On Friday I had the pleasure of interviewing She’s Missing and rising star producer Anna O’Malley about her project.
The Irish producer gave fantastic insights into the filmmaking process from a producers point of view, how this film, in its own way, broke ground and how Hollywood has changed.
Shaun Wren – When did you first hear about She’s Missing and what made you want to be a part of the project?
Anna O’Malley – “It was actually in 2015, I moved over to the US and I was looking to develop a project with a female-driven and I wanted to meet some female writers and directors and at the time I couldn’t really find anyone I really connected with the material and thought it was a great project.
“Then I met Alexandra in September 2015 and she told me about the project and she told me about the film and the way she spoke about it. I did a bit of travelling around the US and what you’re really hit with is the landscape, the sense of loneliness and these missing posters that you see all around the towns.
“Love the characters and the idea of the power struggle between two friends and it’s defiantly something I came across and really wanted to explore with Alex, so that’s how it came about.
“Then it was a long road to get it financed, then we shot out in New Mexico in 2017 in the Summer.”
SW – Alexandra spoke about originally filming in 2013 and the film has to be redone with a new cast, did you know about the previous attempt?
AOM – ‘Basically, I read the script and for me, that’s what it’s about the story. The heart of the story I absolutely loved and that was it for me, once I get involved in something I don’t let it go. I saw the footage from what they did before and I realised when I met with someone who was involved in it, I wanted to start from scratch.
“So there were a couple of the cast who are friends of Alex, Blake [Berris] her husband (plays Gus) and Sheila Vand, who plays Cherry. Both brilliant performances and they were in the first iteration of the film and we kept them.
“Then we got casting director Deanna Brigidi involved and she’d been tracking Alex and really wanted to get involved before we even had finance and she helped us with the casting. She was the reason we got Lucy [Fry] and Eiza [Gonzalez] who are the heart of the film, so that was great.”
SW – So you collaborated with Alexandra quite a lot throughout the process?
AOM – “Yeah, the financing of it took about a year and a half working together and the casting was a big thing we were working on throughout that process and the script.
“The both of us headed out to New Mexico and waited for the money to drop, which it did thankfully. We had a window with Eiza so you have to shoot in a typical indie way, it was quite rushed and manic, but we had our one window and that’s when we had to do it, so we did.
So it was quite the adventure.
SW – I was reading the rundown and it looks like a stressful time working with an eight-and-a-half-week pre-production and shoot schedule?
AOM – “Yeah it was. Basically, my eye one was always getting the financing and once the Irish Film Board came on board it was a little easier to get meetings with people but it was still a long round. So by the time we got the money to start, we were literally there starting prepping.
“I never shot in the US and gathering a team in somewhere you never shot was really challenging and it was kind of everything 24 hours a day for the whole time. We were there, there was nothing else besides doing the shot and getting it done.
“There was a lot of challenges out in New Mexico giving that we were shooting in the desert and it was whirlwind once we got out of there. We threw a lot trying to make it and then suddenly, like any Indie filmmaker, you’re there and you’re shooting it. You’re like ‘okay we got get this done and there’s no second chance’ unlike being on a huge TV show or big budget film where there’s a lot of reshoots, there’s plenty of eyes and everything.
“It’s a lot of responsibility when you have very little people [involved].”
SW – Producer as many different meanings, what was your role as a producer on this film?
AOM – “I guess on bigger shows and big films there are different producers doing different things, but because it was an indie film (as did Alexandra) everyone wear a lot of hats.
“Mine, along with Alex, was getting finance, getting it cast were the huge things to start the ball rolling and then from the first day of prep to right through to the end just being there every day managing it and overseeing the creative, so it was pretty full on.”
SW – You were saying before as a producer how important it was to find these female centre stories, how important to continue these stories moving forward?
AOM – “It’s so strange to think where we were in 2015, the culture of female directors and it feels like a totally different time and I generally think when I say this, it was groundbreaking making this film.
“It was a female theme and a female team and with so many obstacles along the way, I was so determined to make the film with Alex and surround myself with females to make sure our crew were females.
“My background is production management and producing smaller things. I’ve always been surrounded by males on every film set and every board meeting, you’re the minority and that has really, really changed and what’s really nice, while I want to ask for these things and work with females, it’s getting so much easier thing to do now.
“There are so many more female directors, so many more female voices I find myself in meetings surrounded by the women making the decisions. Before they were on set but they weren’t the people making the decisions, it’s so important to me and I’m seeing a female everywhere and the sets I’m working on now and the stories are so much more interesting.
“I use to get a lot of scripts and I’d literally throw them on the ground and be like it’s so demoralising for women; these characters are badly drawn. Whereas now, you’re getting so many roles for women and it’s amazing and I’m so happy to be a part of it all to push that forward.
“Hopefully, She’s Missing is something a lot of women will get power from and connect with it.”
SW – So was it like smashing your head against a brick wall during the process before everything changed?
AOM – “It was always in every room you’re in, you have to prove yourself. By virtue of you being there wasn’t enough, especially being a production manager dealing with the crew. You always had to prove yourself, especially as recces and scouts they would presume you’re hair and make-up say seven or eight years ago.
“Then you start talking about lighting or whatever you’re setting up for the day they’d be like ‘oh right, you’re managing this’ and I think that attitude is starting to change a lot. It just takes more women to keep at it and I do think it’s getting easier because we’re not going away.
“There’s a new generation and I love seeing that, especially on film sets now all the trainees in camera, something that wasn’t there before, we’re training a whole new generation of DP’s [Director of Photography] and more of the technical jobs are there but a lot of people weren’t doing that, it’s great to see all that change now.”
SW – Were you hoping She’s Missing would get a big screen release or was it getting an audience on the digital side or were there discussions about Netflix?
AOM – “It’s such a changing landscape and everyone is still trying to figure it out. For us, seeing on big screens for the [Edinburgh Film] festival have been amazing with the landscape of how it looks and how it’s shot really lends itself to big screens.
“But unfortunately, people don’t go to the cinema unless it’s a huge Marvel movie now and I think everyone is guilty of that because with such great access to movies on VoD. So for us, getting out there and getting as many eyes on it as possible is the main thing for us and I hope people get to see the film.
“I had no expectations of a huge cinema release, it’s nice it’ll have its small cinema release but for us, it’s getting it seen and getting the performances of the film out there is important.”
SW – Finally, I saw you were walking on the TV adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral, a movie I love so much, how was that experience?
AOM – “It’s such a great movie. I think if you work in our industry and speak to anyone think he’s a genius and fantastic, when I got the job on the show I couldn’t have been more pleased doing something so great with the film.
“So the TV series is different and Mindy Kaling has adapted it and she’s the showrunner of the show and I think everyone is in for a lot of nice surprises and it airs July 31 in the US (on streaming service Hulu) and I’m not sure what the plan is for the UK but it’s for sure to come to the UK.
“It was amazing to work on and also seeing the 2019 version of what was such a brilliant movie and it’s a great take on it.”
SHE’S MISSING is released on iTunes and On Demand on Sky Store, Virgin Media, Google Play, Youtube and Amazon