Review Fix chats with “Early Days” director Nessa Wrafter, who discusses the film and the impact she’d like it to have on audiences.
Review Fix: How did you get involved with this project?
Nessa Wrafter: I first wrote this script a couple of months after giving birth to my son, then developed it for about a year, (my editor Iseult Howlett was on board from very early on as a script consultant), then found Clancie Brennan and asked her to come on board as producer. As soon as Clancie agreed, her drive and enthusiasm meant the project took on a whole new energy and we crowdfunded, gathered the rest of the team and shot the film within four months. It’s not quite a year since the shoot and we’ve already been selected for seven festivals. We have to pinch ourselves sometimes!
Review Fix: What attracted you to it the most?
Wrafter: Postnatal mental health was a subject I had never seen on screen before. I wanted to highlight an area of mental health which is under-represented, which both women and men need to be more aware of.
Review Fix: How hard was it to work with this subject?
Wrafter:It was really tricky to try and find a way to approach a topic which is so sensitive. Every mother has a different experience of the “Early Days” of motherhood and I wanted to try and create a story and character that would feel relevant to most Mothers…
At its core, it needed to be a story about humanity. In that way, I hoped to overcome the assumption that your gender would define your response to it. I hope it’s a story that anyone can relate to because ultimately it’s about someone who is struggling at a difficult time in their lives – and we’ve all been there!
Review Fix: What was the research process like?
Wrafter: The research process was actually fairly straight-Forward because this story was based so much on my own experience, and of the women, I knew who were having babies around the same time. So this was a topic we all talked about all of the time anyway… I had a lot of fuel in the tank.
Review Fix: What have you learned from it?
Wrafter: I learned that the more talented people you have around you, the better your end product. I learned that every mistake or misunderstanding teaches you a valuable lesson and that sometimes happy accidents happen…there’s magic in that if you keep yourself open to it.
Review Fix: What was the feeling like on set?
Wrafter: It was incredible – we had set out to have as many women as possible in the crew, due to the sensitive nature of the material…and as obvious as it may sound, all that feminine energy was really nurturing. I think it made it easier for our lead actress when she had to perform some of the more difficult scenes, too.
Review Fix: How did this film affect you?
Wrafter: This film has changed my life. It has shown me the importance of telling stories that are deeply personal, no matter how close to the bone that can feel at times. Making a film you are proud of is a long, arduous process, and it has confirmed that I love filmmaking so much, that all the hard work is more than worth it.
Review Fix: How do you want people to be affected by this film?
Wrafter: I’d love it if people felt that it managed to express how the mind works when it has been through a traumatic experience – whether that be childbirth or something else entirely. I’d like it if men who have watched their partners give birth, felt they understood the journey to motherhood a little better. And I’d love for mothers to feel they saw a little of themselves in Early Days.
Review Fix: Who will appreciate this film the most?
Wrafter: I assume women who have had traumatic birth experiences will appreciate it most, and women who have suffered from post-natal mental health issues… but I hope that anyone who has experienced anxiety or PTSD could feel a connection with the story.
Review Fix: How would you like it to be remembered?
Wrafter: I’d like it to be remembered as part of a new wave of films which places the female gaze up front and center, whilst also being interesting and enlightening to viewers of both genders.
Review Fix: What inspired this film?
Wrafter: My own postnatal experience, and my desire to turn that difficult experience into something beautiful and meaningful.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Wrafter: I’m making a drama podcast this Autumn, about three friends who decide to have their own 20-year school Reunion but uncover a dark secret from their past… which I’m also adapting into a feature film. I’m working on a TV series based mostly in Ireland, and I’m chatting to a few writers about directing their work. Directing something I haven’t written myself is a challenge I’m keen to take on as soon as possible!
Review Fix: What else would you like to add?
Wrafter: There is a lot of discussion about diversity in the industry at the moment and that is brilliant. We need a more diverse pool of people telling stories, across the board – it makes for more interesting viewing if we have filmmakers with lots of different voices.
I’d like to encourage more women to direct. I really didn’t believe it was something I could do until I tried it. And when there are women working as executive producers and heads of studios, making the decisions about which projects get greenlit…real change is going to happen. So reach for the stars…