Meet the women behind Constellation co-editor Jaclyn Bethany’s haunting short film, Sunday Tide. Shot by Mafalda Silva.
Sunday Tide is my third short film as a writer/director. Filmed in London and featuring a cast of up-and-coming young actresses, the film explores the themes of isolation, sisterhood, and fantasy. Following their mother's death, six sisters in a rural beach town take an oath to remain silent. As the sisters become increasingly reclusive, an unexpected arrival threatens to shake their whole world. For Constellation, I caught up with each of the young women featured in the film about channeling their characters’s inner lives, their theatrical dream roles, and what’s ahead for them in 2017. —Jaclyn Bethany
Aisha Fabienne Ross
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Aisha! Where did you grow up?
Aisha Fabienne Ross: I was born in Scotland, but I lived in Southeast Asia when I was little and then grew up mainly in Australia.
JB: Tell me a little bit about your character, Matilda.
AFR: I really enjoyed playing her; I think she’s such a beautiful and complex character. When I read the script, she struck me as quite a peaceful person and also unlikely to cross anyone, despite potentially being unhappy in her surroundings. Instead, I think that she retreats into this make-believe world of her imagination and drawings…. Like Matilda, I love to sketch and paint! I went to a class once where the teacher spoke about how he feels he becomes whoever or whatever he is drawing, just for the time that he’s drawing it. I think I experience a similar feeling. Like Matilda, I seem to get lost in whatever I’m creating, and it’s the same with acting—really with anything that requires an emotional connection.
JB: Who is your favorite actor working today?
AFR: Oh, that’s tricky. I have always loved Ben Whishaw; I think his performances are always so beautifully subtle and beguiling at times. I love Marion Cotillard and Cate Blanchett, too—they are both outstanding actresses. Really though, I am a big fan of the actors with whom I went to London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and the young actors I’ve met and worked with since graduation.
JB: I saw you in the play Dry Land, and I found it to be very gripping in the ways it approached a relatively taboo women’s issue head-on. It was refreshing to see it portrayed so realistically and unapologetically. Can you tell me a bit about your character in that play?
AFR: Dry Land is an incredible new piece of writing by Ruby Rae Spiegel. It centers on the relationship between two young girls of 17 and 18 in Florida, and takes place almost entirely in a female change room as Ester and Amy (the protagonists of the play) are training to become competitive swimmers…. I played Ester, who not only struggles with both mental and body image issues, but also with her relationship to and dynamic with Amy, which is thoroughly tested and explored.
JB: Do you have a dream theatrical role?
AFR: Oh, there are so many! The first one that springs to mind, however, is Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I loved the film, but I really fell in love with that character when I read the novella by Truman Capote. She’s so complex, and comes across as quite a confident and care-free woman, when actually she’s just a very lost and scared girl who tries be brave. It would be a wonderful challenge to play her.
Credits: Drama (2015), The Danish Girl (2015), Alleycats (2016), Dry Land (2015, Jermyn Street Theatre)
Aisha wears a shirt by Naya Rea and a dress by Orla Kiely.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hey, Ellie. Tell me about your character, Annamette. She’s probably the most eccentric of the sisters, and I felt you brought a lot of life to her!
EG: Annamette is eccentric, observant, and obsessive. She puts her life and soul into the idea of swimming to Mexico, but is bound to land by her fear of the ocean after her mother's death. She watches old clips of Olympic swimmers, perfecting her technique by observation. She's closest to her twin, Matilda, she spends a lot of time with her. They even have their own secret language!
JB: When did you know you wanted to be an actor—and how did you pursue that path?
EG: I was a very shy child, so no one saw it coming…. Films have had a huge influence on me from a very young age. I used to constantly pretend my life was a movie, and every evening I would sit my parents down and force my little sister into being in yet another play I'd made up. We'd perform these extremely long stories or shoot silly films with my dad (mainly based around the film The Parent Trap).... After years of dance classes and school musicals, which massively boosted my confidence, I performed in my first play in school and that's when I knew I wanted to be an actor. I then spent the next two years auditioning for drama school and landed a place at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts on the acting course.
JB: What's your favorite film that you've seen recently?
EG: It’s got to be Mustang, directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven.
(Editor’s Note: Check out our interview with Mustang actress Tuğba Sun Guroğlu in this issue!)
JB: What do you get up to when you’re not acting?
EG: I like drawing, going to art galleries, the cinema and the theater, running, yoga, and going on little mini-breaks outside of London. Oh, and I've just started skateboarding—although I'm not very good [laughs].
Ellie Goffe recently wrapped production in Chile on a new feature, Salty, directed by Simon West and starring Antonio Banderas.
Ellie wears a shirt by Umbro, a matching two-piece by S for Shoko, and trainers by New Balance.
I’m originally from Dublin, Ireland. I’ve always been very dramatic. I basically knew I wanted to act since birth. My theatrical dream role would be Lady Macbeth.
In Sunday Tide, I play Violet, the eldest sister. She is very strong, as she feels she has to be. Her mother’s death turned her cold and angry toward the world. She knew her mother adored Sunday, and Violet is very precious about her.
Women in the arts today are fearless: it is just the beginning. —Louisa Harland
Credits: Standby (2014), Harley and the Davidsons (Television, 2016), Upcoming: Lost in London
Louisa wears a t-shirt by Point Blank, a dress by Orla Kiely, trousers by Zyanya Keizer, and mules by Edda Gimnes
I grew up in London and Salisbury, bouncing from boarding school to boarding school. I knew at age zero that I was meant to be an actor. I just did a 1950s BBC period drama called Father Brown. I got to do it all—fall in love, experience death, become pregnant, run away, and be hospitalized: who knew so much could happen in one hour of television? One actor I will always worship is Juliet Stevenson. I have seen everything she has done. She makes words sound like popping candy.
