TRIBECA – Director Ellie Heydon “It was a great to be a part of – we spent a LOT of the shoot trying to stifle laughter.”

Director Ellie Heydon and writer Lucy Heath‘s PRAGMA is Executive Produced by Emmy Winner Jason Sudeikis, starring SAG Award Winners Nick Mohammed and Phil Dunster, alongside Lucy Heath. This short has taken on a more algorithmic take on love. Each couple partakes in a week’s worth of hilariously intense practical compatibility assessments to find them their most suited “life partner”. PRAGMA will be world premiering at Tribeca Film Festival.

First of all, I would like to congratulate you on getting into Tribeca Film Festival

This is an interesting take on finding love, where did the inspiration come from for this film? 

Lucy: I had recently left an 8-year long relationship at the same time as my parents’ marriage came to a sticky end, so after many life-questioning coffees with Phil Dunster (co-star & producer) philosophising over love and romance and trading books by Alain De Boton and Brené Brown, I became fascinated by the concept of finding an algorithm for “secure love”. Phil and I had been discussing making a film together for some time, so I set about creating a school for love that I so wished existed at the time.

Phil and I had been discussing making a film together for some time, so I set about creating a school for love that I so wished existed at the time.

I can imagine the fun you must’ve had on set filming some of the compatibility tests, was there anything particularly challenging to film? 

Ellie: It was a great set to be a part of – we spent a LOT of the shoot trying to stifle laughter. I’d say the main challenge was the classic budget and time restrictions; I had to cut about a third of my shot list on the day and we had to think on our feet about how we could cut corners without compromising the story. Our DOP, Simona Susnea, was such a brilliant, calm, solution-based collaborator so that made my life much easier! Plus the fact that everything with Nick Mohammed was shot separately and then VFX’d into his funny TV screen, meant that all of the actors were reacting to a blank screen which isn’t an easy feat, especially when you’re thinking of comedic timing.

Is there a possibility of turning this comedic masterpiece into a feature? 

There is indeed! We are currently in the process of writing the PRAGMA TV series. We have both become obsessed with our PRAGMA universe, and the world of romantic philosophy in general and we are fascinated with how awkward, beautiful, and painful the whole process of ‘falling in love can be – it is ripe for drama. We are working with the brilliant women at Monumental Television to develop the long-form version of the show, so watch this space!

We are working with the brilliant women at Monumental Television to develop the long-form version of the show, so watch this space!

The chemistry on set between all the characters seems so real, can you tell us a little about the cast? 

What a glorious group of people! The casting was done through a variety of different avenues, and although there were difficulties about shooting in covid times, it did mean we had access to our dream cast in a way I think would be somewhat impossible now as they are all out in the industry smashing it! Our two leads (Lucy Heath and Phil Dunster) are old school friends, so they had a fortunate fast track to comfortability with one another. Phil is currently working on Ted Lasso, so it was through him we got the brilliant Emmy Nominated Nick Mohammed involved. Then the rest of our cast came through our brilliant Casting Director, Lucy Amos. Especially for all the montage of terrible male suitors, we had such fun getting tapes in for those parts. It was really important to Ellie that we had rehearsal time because we were so short on time on the shoot itself, and so we had a rehearsal day a week before the shoot with all of the cast which was so fun – especially choreographing the salsa sequence with Karl Queensborough and Lucy. 

Our two leads (Lucy Heath and Phil Dunster) are old school friends, so they had a fortunate fast track to comfortability with one another

How did you both get into filmmaking? 

Lucy: I got into filmmaking through the silly little world of acting initially. I wrote my first short film BETTER, directed by BAFTA-winning director Michael J ferns because I was far too impatient to wait for auditions. I soon fell in love with writing as a creative medium and after the success of Better (winning the Iris Prize, airing on Channel 4 and Apple TV) I felt like writing gave me a newfound autonomy that I loved, so I set up my own production company Silver Rose Productions. 

I wrote my first short film BETTER, directed by BAFTA-winning director Michael J ferns because I was far too impatient to wait for auditions

Ellie: I also came up through acting – working in TV and film and becoming increasingly obsessed with the women behind the camera! As a director, I started in theatre and dramaturgy, and it was through a writer I’d worked with on a play that I shifted into the film. I was then lucky enough to work with a brilliant, generous, creative DOP Ben Marshall who was patient enough to show me the technical ropes as I dipped my toe into film and it sort of snowballed from there. 

As a director, I started in theatre and dramaturgy, and it was through a writer I’d worked with on a play that I shifted into the film

What is next for you both? 

Lucy: As previously mentioned, I’m currently writing PRAGMA the television series with Monumental Television. Then my most recent short film The Painter and The Poet, starring Tyler Conti and Mirren Mack, is currently in post-production with my production company Silver Rose Productions and I am now developing two feature films independently. 

I’m currently writing PRAGMA the television series with Monumental Television

Ellie: Alongside pitching PRAGMA, I am currently in pre-production for my first TV show, which I will be shooting this summer. I am also in post-production on my latest short film, Safe Word, which is the debut film script by Edward Bluemel (Killing Eve), featuring Gwyneth Keyworth (Black Mirror, Misfits) and Jonah Hauer-King (Little Mermaid), and I’m very much looking forward to sharing that with the world. I run a global female-centric theatre collective, Siberian Lights, that works to the platform, celebrate, and unite women in the arts, so we are always putting on events to showcase all the brilliant female talent out there.

Alongside pitching PRAGMA, I am currently in pre-production for my first TV show, which I will be shooting this summer

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