The Sci-Fi Drama ‘Pendulum’ was only released a few days ago on ‘Dust’ and has already racked up nearly a million views. We managed to catch up with the star and director Lauren Cooney who is creating her own ground-breaking films.
Lauren Cooney’s transcendent film was inspired by Gareth Edwards’ Monsters and tells the story of a generation born knowing the end of the world is imminent. After enjoying an award-winning festival run this powerful film will be released this month and was created through improvisation and guerrilla filmmaking in the dangerous jungles of India.
Two friends seek spiritual salvation in India away from their hedonistic and disconnected lives, in advance of the impending collapse of the Cosmos.
Award-winning writer/director Lauren Cooney’s recent LBGTQI+ film Fluid premiered at the BAFTA-qualifying Underwire Film Festival. Lauren’s Shut Eye horror series was released on Gunpowder and Sky’s ALTER platform earlier this year. Currently, Cooney is developing several comedy-drama projects for TV, as well as her Jewish LGBTQI+ dramedy feature film Banging Down Under. Pendulum is Lauren’s debut short film and was created as a proof of concept for Lauren’s upcoming feature in development, Retrieval.
Congratulations on a fantastic film, how did you find acting alongside directing?
Thanks so much. Acting as well as directing is certainly a challenge, and was all the more challenging as we were shooting using some improvisation and I was writing scenes on the fly, based on a beat sheet. That said, I loved it. Ultimately when you’re the director on set, you’re constantly liaising with the rest of the cast and crew, so it didn’t leave me time to get into my own head about the performance of Cerys. I just had to trust it. Myself and the other two lead actors, Scott Michael Wagstaff and Tom Sawyer, spent a few weeks in London before the shoot running through improvisations and getting to know the characters, so we had done the prep. When taking on the dual role of acting and directing you can really put your heart into a project. And it’s increasingly common with female creatives, and creatives from a variety of backgrounds with less visibility, who want to have more ownership of the stories they tell. I’ve experimented with doing these dual roles on other short films, and it’s something I’m planning on doing throughout my career, for the right projects. I think if you have done the prep with the DOP, and have someone on set who can keep an eye on the performances – whether that’s an acting coach or a DOP who is very sensitive to character – then it’s perfectly manageable and can create amazing galvanisation for the rest of the team.
Why did you choose India to shoot and what difficulties did you face?
We shot in India because Pendulum is a “spiritual sci-fi”, inspired by the way that disillusioned Westerners have found meaning in their lives by exploring Eastern spirituality. Whether that’s disappearing to India for yoga, or Thailand for meditation. The apocalypse we were evoking was drawing on the mysticism, aesthetic and cosmic philosophy of these traditions. Also, India is just beautiful on camera, easy enough to shoot guerrilla style, and much cheaper than other places on this planet. As glorious as India is, she’s also a challenging teacher. We had it all. A train trip that had a such a long delay we were stuck onboard for nearly 60 hours, with half the crew down with Delhi belly. Fun stuff like that. It also provided some challenges when we did re-shoots. There’s a scene that has general shot-reverse disparities between a Keralan jungle and a forest in Luton. Luckily I think we pulled it off.
What gave you the idea to create this story?
6 years ago, one of my best friends Jessie committed suicide and I was struck by grief. It sent me into a bit of a spiral, and I wanted to find some meaning for life beyond the daily grind. My quest to make a movie and the characters’ quest to find meaning were totally linked. I had been interested in Eastern spirituality for a while, and felt on a wider level that Westerners are spiritual bereft, so the end of the world really became a metaphor for how we perceive our lives.
6 years ago, one of my best friends Jessie committed suicide and I was struck by grief
Your producer Lisa Jacobi has an impressive filmography, how did you connect and will you be working on future films?
Fortunately, I began working with Lisa just after she moved from Australia to London, and began working on such huge films. Pendulum had such a long post-production period, editing and fine-tuning it, that Lisa was able to work on all her other projects and find time to develop several feature projects with me as well. We definitely have big plans together.
What advice would you give to young actors starting out?
To make their own work. Really it’s such an incredible way to validate your own experience as a creative, build a network of friends and peers, and get to know this industry. So many actors feel very disenfranchised by the industry, only associating success with a very particular route. There’s so much more to being an actor than starring in a TV show – though that would be incredibly lovely. Many actors also forget to live. As an actor your instrument is your being. How well do you know yourself? Do you have other interests? Can you talk with me about more than what movie you saw on the weekend? Are you looking to expand your instrument? You can and definitely should get better as an actor by training, and making work, but you also become a more authentic and expressive actor by becoming a more authentic and expressive human. Don’t forget the human part!
There’s so much more to being an actor than starring in a TV show
We are seeing many fantastic actors making their own films, what do you enjoy about creating your own films?
Being a story-teller. Story is key. After making Pendulum I did some intensive screenwriting training, and honed my craft so that I could approach long form content like features and TV. Pendulum was the gateway, and I totally fell in love with creating a world, and character that reveal something about our lives. As an actor, you’re telling a very specific micro part of the story, but as a director, you’re balancing all the elements. In many ways it is the same job, but using the tools in a different way. As an actor, it’s so exciting the moment that the words on the page feel utterly ingested and real and relevant and you are submerged in living out the imaginary circumstances. As a filmmaker it’s borderline surreal watching something come to life that starts out as a vision in your mind or a feeling in your heart. It’s pure creation.
What’s going to surprise people about this film?
It’s a completely new perspective on the end of the world and the feeling that these films tend to evoke. There’s no wild panic. Instead, we’re inviting in a sense of awe and humility. Cinematic transcendence. Watch it on the biggest screen possible with great sound!
What is next for you?
I’m currently developing several TV and feature film projects. I’m determined to get my long form content out into the world, where I can really begin exploring themes around spirituality, sexuality, and challenging the status quo. I am a cultural anarchist at heart, looking to disrupt the dominant narratives, and urge people to infuse their lives with magic. Keep an eye out for: The Big O, a comedy-drama TV project about a man and woman searching for a better sex life, and finding themselves in the world of sacred sexuality; Banging Down Under, a LGBTQI rom-com about two women who fall in love at a Jewish wedding; and Retrieval, a psycho-spiritual Sci Fi, about two estranged sisters dealing with their conflicting belief systems – one of them believes the end of the world is coming, and one doesn’t. And yes, there is a lot of kinship between Pendulum and Retrieval. In fact, Pendulum is a proof-of-concept for Retrieval.
Banging Down Under, a LGBTQI rom-com about two women who fall in love at a Jewish wedding
How can our readers keep in touch with your work?
Definitely follow me on Instagram Lauren_Cooney_. And check out my website www.laurencooney.com