Stella, my character, has her head in the stars. She knows the feeling of melancholia all too well. She loves the comfort of her sister’s affections.
I have a big bee in my bonnet about gender inequality—especially in the arts. But I think women in the arts get much more respect now. I want to play Alma Rattenbury in Cause Célèbre (or, A Woman of Principle) by Terence Rattigan. The character is one hell of a woman, and that play ticks all the boxes.
When I’m not acting, I like hanging out with my friends. I like being in love. I like reading. I love going to Italy. —Allegra Marland
Credits: Father Brown (BBC, 2017), After October (Finborough Theatre, 2016), Upcoming: Untitled A.A. Milne Project, Wine Over Clementine (Clementine Theatre)
Allegra wears a roll neck sweater, jumper, and trousers by Orla Kiely, bag by Hill & Friends, shoes stylist’s own
I grew up in Scotland, in a place called the Isle of Lewis which is the northernmost part of the Western Isles. It was a wonderful place to live as a child—surrounded by fields and sheep and the sea, a very idyllic lifestyle. I moved to Glasgow when I was 9 years old, and that’s where I’ve been since then. I think this isolated upbringing is part of the reason I identified so much with Sunday. When you live in a place like that, with a population of 20,000 and miles of empty space, your brain learns to fill in what’s missing and encourages your imagination to develop.
Sunday is a fascinating character; she’s the youngest of the family, and as such, she’s grown up both protected by her sisters and isolated from them. She lives in her own world…. I think because she was so young when their mother died and is so disconnected from the tragedy, she dreams more of the outside world than the others. She understands less about their vow of silence and their separation from the rest of the world and wants to experience life more, while simultaneously being comfortable in their odd reality, as she’s never known any other. She’s a wonderfully complex girl, full of contradictions that were very interesting to play.
A recent project I worked on, Sleeping Lions, was originally produced as an educational film to raise awareness about child abuse. It was intended to be shown only in schools but ended up being submitted to festivals and competitions as a piece of drama. It was a heartbreaking story, about a 15-year-old girl trying to decide whether or not to come forward about the abuse she suffered—it’s a story based on extensive research and interviews with real-life abuse survivors. It was both inspiring and nerve-wracking to work on.
I do agree that it seems to be more challenging to get films made by and about women, mostly because the people with the money who make those decisions still tend to be older, white males. They believe that male-driven stories sell and relegate female characters to the sidelines as the romantic interest, even though every report seems to say that, statistically, female-driven films are just as financially successful. I do think the industry is slowly changing, as it’s now easier to make films without the typical input of studios or production companies. Women are becoming braver and more determined to let their voices be heard. I think gender equality in the film industry is absolutely vital…. A good film is a good film, and treating the female perspective like it’s something to be supported yet pitied will not get us anywhere.
My favorite actor working today is hands-down Isabelle Huppert. I admire not only her skill and talent, but the integrity with which she chooses her roles and the emotional depth she contributes to all of her portrayals. She doesn’t shy away from complexity and darkness—she handles both with a reality and subtlety that I find fascinating. She has led an enviable career, full of interesting, brave choices and mind-blowing performances. That is exactly what I want to achieve in my own career. —Sorcha Groundsell
Credits: Iona (2015), Sleeping Lions (2015), Stain (Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 2015), In Plain Sight (Television, 2016), Upcoming: Clique (BBC3)
Sorcha wears a dress by Scotch & Soda
Jaclyn: Where did you grow up?
Jenny: In Bend, Oregon.
Jaclyn Bethany: Tell me a little bit about your character Christabel in Sunday Tide. The character was partially inspired by Lux Lisbon in The Virgin Suicides, and I know you worked hard to develop her backstory.
Jenny Boyd: Christabel is the second-oldest sister in the film, and she has taken a turn away from the other sisters and the reality they share. She has a burgeoning sexuality and sense of rebellion that fuel her hunger for escape and outside experience. I began by working out what her relationships were like with each of her sisters, and what made them each distinctly different, as I felt that this was the core and the heart of the film. The more I thought to ask, the more I wanted to know about their history—and who she may grow up to be.
Jaclyn: What do you find inspiring about working in film today?
Jenny: I think that this is an exciting time to be a woman in this industry—there have never been so many interesting opportunities for women before now. Films like The Hunger Games prove that women-centric films can make a lot of money and be successful all over the world…. Although there may be more to do, I believe that with time, things will only get better. ★
Jenny wears a t-shirt by Obey.
Photographer: Mafalda Silva. Stylist: Roxanne Jones. Makeup: Sorcha, Aysha, Ellie and Jenny by Yoko Nakata; Luisa and Allegra by Fiona Gallagher. Hair: Weic Lin. Photographer's assistant: Gabi Lee. Shot at the Russian Studios.
Header photo: Ellie wears a t-shirt by Umbro, a matching two-piece by S for Shoko, and trainers by New Balance. Jenny wears a t-shirt by Obey Women’s, a denim skirt (underneath) by Asos, a yellow skirt by RUN, and pink boots by Toga. Aisha wears a dress by Asos; red trousers, neck scarf and black t-shirt stylist’s own. Sorcha wears a dress by Scotch & Soda, a denim skirt by Asos, trousers by Orla Kiely, and trainers by New Balance.