Serena Armitage, Pietro Greppi
Year of lab participation:
Mirka, 23, is a Polish woman working as a housekeeper for an upper-class English couple. When she falls in love with the wife, we follow the repercussions of their secret affair and the subtle effects of class and exploitation on Mirka.
English Animals is a portrait of Mirka, a young Polish woman living in the UK in the hope of finding a home there, and of the upper-class English couple who are her employers. When Mirka moves in with Sophie and Richard (late 30s) at Fairmont Hall, she is immediately welcomed into their world and begins to feel more valued and less lonely than she has in a long time. They are nurturing and kind and Mirka excels at her job. She feels as though she has found the home she has been looking for. However, when she discovers that her burgeoning attraction to Sophie is reciprocated, she is unable to stop herself from falling into a passionate affair with her married employer that threatens everything she has built here. As the relationship progresses, Mirka is able to overcome her guilt and allow her desire for Sophie to deepen. When she then discovers that Sophie has betrayed her, Mirka is devastated and she has to consider whether she really belongs at Fairmont Hall, whether she can trust Sophie and Richard, and what the idea of home really means to her.
English Animals is about the exploitation of feelings. It looks at the outsider experience and explores themes of belonging, acceptance, respect and entitlement. It is also about a certain type of Britishness which, seen through Mirka’s eyes, is examined in a humorous and satirical way. The tone of the story will encapsulate this and luxuriate in the contradictions, hypocrisies and complications of this world. There are elements of psycho-sexual intrigue in the film and of awkward confrontations between classes. I want to explore these simmering tensions fully, capturing Mirka’s uncertainty, the watching, the waiting and the wanting. The performances will be naturalistic and unsentimental, the drama will be involving and the characters funny and deeply felt. The design will be detailed, rich and surprising. It will nod to the awkward humour in the story, leaning into Mirka’s expectations and using her point of view to discover the oddness of this world and of the couple’s traditions. The location will have something of the gothic about it, shadowy corridors and dead animals behind glass, but at other times it will feel cosy, warm and welcoming. I am interested in these shifting atmospheres and how they can deepen the audience’s experience of the story and closeness to Mirka and her journey. The camera style will be precise and still. I am interested in using composed shots through doorways, windows or foregrounded objects to create a sense of secrecy and a feeling that we are observing the drama as though it might be taking place in a doll’s house. These shots will be complimented by closer insert shots which will celebrate the objects in the house, focusing on the themes of history and tradition, as well as the details of the taxidermy.
Claire Oakley is a filmmaker from London. Her debut feature 'Make Up', a psycho-sexual drama that plays with genre starring Bafta-winner Molly Windsor, was released by Curzon Artificial Eye in 2020 to critical acclaim. The Times called it “an unsettling blend of bleak naturalism and swirling reverie… echoes of Don’t Look Now”. The Telegraph called it “the British film of 2020” and The Guardian said it is “a clever and expertly made movie”. The film was produced by Quiddity Films, the BFI, BBC Films and Creative England. Claire's four short films explore similar themes of identity and place with an atmospheric visual style and have picked up several awards internationally. Claire was chosen as a Screen Star of Tomorrow, 2019 and is a graduate of Torino Film Lab, BFI Network, EIFF Talent Lab and iFeatures. In 2014 Claire co-founded Cinesisters a peer-to-peer mentoring group for female directors which now has over a hundred members.
Emily Marcuson, UK
Marcuson studied screenwriting at FAMU International in Prague. Her TV pilot Autumn topped the Brit List in 2018. She has developed original projects with Playground Entertainment, Mam Tor Productions, Two Cities Television, Popcorn Group, Fifty Fathoms and Tall Story Pictures, and is currently writing on Tony Grisoni and Simon Maxwell’s 8-part series Marlow for BritBox, starring Claire Foy
Serena Armitage & Pietro Greppi
Academy Award winning producer Armitage, were the producers of Benjamin Cleary’s short Stutterer (2016), while Greppi produced Departure (2016) by Andrew Steggall. The team are currently in post-production on a new feature film by Peter Strickland, Flux Gourmet, and recently produced Sarah Clift's BAFTA long-listed short, The Birth of Valerie Venus. They are jointly developing a number of features, including Clift’s feature debut, developed with the BFI, BBC Films and Creative England.
Production company profile
Lunapark Pictures & Red Breast Productions, London, UK
Production Budget $3,000,000