Award Winner Interview: Dionne Edwards

This year's winner of the Chris Collins Best of British Award for Live Action, Dionne Edwards, talks to Encounters' Isabella Coombes about her win, what Encounters means to her as a filmmaker from Bristol, and the challenges she faced getting her project off the ground.

First off, thank you for taking the time to talk to us and congratulations on your 2017 Encounters Festival win! How does it feel?

It feels amazing! Encounters was one of the first festivals I came across when I was getting into filmmaking as a kid. I used to go to the Watershed a lot as teenager, and it was always a festival I’ve wanted to get into. The fact that I’ve been given an award here feels extra special!

We Love Moses explores a universal coming of age story. Where did the inspiration for the character Ella come from? Did you ever face similar ostracising experiences as a teenager at school?Dionne Edwards on the set of We Love Moses

Yeah, I had many ostracising experiences as a kid. I’ve always felt like an outsider, for the most part I still feel that way. I was also very curious and nosy, so there’s a lot of me in the character of Ella. She was an easy character to write.

Given recent announcements from the BFI regarding representation targets, how important do you think it is for these types of stories to be told?

It’s as simple as this: when you don’t see yourself reflected in the culture that surrounds you, you sense that something is subtly telling you that you don’t matter and that you aren’t a part of the culture, and that’s damaging. Everybody’s story is important in one way or another and because the UK is home to so many different types of people – colours, sexualities and creeds, we can’t keep asking ‘is diversity important?’ – it’s self-evident.

What’s your experience and thoughts regarding a lack of diversity within the film industry, both on and off screen?

I was able to make We Love Moses because it was partly funded by Film London’s London Calling Plus scheme, which awards £15,000 short film budgets to BAME filmmakers. I’d previously submitted the film for a film school application and another funding scheme and barely got a response from either. Without London Calling Plus, We Love Moses would have been very hard to get off the ground. So I think schemes and awards that nurture filmmakers who have fewer opportunities and less access are instrumental to producing stronger ‘diverse’ work. I think getting more so-called minority people into gatekeeper positions is paramount to changing the status quo.

Were you inspired by any other directors to tell this story?We Love Moses production image

Martin Scorsese was definitely an inspiration for We Love Moses – Goodfellas in particular. Goodfellas is about a mob foot soldier and We Love Moses is about a pubescent girl’s first crush; two very different ideas, but I really drew from the pace and the immersive energy of Goodfellas and way Henry Hill’s voice over carries the story and brings you into his world through his eyes.

Both you and Georgia run the production company Teng Teng Films. You obviously share a vision, but when did you decide it made sense to partner up and produce films?

It wasn’t really a conscious thing. We were introduced in 2012 by a mutual friend and worked together on a bonkers, surreal, action short film. We had so much fun that after finishing the project it was like ‘see you next week’. We just continued meeting and working on projects together and then our goals and aims for the company kind of fell into place naturally.

What’s next for you, Dionne? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

Georgia and I have a few projects in development that I’m pretty excited about, but I won’t go into detail yet. We’re hoping to shoot a low budget feature next summer. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Find out more about Dionne Edwards’ We Love Moses and Teng Teng films here