From Hackney to BFI: a director’s journey

Behind the Scenes. Pic: Lorenzo Guerrier​i​

Film director and LGBTQ rights activist Marley Morrison moved to Hackney to escape the rural village they had grown up in. Now, their latest movie ‘Baby Gravy’ has been screened at the 2017 BFI London Film Festival.

Marley, who grew up in a small market town in Hertfordshire, moved to the area when they were 18, and says Hackney ‘had a great impact on their perspective and creativity’. Marley told Eastlondonlines: “When I first moved there I was a white, gender-fluid individual. It was interesting because I had never spent a significant amount of time in a city, so in a filmmaking way it really helped me discover that urban environment and people that were living in cities, and their stories, and how people that are living below the poverty line in London were surviving in ways that were both similar and extremely different to the people I had known back home. Moving to Hackney just gave me a whole different perspective so I suppose I became curious about local people and their stories, and what they wanted to say, and I just wanted to get some of that stuff out there through my films.”

Marley Morrison Pic: Weronika Dorociak​

They added: “While I was living there I ended up doing different things with friends and local people that I knew, like shooting music videos for local grime and rap artists and short films around the area. One of my first short films was called ‘Yesterday’ and it was a short five minute film about a black gay teenager who gets into hot water when he witnesses an assault whilst hooking up with an online date. I made it for 100 pounds – which brought my cast and crew lunch and few cheap props. This was the first time I tried to do anything narrative outside music videos. I used my friends as actors and the local community leant me my locations for free. I didn’t end up doing anything with the film but it definitely taught me how to start constructing a narrative.”

Marley says making it to BFI is an amazing way of giving a platform for the people and communities they focuse on in their films: “Being at the BFI Festival is amazing. For me it’s really important because a lot of the stuff I make I haven’t seen on film before. The communities that I know, whether it was the community I was a part of in Hackney or the community of LGBT+ community that I surround myself with now, are full of stories that are not really being told. Being at the BFI Festival means that these untold stories are finally getting a platform and an audience gets to see them.”

This year was Marley’s first time having a film screened at the BFI London Film Festival, with the film ‘Baby Gravy’, she continued to say: “Film London who helped fund the film through their ‘London calling’ scheme were really great because they give you a whole lot of support and mentoring, and sort of point you in the right direction to make your films as good as they can be. So it’s great as a filmmaker to have that sort of support and guidance along the way and I recommend their scheme to all new filmmakers who have a strong idea for a film.”

Behind the Scenes. Pic: Lorenzo Guerrier​i​

‘Baby Gravy’ explores just that; following a same-sex couple through their wait for the arrival of a man called Karl, who would potentially become a key factor in their process of starting a family: “The idea for Baby Gravy came about from the conversations that I have, specially getting older, from people getting married and having children, and people in my family sort of asking, well, ‘how are you going to do this? Like, how are you going to have children, how are you going to make that happen being in a same-sex relationship?’”

They go on: “Since you’re in a same-sex relationship, I suppose a lot of people assume that either you don’t want to have children, or they’re not really sure about how you’re going to do it. People ask me a lot those sort of questions and I think the movie came out of me discovering the ways in which people do actually do this, because when they would ask me those sort of questions, even I didn’t know the answer. I thought ‘well, yeah… I do want to have children, but I’m not really sure how I’d go about doing that…’ and I think there’s a lot more people in the same sort of situation. Be it gay or lesbian, in a same-sex relationship, kind of wanting to make plans for the future and not really knowing how to go about doing that, so the film sort of meets the ways in which you would do that.”

Marley explains how their friends’ experiences inspired them to write the story about a same-sex couple just trying to have a baby: “I spoke to a friend of mine who had gone through it all, and is still going through it now currently with her partner, trying to conceive, and they’ve been through IVF, sperm donors, and various other avenues to try to conceive. And they have been trying for eight years, so they have some really interesting stories of trying to make that happen.”

They continue: “With the film I just wanted to give other people who don’t really have an understanding of what same-sex couples go through to do something that is so natural to everybody else, something that can be such a struggle for same-sex couples, and give a bit of an insight into that world. Hopefully it will make people realise that we’re all the same, we’re all kind of searching for the same things, and wanting the same things in life, have a family and do all those quite normal things. It’s just a little different for some people that it is for others.”

You will have to wait another 12 months if you want to watch ‘Baby Gravy’. Unless you can catch it at one of the many film festivals it is sure to screen at both in the UK and worldwide. Meanwhile, you can watch the trailer here.

To stay up to date with Marley and Hazey Jane films upcoming projects you can find them on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. @marley_morrison, @hazeyjanefilms

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