Shelly Love • Director of A Bump Along the Way
“I feel motivated to tell female stories and to give an authentic account of their experience”
- We interviewed Shelly Love, the director of the Northern Irish comedy A Bump Along the Way, starring Bronagh Gallagher and Lola Petticrew in the lead roles
Scottish director Shelly Love spoke to us about her debut feature, A Bump Along the Way [+see also:
interview: Shelly Love
film profile], which was screened as part of the Discovery strand at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Cineuropa: The film revolves around a 44-year-old single mother whose teenage daughter Allegra disapproves of her lifestyle. Why did you decide to tell their story?
Shelly Love: When I read the script, my baby was just one year old, so all of the emotions of motherhood were particularly fresh. The arrival of the script felt like a fortunate stroke of serendipity. I could personally relate to the story on so many levels, as like Pamela, I am a single mum having just had my baby at 43. As a female director, I feel motivated to tell female stories and to give an authentic account of their experience. I felt compelled to tell Pamela’s story. I myself have felt the societal and biological pressures to have a baby. I had to make tough choices and carve out my own path. A Bump Along the Way is a love story between a mother and daughter. Ultimately, it is their love for one another that sees them through. Both mother and daughter are being bullied in their own worlds: this is something Pamela feels responsible for. With the introduction of the smartphone into our lives, young people are even more vulnerable. I was charmed by the script’s outspoken, humorous characters and excited by the opportunity to pitch the emotional scenes, alongside the funny bits, in a way that was relatable.
What made you choose Bronagh Gallagher and Lola Petticrew for their roles? When did they join the project?
Bronagh is the sister of Louise Gallagher, the producer. When I came on board the project, Bronagh had shown some interest in the script, and she was considering playing Mary, Pamela’s best friend. Having been an admirer of Bronagh’s work for some time, I felt that she would be much better suited to playing Pamela, as she would bring an authenticity and vital energy to the role. Bronagh was also Derry-born and -raised, a woman with true Derry wit, so we really could not have found a better actress. Louise also brought Lola to my attention. I first saw her in the BBC’s Come Home, and I thought she was brilliant. We brought Lola in for the script read, and I knew straight away that she was right for the part. She is bright, quick and talented.
You’re not just a filmmaker, but rather a 360-degree visual artist and a choreographer. How does your diverse background influence your directorial work?
I studied contemporary dance theatre and worked as an independent artist before I began making films. My interdisciplinary background and experimental approach have led to a body of works that traverse the line between movement and fiction. These films were made through a devising process, which brings physical language to the fore. A Bump Along the Way is quite a departure from my earlier films and marks my step into long-form drama that I have been aiming for. As an ex-dancer and choreographer, I direct instinctively, feeling my way into a scene or character by physically moving through the space. I also studied music composition, so music influences everything I do on some level; I often have a sense of how the world in the film sounds before I make it. I have a keen visual eye, so the look and feel is important to me. I always work closely with my production designer in order to create the world on screen. My unconventional route into filmmaking has allowed me to approach material from another angle. I believe this is a strength and one which I hope to be able to harness in future.
Do you have any funny anecdotes from the set?
As is typical for a low-budget feature, we had to shoot loads in a very short amount of time. When planning the birthing scene, I had to come up with a simple but effective way to bring baby Alfie into the world. I had already decided not to reveal the birth and instead to focus on Pamela and Allegra. This was lucky, as in the end, we only had about ten minutes to shoot the scene. To arrive at such an important moment in the story with minutes to spare and a plastic doll did seem particularly cruel! However, Bronagh did her best, and I am relieved to say that wee Alfie made it into the world in one piece.
Are you working on any other projects?
I have recently become attached to a Scottish film, which I am really excited about. I am currently in discussions with other writers and producers about some interesting projects. Finally, I am developing an idea for a feature that will be my first as a writer-director.
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