Set in the remote countryside, Lucy Rose’s She Lives Alone is a folk horror which explores uncomfortable mother/daughter relations. It follows Maud who is trying to exorcise the presence of her maleficent mother through a ritual. Rose’s film is a dark and unsettling take on the period film, with a finale that’s bound to etch itself into the mind of FrightFest goers this weekend. We’re excited to kick off our coverage of the festival with an interview with Rose on She Lives Alone where she reveals how her own upbringing inspired its inception.
How did you come up with the idea for She Lives Alone?
There were many things that inspired the story of She Lives Alone, but I would say the central influence was my own childhood. I grew up a working-class, rural girl, raised by an eccentric and unusual family and the folklore embedded in the history and culture of the area was a core coping mechanism for many of the trials I faced as a young woman. The story of Maud, and her isolation and to an extent, her madness, was brought about by my own experiences with feeling alone in my trauma. Ultimately, Maud’s journey is about confronting how afraid she is of her relationship dynamic with her Mother and then coming to learn that sometimes there is no magic fix. You have to learn to live with being afraid.
This was one of those stories that just wrote itself. I knew Maud and so as the events started to unfold and unravel in my head, I knew instantly how she would respond and what the consequences of those actions would be.
The framing is really striking, who were your visual influences and what were you looking to evoke with the camera?
I want my visual style as a filmmaker to evoke a sense of dread and loneliness. I want something that is intimate with the audience but from a distance. As though the character is happy to be vulnerable with you, so long as they are at an arm’s length. Close but not too close. Lizzie Gilholme, my director of photography, and I wanted to create a sense of disconnect between Maud and the rest of the world whilst still giving her space to be vulnerable with the audience. That aim was so important when we were creating a look for this film. We looked to influences like The Witch and The Babadook to try and capture something dry and almost dirty in a sense. This was especially important because we really wanted to evoke Maud’s social status as a working-class woman. Period dramas are often very glossy and have a feeling of being quite polished and we wanted the exact opposite of that. We wanted something that would really accentuate some of the tribulations this woman goes through, emotionally and physically, on a day to day basis.
Similarly with the music and sound design, there’s a lot of atmosphere and tension, how did you approach developing that?
Die Hexen is someone I could talk about at length. Though she joined us towards the end of our journey in making this film, she is someone whose spirit I felt was with us the entire time, strangely. She was incredible at bringing Maud’s world to life through the sound and music and understood exactly what the creative vision demanded. I think she did a stunning job of creating a claustrophobic atmosphere and suspending a crawling sense of dread. Die really connected with the script and story and so though we had conversations, I think she already knew exactly what the film needed and more importantly, what Maud needed to tell her story.
Did you have any challenges in finding your locations and shooting so remotely?
The difficult challenge was finding a house that we could strip out and furnish with all of Maud’s things. We did find a 15th century farmhouse that was on the market and my amazing Producer Maria Caruana Galizia negotiated using their house before they moved out. It was perfect for what we needed and had lots of original historical features that would bring added production value. For example, the windows were all original, as were the fireplace and walls.
The locations were extremely challenging, particularly the exteriors. The place we shot was absolutely wild. One moment we were caught in a blizzard and the next it was brilliant sunshine, all whilst maintaining extreme and persistent gales. Shooting in the exterior locations required perseverance. Though, at one point, as the weather conditions worsened, we did have to abandon ship. We were able to return the next day once things had calmed down. The wind speed was quite hard to work around because our stone circle was not real and we were at risk of six polystyrene stones floating off into the ether of the fells. We pinned them down with tent pegs and in the end, managed to stabilise them.
The house we used to shoot was actually quite wonderful. Though it was far out in the sticks, the location owners were incredibly hospitable and supportive of the project. They kept us nice and warm from the winter winds of Northern England!
How has the pandemic changed the film’s journey? And what does the future of your filmmaking look like?
We were so hoping for an in-person screening, but we’ve not managed to have one just yet due to covid-restrictions tightening. Most films demand to be seen on a cinema screen, though I think that has been slowly changing over the last few years and has changed over the course of the pandemic, with films like Host being so successful and well-received. I do think that cinema can’t sustain these films alone however. The future of filmmaking is uncertain. There is obviously the logistic challenge of the shoot itself, but attaining funding and then managing those finances I think will be an increasingly difficult challenge. The world is changing everyday, but luckily, our nature as filmmakers is to find solutions to challenges that present themselves. I hope that this nature comes out on top for all of us because I think we’re all desperate to get back to shooting and telling our stories.
What’s next for you?
Great question! It’s difficult to say at the moment, but I hope that I can start making films again soon. I live in an area with a lot of restrictions and it’s made it difficult to even work on small passion projects. My go-to creative team also comprises of covid-vulnerable individuals, so putting them at risk is a big no. The plan is to make a micro-short or two over the coming year and then work on an ambitious short film project that has been ruminating over the last fourteen months.
Then after that, who knows? Going back to what I was saying earlier, things are changing every day and as filmmakers, our instinct is to problem solve. Keeping that in mind, the beauty of horror is that it explores all the terrible things that could go wrong in life. I might get hit by a bus tomorrow and what a great shame that would be.