my first original feature screenplay, Render.  I then wrote another thriller, Entry and a thriller shortBleeding Heart. Whilst in prep for The Expiration I was selected for the Women in Film & TV Mentoring Scheme 2014 mentored by Bharat Nalluri and getting to shadow him on Spooks: The Greater Good. I also wrote the Initial Pitch, Story Analysis and Episode Synopsis for Dunbar, a new investigative series set in the world of medicine based on the series of books by Ken McClure. And in 2015 I was selected for Creative England SW Talent Module.

C8: What do you think makes for a good collaboration?

LH: Instincts, openness and honesty; being able to listen and communicate to create a unified, shared vision.

C8: What does 2016 have in store for Lotus Hannon?

LH: I’ve got several thriller projects I’m developing. So in the first part of 2016, I’m mainly writing to deliver two new feature scripts, an erotic thriller and an action thriller. Later in the year, we’re hoping to shoot Bleeding Heart, a thriller short set in Northern Ireland.