Producer, Little Bird
Interview by Jaclyn Bethany
I was introduced to the beautiful short film, Little Bird, through my London-based producer Courtney Harmstone. With an all-female cast, it was a project that, like our film Indigo Valley, featured women in the four principal positions—director, cinematographer, writer, and producer—along with acting legend Imelda Staunton. After raising funds via Kickstarter, the film eventually found its way to the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival, where it was an official selection. Feeling inspired and encouraged by this backstory, I reached out to producer Rebecca Cronshey to discuss the origins and highlights of the project, and what’s ahead on her horizon.
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Rebecca! Where are you originally from, and where are you currently based?
Rebecca Cronshey: I’m originally from Shropshire (a little county on the Welsh Borders) but have been based in London for 11 years now.
JB: When did your realize you wanted to be a filmmaker?
RC: I was always obsessed with film as a kid. My father gave us a great education in everything from David Lynch to Mel Brooks to Kurosawa from an early age, and film really stuck with me. I actually studied Geography BA at university, but it was only ever film I wanted to work in, so I began applying as soon as I got to London.
JB: How did you come to be involved in Little Bird? Were you involved in creative development?
RC: My producing partner, Victoria Zalin, and I had been working with Little Bird’s director, Georgia Oakley, for a while on other projects. She met with the writer/actress/producer Emily Taaffe first, and then brought us on to join the team. I was really struck by the powerful, personal story that Emily had written, and I think not knowing why someone would leave their family and start a new life opened up so many questions about women in this period. I’d been researching for Joe Wright’s latest feature, Darkest Hour, so I was pretty familiar with the Second World War, but the stories of these brave women were new to me and I found them utterly compelling.
The creative development was a really easy process for us, as we have a very collaborative relationship as a team. Apart from a tweak to the ending, most of what was in the script is in the film, so it became more about how we could do justice to a short film set in 1941.
JB: What was the production process like? How was it working with such an illustrious cast and crew?
RC: The production was an intense and wonderful three days last summer, with several locations in London and then a final day on the Southampton to Cowes ferry—complete with seasickness. I don’t think I’ve ever slept so little and enjoyed it so much.
The crew members were amazing and they worked their arses off. We ended up having an 80% female shoot crew, so it felt very special making a female-centric story surrounded by such talented women, and having Imelda on board was a dream come true. You don’t ever imagine that you’ll get the person at the top of your list, so it was incredibly exciting that she wanted to be a part of it. Her performance is incredible—there’s so much emotion and tension.
JB: What has been a highlight of this film and it’s journey for you?
RC: I think the shoot and then the phone call from Tribeca saying they wanted the world premiere at this year’s festival have been the highlights. It was almost exactly a year since we’d first met, so the timing felt really special for us as a team.
JB: What do you find most exciting about being a part of the UK film industry?
RC: I think the UK film industry has a really strong identity, and they really do support their young filmmakers. I cannot even begin to tell you all the help I received from people I’ve worked for and with over the years. I also feel like you can get honest opinions from people, which is essential when you’re starting out.
JB: What’s the best film you’ve seen in the past year?
RC: Lady Macbeth (directed by William Oldroyd and written by Alice Birch). I loved it. Everything about it just blew me away, and that budget just makes it all the more impressive.
JB: What’s on the horizon for you?
RC: Right now, we’re in the middle of making a deal to develop Little Bird into a TV series, which is very exciting, and Litmus Pictures (the company I run with Victoria Zalin) has features in development with writer/directors Georgia Oakley and Will Garthwaite.
JB: What advice would you give to young people wanting to work in the film industry?
RC: I’d say never be afraid to ask, and don’t be upset if people say no. It took me quite a long time to get into production as, coming from Shropshire, it’s not something I had any connection to, but you can work your way to where you want to be from all sides of the industry. I started out in distribution at 20th Century Fox, and from there to DNA Films, through to on-set work and then research, before finally starting to produce. As there’s not really a clearly defined career path to becoming a producer, you just have to learn as you go along and get as much advice as possible. ★