Growing in the shadow of her parents’ mental illness, Sarah only ever wanted to be ‘normal’. Unexpected pregnancy pushes Sarah deeper towards what she believes is the key to a normal life with her boyfriend Henry. However, frightening episodes bring Sarah’s paranoia regarding her sanity to a head. Concealing her fraying mental state, Sarah agrees to a weekend away with friends to Henry’s family home. As Sarah fights for her life, she uncovers the unexpected truth behind her spiraling delusions.
Interview of Phoebe Gittins
Phoebe Gittins is the writer, producer and director of The Sorrows.
Question: What is The Sorrows about?
Phoebe Gittins: ‘The Sorrows’ is about a young woman, Sarah (Oona Chaplin), who is taken to the country by her new boyfriend to meet his over-bearing mother. Sarah has never considered herself to be normal, and as her battle with sanity unfolds a real life danger emerges – unbeknownst to Sarah, the two are mysteriously related.
Question: What inspired you to write The Sorrows?
Phoebe Gittins: To be completely honest, writing ‘The Sorrows’ was a very ‘inorganic’ process. The idea did not stem from a deep-seated desire to tell this particular story but was created (in a very short amount of time!) to serve the purpose of under-taking a feature film. Writing ‘The Sorrows’ was a wonderful training ground – and it was a script that, although underdeveloped, held enough promise and intrigue to attract our incredible cast and crew. I feel this was owed largely to the scripts fresh take on genre with a focus on character as opposed to gore.
Question: How did you go about being the writer, producer and director for The Sorrows?
Phoebe Gittins: ‘The Sorrows’, is essentially a student film – it’s our graduation piece. Arty and I attended a film school in London together, and as the end of year rolled around we wanted to push ourselves beyond the short film format. With the encouragement of another student (an executive producer on the film), the directors of our school agreed to us combining resources to attempt a feature. The whole experience affirmed that writing and directing is something I wish desperately to pursue to the end. Producing the film, however, was out of necessity – with no money we of course had to stretch ourselves thin.
Question: How did you go about casting actors and actresses?
Phoebe Gittins: By hook and by crook! We had our hearts set on many actors for certain roles from the beginning, Oona Chaplin being one of them. The moment Oona agreed to play our leading lady was our first tangible spark of excitement. We decided to approach talent ourselves with the script and were frank about our intended shooting schedule – we figured it best to get all the cards on the table up-front! We were just surprised by the response, it was really positive. We also held auditions through which we found our leading man, Austin Hardiman – ‘The Sorrows’ was his first feature. We also cast my brother, Calum, who at the time was attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. Having been to a handful of his school productions, we were exposed to a pool of extremely talented young actors – a few of which we also managed to attach to the project.
Question: What was the most challenging aspect of The Sorrows?
Phoebe Gittins: Having no budget makes everything that little bit more stressful than it already is. We were working with an impossibly tight 12-day schedule, which rolled over into very long days and nights. As such we were very conscious of keeping morale high. When people are giving their skills and time for nothing it is so important to focus on the little things you can do – especially keeping everyone well fed! We were so lucky and thankful for the entire team of people we wound up working with – it made for a far easier task than anticipated.
Question: Overall what has been the best part of The Sorrows development?
Phoebe Gittins: Seeing it have life, so to speak. Arty and I never dreamt it would evolve beyond a manic shoot in London and a one-off screening to our classmates. Returning home to New Zealand, we received a huge amount of encouragement to take the film further and were offered mind-blowing support that enabled us to film a few necessary pick-up’s and to finish the film to the highest possible quality at Park Road Post! In saying all this, as clichéd as it sounds, I guess the relationships we developed were truly the best part of the process.