A funny thing happened...

Lizzie Brown on Love Is Blind and an unexpected call from Cannes.

by Jennie Kermode

Lizzie Brown
Lizzie Brown

"It was Dan Hodgson’s idea," says Lizzie Brown. "It was something he’d been working on for years.He comes up with these little punchlines all the time and then sends them to me."

She’s taking about Love Is Blind, and as it turned out, that was the right little punchline to choose – the film was a much bigger success than anyone on her team could have guessed, and was even selected for the Cannes Film Festival, something Lizzie says she would never have expected.

"Oh my goodness it was such a surprise! When I started applying for film festivals obviously there were certain ones I was really hoping for, but when I ticked the box to go into competition in Cannes, I forgot about it completely, and then when they called we thought somebody was playing a joke on us! We knew people would like it because it’s so funny but it’s about the least Cannes film ever! In fact, if a year before this somebody had asked me to make a film that would get into Cannes, to be honest I would have made the opposite of this one. We set out to make a really good film but the response has far exceeded our expectations."

Centering on the panic that ensues when a woman’s partner arrives home unexpectedly whilst she’s in bed with her secret lover, "it was just a fresh twist on the love triangle," she says modestly. "So with the way it begins you think you might have seen the story before but then Dan gave it this really original twist. Dan’s a real, pure comedy writer, he just has this really good instinct for comedy. I don’t think he was trying to make any higher comment. He just wanted it to be entertaining. That meant it was quite well received internationally. We call it the Mr. Bean effect because you could watch it without understanding anything that was said and still understand what was going on and find it funny."

One of the first things one notices about the film is how much care has been taken with it in comparison to the average short. Lizzie says the secret was in the preparation, which is always a priority for her. it enabled her to keep the shoot down to three ten hour days, making things much easier on the cast than is often the case and making it easier for them to do their thing. "Everyone was paid, too, so everyone was really committed and I think that really helps, especially on a comedy where it works so much better if everyone’s having fun."

Getting a team to work together that well also depends on good casting.

Ace Mahbaz as James
Ace Mahbaz as James

"Ace (Mahbaz), who plays the lead character, he was the first person we cast. He was the trickiest because of the type of character he is. We met Sophie (Allen) through Ace. They’d known each other from previous films and it was great because her look matched with his and we could see them as a couple. Will (Best) was much easier to cast because he just had to be the young, handsome lover. Dan had worked with Will on another project and I think he was in Dan’s mind when he was writing it.

"It was a real pleasure working with Dan. He’s a very talented comedy writer His aim as director was to make the audience laugh out loud and he’s done that brilliantly. With a short film it’s easy not to put the production value in that it deserves. I gave him enough time to get his style in there. It was a good shoot and fun to do. I’m looking forward to developing his feature films. It was also the first film for Birdflight Productions because it’s a new company so it was important for me to establish myself as a producer there and establish relationships with the crew, and with getting to Cannes I think it really helped to get my name and the company name out there."

Getting any new production company off the ground is a challenging task, but the Cannes experience certainly seems to have made a difference.

"When we were making it I had a list of distributors I planned to get in touch with, but when we found out about Cannes suddenly lots of agents and distributors got in touch with us, so we signed up with Premium for worldwide film distribution... They used to focus predominantly on short films, although they stated doing features too a couple of years ago, so they know the market very well. In France and Germany there are a lot more opportunities for short films, much more than in the UK."

The film is now set to get its US première In Palm Springs as well as screening at festivals in Germany and Japan, and Lizzie says "we’re keeping our fingers crossed for another couple of big ones." Meanwhile, she’s working on other aspects of her career.

"I made my first feature, which was was released earlier this year, and that’s really what I want to do, that’s my ambition. This short film was mainly about working to build a relationship with Dan as we work towards his first feature. I’m now working on a film called Summer House that I can’t say much about yet, and I have two or three feature films on my slate for development with different writers and directors... We're still hoping for a lot more to happen with Love Is Blind"

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