‘Valentine’ dir. Kate Herron

On Valentine’s Day, a hopless romantic and a cynic realise love is right in front of them.

Director: Kate Herron
Writers: Kate Herron, Camille Ucan, Rose Johnson, Beattie Edmondson
Producer: Genia Sophie Krassnig
DOP: Rob Savage
Key Cast: Camille Ucan, Rose Johnson, Beattie Edmondson

C8: You wrote the film with the comedians from the troupe Birthday Girls. Can you talk about how this collaboration came about?

KH: I had a script gathering dust that I wrote up after a writing session with a friend of mine. We were supposed to meet to write together but instead I ended up in a 10-hour psychiatry session in which she discussed at length her confusion towards her current boyfriend. I have definitely done this to her numerous times and because I am a bad friend I wrote this up into a script. On all my previous shorts I had worked with the cast to flesh out the characters so I wanted to find a female comedy troupe to develop it with. I then saw Camille, Beattie and Rose in their previous comedy troupe, Lady Garden, at the fringe and was blown away. I approached them about it and after some polite persistence they said they would work with me. Were there weapons involved? Maybe…

C8: How much of the script was written ahead of production? Was there room for much improvisation on set?

KH: The script was pretty locked by the time we got to shooting and most of the improvisation took place in the writing stage. We used my first draft as a jumping off point and as a guide to make sure the film still explored how people deal with their feelings, one character who needs to verbalise everything and another who keeps their feelings hidden. The improvisation was massively helpful in making sure the characters were in Camille, Beattie and Roses’ voices that we then added in the dialogue as we sent the script back and forth to each other.

C8: The film has great pacing. How much of this was down to the script and how much of this rhythm came through the edit?

KH: Thank you! It’s a mixture of all of those things. My DOP, Rob Savage, and I worked out ways to shoot the action in long-takes to allow a lot of the rhythm to be dictated from the performance but we also discovered a lot in the edit, for example the cut with Camille grabbing the wine bottles was my editor Erline’s idea.

C8: What was the most challenging aspect of the shoot and why?

KH: I’d say as we were shooting on such a low budget the insanity of managing to cram multiple locations into a two-day shoot and my producer scheduling it so this was possible to pull-off. Genia you are insane, brilliant but insane.

C8: How did you work with Rob Savage to achieve your vision for the film?

KH: There wouldn’t be a film without Rob. I was feeling frustrated as I felt I didn’t have enough money to shoot anything and was stuck in development on various projects but Rob had read my script for Valentine and basically pep-talked me into not waiting for permission and just shooting it on the money I had. His pep talk was so efficient he talked himself into a unpaid DOP job which he only has himself to blame for really.

As for the look, I wanted the camerawork to look distinctive, which is why it’s great working with Rob as he comes from a background in drama. I feel often in comedy the camera can take the backseat so it was finding a balance of shooting that felt cinematic and not like a sketch, but allowed the comedy to still feel natural.

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

KH: We shot on Rob’s HDV camera with a lens adaptor and then I borrowed my dad’s old photography lens’ to give a more filmic look. The reasoning was it was the camera I had access to.

C8: How did you fund the film? Did you receive any assistance from film organisations?

KH: It was entirely funded by myself. Assistance wise me and my producer gathered a team of loyal lovely people who gave up their time and houses for two days for free so the film could exist.

C8: The film has had a great run on the festival circuit. What do you think has contributed to its success?

KH: The bribes. I really can’t stress…to be honest ‘Valentine’ is very short which I think helps as the longer your film the bigger slot you are fighting for in festival programmes. Other than that working with talented people, hitting those early bird deadlines and luck.

C8: How important was touring the festival circuit to you before you released the film online?

KH: The festival circuit is a fantastic way to show your work to people in the industry and build relationships there for your next project. It also lends credibility so when it goes online it’s easier to draw people in…well here’s hoping.

C8: What’s next for you?

KH: My new short ‘Rest Stop’, also produced by Genia Krassnig, is heading out to the festival circuit. We made the short on the LOCO London Comedy Film Festival mentor scheme and were mentored by Sky Comedy Commissioning Editor Saskia Schuster. It stars Ben Willbond (‘Horrible Histories’) and Boom Chicago alumni Cari Leslie. It’s a dark-comedy following a backpacker, set in an M3 service station.

I am also working on a new short with screenwriters Jessica & Henrietta Ashworth (Broadcast ‘Hotshots’ 2013 & 2012 Screen International Stars), and developing my debut feature with producer Katie Mavroleon (Matt Lucas’ ‘Pompidiou’, BBC).