24th May2018

Interview: Writer/Director James Wilsher talks ‘Sisters’

by Philip Rogers

Sisters is a new drama from writer-director James Wilsher, which has been selected to play at the Southend Film Festival on Sunday 27th May. I got a chance to ask James a few questions about where the original concept came from, writing the script with the actresses and his favorite moments during filming.


What can we expect from your film Sisters?

Sisters is a funny but thoughtful film. It’s the story of three friends who have grown apart over the years but try to rebuild their friendship over a Hen Weekend. It’s got laughs and a few tears and three great performances from our three leads Lily Streames, Alice Ryan and Amy Crudgington. I think there’s a lot that people will recognize about their own experiences of growing up and their relationships with old friends.

Where did the concept for the film come from?

I was planning to make a bigger, action-based film, but as we drew closer to our production dates we realised that we didn’t have the budget for it. So, I wrote something very simple and character based. I wanted to make something with a small cast and limited locations, like my first film, Ex From Hell (2017). The idea of three women isolated with only themselves for company appealed straight away. It wrote itself after that.

Did you have any of the actresses in mind when you wrote the film?

I’d worked with Alice and Amy before. Alice had been in two shorts and my other film, so I knew I wanted to work with her again. Amy and Lily were two actresses who I’d met during auditions for other projects, so I actually had these three in mind for the three leads early in the writing stage. Like I said, the script wrote itself, mainly because I had these three girls in my head already, so I knew their voices and their acting style. The script was written in five days, and I’m pretty sure the casting was done on the first day of writing.

What were your influences for the look and the style of the film?

As a British low budget filmmaker, I tend not to be too flashing, for many reasons. Budget constraints are a bit factor, but also, I didn’t want to distract from the story, the dialogue or the three-central performance. Sisters isn’t really a genre film, so there are no rules to follow, so I just kept everything as simple as possible. I’ve got a good team I work with, so they helped me keep it simple but effective. I suppose the key word I used was ‘real’, from the dialogue, the characters, the performances to the overall look of the film, I wanted to keep it real.

Did you make any changes during filming from the original script?

We rehearsed quite a lot prior to shooting, and so most of the changes were done there, but on the whole, we shot the script. We added a few scenes, to help with contrast and context, but after the rehearsals myself and the actresses had a very clear view of the film we were making.

What was one of your favorite moments whist filming?

It was the most fun I’ve had on set. Lily, Amy and Alice were amazing, as were the crew, so every day was great. Any scene with all three girls, especially the longer ones were a real joy, it was easy to direct when you’ve got such a talented cast and crew. Some days were harder than others, but it was a pretty relaxed set, and I think I speak for everyone when I say it was a lot of fun.

Do you have any new projects which you are working on?

This was meant to be a year of relaxing for me, and taking Sisters to festivals, but already this year I’ve done a music video, with another in the pipeline, and in the next couple of months I’m shooting a short film and directing a stage play for a local writer. So much for a relaxing year! But I enjoy it, it sure beats a normal job. Although I have one of those too…

If someone is looking to write and direct their first film, what advice would you give them?

Do it. At least try it. It took me a long time convincing myself I could, or even should, try film making. The best advice I can give is to surround yourself with talented people, the more willing the better. Don’t try and do it all yourself, film is a collaborative medium. It’s now easier to make films on a modest budget as the equipment it more affordable than ever, but as long as you’ve got an idea, and you can articulate that idea to people that’s the key to it. Someone once asked me if it was possible making a good with no budget, to which I replied, ‘as possible as it is to make a bad film with a big budget’. A good idea can go a long way.


Sisters will be playing at the Southend Film Festival on Sunday 27th May at 3:30pm. For more information on the event and to purchase tickets for the Southend Film Festival please see the website for details: https://www.southendfilmfestival.com


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