Q&A: writer/director Nessa Wrafter and producer Clancie Brennan on short film EARLY DAYS

By Josh Muchly

EARLY DAYS is a short film centering on Kate, a new mother struggling with postpartum depression and navigating expectations regarding maternity. Writer/director Nessa Wrafter and producer Clancie Brennan were kind enough to answer some questions about this compelling film.

Informer Media Group: Hi, you two. Thank you so much for answering some questions about your film. I am touched by EARLY DAYS. Nessa, this is your writing and directorial debut, correct? What inspired this story?

Nessa Wrafter: This story was inspired by my own experience of the time after childbirth – quite literally the “early days” of becoming a mother. I had been hoping for a calm, natural birth but had to have medical intervention due to complications. After the birth, I suffered a placenta accreta and that resulted in a large amount of blood loss. Had I not been under the care of the excellent NHS staff, I could have died. To enter into motherhood in this way was extremely difficult – not to mention the sleep deprivation and pressure I felt, learning to breastfeed, that dominated the first weeks. I read somewhere recently that it isn’t just the baby who is born – a mother is born too. I think that is true. Being re-born as a mother is a profoundly transformative experience…this film tries to express a little something about that journey, and what it can do to your mental state.

Informer Media Group: Clancie, this is your first credited cinematic project, right? What inspired to you come aboard and produce EARLY DAYS?

Clancie Brennan: Yes, that’s right. I was on maternity leave at the time and really had the urge to get back into doing something creative after the birth of my daughter. Nessa sent the script to me and as I had just experienced the “early days” of motherhood it really resonated with me. I personally didn’t suffer any form of PND, but the first year of motherhood is hard and there were moments within the script that I could see myself in the character Kate. I had wanted to make longer form coming from a commercials background and this felt like the right step for me.

Informer Media Group: Why is EARLY DAYS important for today’s audience?

Clancie Brennan: I think in this day and age we live in such an Instagram-rose-tinted world that portrays motherhood in such a perfect style light. It was important to share Nessa’s story and get something out there on screen that was true to form and for other new mothers to know that it isn’t all rosey and that they are not alone.

Nessa Wrafter: There is so much more openness about mental health, finally – we are starting to recognize that we should treat mental health as pragmatically as we do physical health. Your life might depend on it, and post-natal mental health is no exception. So I wanted for the film to be part of that conversation.To be honest, I feel that new mothers probably need a three week holiday, but instead, you get a newborn baby whose survival depends almost entirely on you! To take it on is heroic, but often taken for granted. None of us would be here without our mothers – so I think it’s time to pay a little tenderness and respect back.

Informer Media Group: To your knowledge, has this topic ever been explored cinematically?

Clancie Brennan: I personally hadn’t seen anything like this before making EARLY DAYS. Now there are films like TULLY featuring Charlize Theron that explore this topic and I think there needs to be more.

Nessa Wrafter: I know that Diablo Cody’s wonderful film TULLY deals with some of the same issues, although that hadn’t come out when we made this. So when we made this film, I hadn’t seen it before.

Informer Media Group: There isn’t much conversation in the film; at the heart of this film is Maimie McCoy’s intense emotional/physical performance. Why was it better to see-not-say in this case?

Nessa Wrafter: Well I don’t remember saying a lot during that time – I was too shell-shocked. It was difficult to put words on what was happening to me, and so the character of Kate was meant to be internalising her trauma in a similar way. There was a little more dialogue in the script, but Maimie’s performance was just so powerful that in the edit Iseult (our editor) and I ended up paring it back to let that shine through.

Informer Media Group: Nessa, as an actress yourself, why did you feel it was best for you to be off-screen for this project?

Nessa Wrafter: I was far too close to the script, and I also wanted to direct, so as a first time director, I didn’t think it was wise to take on both roles. Besides the obvious, that Maimie is a wonderful actor and I was dying to work with her!

Informer Media Group: Why is Kate only able to find comfort from a stranger (her neighbor)?

Nessa Wrafter: Sometimes it’s easier to hear words of wisdom from, or confide in, someone who has no emotional connection to you. I believe that’s one of the reasons having a therapist – an impartial listener – can be so effective.

Informer Media Group: I’m curious about Kate’s flashback/fantasy; any plans to adapt this into a full-length feature?

Nessa Wrafter: Well, the flashbacks/fantasy sections are intended to give the impression of being inside Kate’s head. I felt it was really important for the viewer not to be a voyeur, but to go on that journey with her. As for a feature, I’m open to it but not actively planning it at the moment. Watch this space!

Informer Media Group: What’s tentatively next for both of you?

Clancie Brennan:  I have just finished my next short WHO’S THE DADDY with my writer/director Mary-Sue Masson. It features Kellie Shirley, Olivia Lee, Cavan Clerkin and Jake Maskall. We are just in the process of entering it into festivals and are using the short as a pilot for a TV series that we are developing with Kellie and Olivia. I’m also developing a Podcast called ‘Tales of the White Wine Werewolf’ with my sister Cindy Brennan and the legendary Anna Raeburn, which is also in the early stages of being turned into a TV series.

Nessa Wrafter: I am co-writing a feature film – which is also about a mother facing a challenging time, but very different in tone to EARLY DAYS. I’ve written a four part drama podcast I’d like to release this year, which I’m also adapting into a screenplay… and tinkering with a few ideas for TV series as well. I’m hoping to get some shadow directing this year and ideally, direct someone else’s writing next – to see if I can!

Informer Media Group: Good luck! Where can people go to learn more about and support you and your projects?

Clancie Brennan:  The best way to see what i’m up to is on social media either my Twitter page @clancielee or Instagram @clancieb_producer as I post updates there quite regularly or at least try to.

Nessa Wrafter: You can find me on twitter @Nessa Wrafter , where I tend to shoot my mouth off about anything exciting I’m up to – and I’m always up for chatting on there too. Alternatively, the film’s website has updates, and there is the website for the production company founded by myself and my husband.

 

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