London Screenwriters' Festival

London Screenwriters’ Festival ‘Beyond the Bio’: Deva Palmier

Posted on: August 2nd, 2010 by Lucy V Hay 2 Comments

DevaOriginally trained as an actress, Deva Palmier is a multi-award-winning writer/director and founder of the ICA Lab, which grew from the development assistance she received from her mentor Gurinda Chada under the Guiding Lights scheme in 2006/7.

She is currently developing three feature films and is midway through a five year documentary project.

To learn more about Deva you can click through to her bio page.  Here’s her Q&A:

Q: What was your favourite film as a kid?

A: As a child I didn’t have one favourite film, I had many.

I loved the ‘Herbie’ films – good fun, magical and with bright colours.   I also loved ‘Balckbeard’s Ghost’, which I found frightening and gripping at the same time. ‘Great Expectations’ blew my mind.  I found the first scene on the moors, when the escaped convict jumps into the frame, terrifying.

Q: Who inspired you when you were starting out?

A: I am a big Jane Campion fan. I love the way she combines expanse with intimacy and the eccentric touches she brings to the portrayal of her characters.

I also love reading the Coen Brothers’ scripts – ‘Blood Simple‘ especially.  It’s such an inspiration to see the way they lay out the story on the page.  Their scripts are page turners, so clear and stuffed full of action and emotion.

Q: What was your big break?

A: I haven’t had a big break.  I’ve had a steady stream of opportunities and hopefully will have more to come…

Q: What was the best day in your career?

A: The best time in my career so far is now.

An excellent producer who ‘gets’ my feature film script ‘Mhairi’ is in the process of coming on board, which is very exciting.  The idea is to link up with a bigger production company who are now also reading ‘Mhairi’.

The ICA Lab is going from strength to strength, with an impressive selection of over 280 writers, directors, producers, actors and crew/HOD and I’m now having all the right meetings at the ICA regarding the ICA Lab – so watch this space!

Q: What has been your most important lesson?

A: To select the people I hand my scripts to with care. Handing scripts out to people in the industry too early has, in the past, given me confusing feedback.  I now hand the scripts that I’m developing to either writers in my script group, the Scriptorium at the ICA Lab, or a few trusty souls. You can bury a viable project by handing it out too early and to the wrong people.

Q: If a niece or nephew wanted to be in the business, what would you advise them?

A: Get hold of a camera from wherever you can and make as many films as possible.  Watch as many films as you can and try to be a runner or an intern so that you can get to know the industry from the other side as well.

At this early stage you might find that some of the bonds and friendships you make with other young filmmakers will seriously mean something later on in your career.

Q: What is the hardest part of your job and how do you overcome it?

A: Patience.  But at the same time, it’s good to not be too patient.  There’s nothing like a bit of healthy frustration to get things moving!

I am learning to focus on the process and stop thinking about the end result.  Working this way, for me, makes much better projects because they come from the right place.

Q: What do you feel is a writer’s or filmmaker’s key responsibility?

A: I feel it’s quite simply honing in on the story and finding the best way to communicate that to an audience.

Also I feel that we should write and make films on subjects that we feel passionate about, that come from our hearts.

Q: What mistakes do you see emerging writers or filmmakers making over and over?

A: Shooting under-worked scripts too early, making films that can’t be fixed in the edit.

I also keep seeing low budget films shot without any sense of style, which is a great shame.  Having a strong sense of style need not necessarily be linked to budget.  Imagination, forward planning and working with a team who are willing to experiment with you and take risks can help you make your films that look and sound stunning, whatever the budget.

Q: What advice would you offer an emerging writer or filmmaker?

A: Keep working hard on your scripts and films and make sure that you set up a secure support structure around you.

I think you need to have a special group of people around you, that you can turn to when you need insightful feedback on a draft or an edit.  Some filmmakers refer to their agents and some to their peers.  I turn to fellow filmmakers at the ICA lab.

I also think that it’s important to own your own filmmaking equipment. It should always be possible to shoot a film, should you wish to.  As filmmakers we need to keep shooting films, even while we are focusing on writing our feature films.  I have a few documentaries that I am constantly working on while I’m writing my feature film scripts and we also need to keep working with actors.

Above all I think that we need to “pick ourselves.”  There are so many different ways to make films and we must never hand over our creative control to a panel of selectors.  We must take charge and make sure that if we passionately want to make a film that we do.

NEXT TIME ON ‘BEYOND THE BIO’: BAFTA-nominated screenwriter and technological innovator Tim Clague.

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