Anna Maguire

Anna Maguire is a British/Canadian writer, director and actress. Her directorial work has screened at festivals including TIFF, Palm Springs, POFF Black Nights and the BFI London Film Festival where she was nominated for Best Short Film with “Your Mother and I” in 2016. She has won awards at Rhode Island International Film Festival, The London Short Film Festival, Thessaloniki International Film Festival and Underwire Film Festival among others and was long listed for a BAFTA and nominated for Best Short Film at the London Critics’ Circle Awards in 2018. Her penultimate short film “Constellations” is currently screening internationally, and “It’s Nothing,”, her latest short film has premiered at this year’s TIFF. She is currently writing her first feature film. As an actress, Anna recently performed in Kim Nguyen’s latest feature “The Hummingbird Project” alongside Salma Hayek, Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgard and is currently working on Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli’s first feature through Telefilm’s Talent to Watch scheme.

Tara Karajica caught up with Anna Maguire at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.




How did you get into filmmaking and what inspires you to make films?

Anna Maguire: I started making films a year or so after I graduated from University. I had acted a bit as a child, and I started up again after finishing my degree, however I quickly realized that I wasn’t feeling as creatively fulfilled as I could be. At University, I directed, devised and wrote plays, but, for some reason, I had this idea that I had to pick one thing when I came into the “adult world.” I think we’re taught this a lot in our society, and it’s an attitude I definitely subconsciously adopted. Once I threw that off, I started working for a photographer, Andre Penteado, who taught me a bit more about the formal aspects of photography, and through him met lots of amazing photographers working out of Roof Unit in Bethnal Green in London at the time. I started assisting Claire Pepper, who has ended up being a long-term collaborator! She shot my first short film Don’t Forget Your Mittens and we haven’t looked back.

I’m really interested in internal processes. I studied English Literature and I am always trying to find a way to incorporate the interiority of characters in novels and short stories into the film world, albeit through different means. I want to make work that is subtle and honest and makes people think about their own perspectives on the world, and makes me think about mine whilst I’m making it too! I’m inspired by poetry, paintings, visual arts, music, theater, other films… I’m also inspired by my friends and family; their struggles and joys, and the way we are all trying to wind our way through this world on an individual and more global scale.

Can you talk about your short film It’s Nothing?

A.M.: Yes! It’s a project that came to me in 2014 through a friend who thought that Julia Lederer, the writer of the film, and I would get on creatively. She had originally written it as a play for young adults; about a young woman digging a hole under the influence of an impossibly perfect girl, which stood in as a metaphor for anorexia, something that she had experienced herself and wanted to talk about in a new light, which I found both brave and generous. I am a huge believer in talking about our mental and physical health, we as a society often blanket – especially mental health – under a mantle of shame. I wanted to be part of telling this story with her, and bring my own ability to delve into the character’s psyche to the table. We set about developing the script, and eventually got funding from both the Canadian and Ontario Arts Councils to make what at this point was quite an ambitious short film involving night shoots and ten foot by six foot holes in public parks! This was the first film I directed that I didn’t write, and it was a really rewarding collaboration. I would like to do it again! Julia and I are discussing our next projects…

How do you see the short form today?

A.M.: I think there’s a lot of exciting work at the moment in short form. Personally, I’m much more interested in the short form that exists for the sake of short form. I see short films as an equivalent to short stories – they’re meant to be that length – they tell a specific story that fits into three or six or sixteen or twenty minutes, and they don’t have to become feature films! These are the most successful short films in my eyes. Whilst it is hard to sell shorts, I do think that there seems to be more interest in the short form, or at least, there has not been a waning of interest. Short film festivals are going strong – in fact, some of the most exciting festivals I’ve been to recently have been short form specific! The Festival Regard in Saguenay in Quebec was a revelation last year when my last short, Constellations, screened there – full audiences who were totally engaged in the work, great programming and really exciting international short film work in all different shapes and sizes. It’s worth making a trip there!

What is your opinion on the situation of women in film today?

A.M.: We’re here and we’re working and we’re telling our stories, and sometimes we experience different shades of misogyny, but I think we’re finally blowing these issues out into the open, and we’re talking about them, shedding light on them, and I hope, building a better environment for young women coming into the industry now who will feel emboldened to share their worlds, and feel respected and safe whilst doing so, because of their uniqueness, not because of how they are trying to fit in. Sometimes it feels like an uphill struggle, especially when we look at the facts and figures about women and BAME artists and technicians in the industry and how far we have to go in terms of reaching parity and encouraging people from different backgrounds into film, but the more women I meet who are carving their paths, the more I am inspired to be bold with my own. I have done a lot of film education both with TIFF and with the BFI, and I’m about to head back to London to teach on the BFI Future Film Academy again this autumn, where a group of 16-19 year olds come together under a highly subsidized training scheme to learn about different aspects of film as well as write, produce, shoot and edit a short film. It’s an amazing program and it fills me with inspiration for the future of our industry as these young people are redefining how they want to work, what stories they want to tell and are then taking these experiences into the industry at large, making great strides towards change for all of us.

Who is your favorite female filmmaker and what is your favorite film by a female filmmaker?

A.M.: That’s a hard question! There are so many wonderful films by women and wonderful female filmmakers. I loved Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann – and all her work actually – I loved Everyone Else. I’m a big fan of Mia Hansen-Love – I love L’avenir very much. Ava DuVernay is making amazing work consistently, as are Lynne Ramsay, Sarah Polley, Dee Rees… I love Agnès Varda’s work… the list continues. I definitely cannot pick one which I think is a good thing! In terms of some of my peers, I’m really inspired by Kathleen Hepburn’s work; Never Steady, Never Still is a quiet masterpiece, and I’m excited to see The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open at TIFF this year. Sofia Bohdanowicz is such an inventive and unique filmmaker also, and I’m really looking forward to seeing Rose Glass’ Saint Maud, her feature debut, at TIFF this year.

What are your next projects?

A.M.: I’m currently working as an actress on a brilliant first feature with Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli who are co-writers and directors – Madeleine is also acting in it – and are very inspiring in terms of the way they work. I’m very excited about finishing the shoot and seeing how it all comes together. I’m working with Julia Lederer again on a feature adaptation of her play With Love and a Major Organ which I am acting in this time, and will be directed by Kim Albright whom I worked with on the short film The Director.

As a writer and director, I’ve just completed a draft of my first feature script, which I’m hoping to shoot in the next eighteen months or so; I’ve been working on that with a wonderful producer who produced my short Constellations, Jessie Mangum. I am also working on an adaptation of a novel by Brigid Brophy, as well as a couple of other ideas for screenplays that I am co-writing or writing alone. I also want to make a short documentary about Brophy… There’s lots of ideas, and lots of irons in the fire, and I’m looking forward to seeing what starts to materialize!



This interview was conducted at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. 

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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