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Interview Anna-Elizabeth Shakespeare And Hillary Shakespeare (“Soundtrack To Sixteen”)

I Hope People Will Be Reminded Of What It Was Like When They Were Sixteen.

28th March 2020
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That “Soundtrack to Sixteen” is a film you could use right now. It’s an uplifting one about the struggles that come with being a teenager, love, friendship, and music. That’s why it was an honour for us to talk with the Shakespeare sisters, Anna-Elizabeth Shakespeare and Hillary Shakespeare, who are the writers of this movie. Hillary also sat in the director’s chair. Read our interview and get to know all about “Soundtrack to Sixteen”, the filming process and what the future holds for the sisters.

Liselotte Vanophem: Hi Anna-Elizabeth and Hillary, how are you doing?

Anna-Elizabeth Shakespeare: We’re holding up ok, trying to turn our isolation into a writers retreat! But of course, we’re very sad that our cinema run got cut so short. We’re prepping for the VOD release now.

LV: Congratulations on your beautiful “Soundtrack to Sixteen”. Where did the story come from?

Hillary Shakespeare: The stories of both Maisy and Ben are very influenced by our own teenage experiences. I was quite a lot like Maisy, not having had my first kiss yet at sixteen and living in fear someone would ask me and I’d have to admit it. Anna went through a lot of the same issues as Ben, measuring herself by her school grades so the themes in the film are very close to our hearts.

LV: In this movie, it’s about Maisy and Ben, two teenagers struggling with typical teenage problems. They’re wonderfully portrayed by Scarlett Marshall and James Calloway. How did you come across them?

AS: We posted about the film on casting websites and held auditions. We loved James and Scarlett right away and tested them together and they had great chemistry too!

LV: How did the rest of the cast got involved?

HS: It was the same way, they heard about the parts on the casting websites and got in touch. Then they either came to audition or sometimes we did Skype auditions when people couldn’t make it in (Sofia who plays Olivia on of Maisy’s friends auditioned from Sweden!)

LV: What was the most difficult part of making this movie?

AS: Definitely finishing it. As it was our first film it was hard to know how long everything should take, how hard you need to push to get it through the last stages of post-production etc. Quite a lot changed in the edit so I’m glad we gave that the time it needed to go through several big changes. The music also took a long time to get right, we searched through loads of music sent to us by unsigned bands and sometimes we had to go for quite outlandish combinations to get the right song for the scene.

LV: What will be the scene that will stick with you forever?

HS: We’ve been through so much with this film the whole thing is imprinted onto our brain. I could play it in my head, shot for shot. But in terms of memories of shooting it: the bus scene was the most difficult shoot we had. We rode the bus from sundown to sun up and it was done on the sly so we were quite worried about getting caught!

LV: It’s a very joyful and welcoming film and it was clear that there was a lot of fun both on camera as well as behind. Do you still remember the hardest scene to film because of the laughter or funniness of the actors?

AS: We did have a lot of fun! Though usually, that helped with the scenes rather than getting in the way. The only scene that we had a laughing problem ruining takes was the one we were in! We hadn’t intended to have a cameo but the scene takes place at the same time as another big party scene where we had already used everyone that came in that day. They were really small parts and we were the only ones left that could do it so James was acting opposite us and Sam who was a runner at the time. None of us could take it seriously because we weren’t use to acting! Every time we caught James’s eye we all burst out laughing!

LV: What do you hope that people will take away with them after watching this movie?

AS: I hope people will be reminded of what it was like when they were sixteen. The film is about those small dramas that feel terrible and humiliating at the time but weirdly I find looking back on them as an adult comforting and nostalgic because bad as they seemed at the time now they just seem funny to me. I hope other people get the chance to reminisce about how it was for them.

LV: The film was screened at the London Independent Film Festival and also at The Prince Charles Cinema. Will the movie be screened anywhere else or can people watch it online or video on demand?

HS: Yes, the LIFF screening was our premiere and then the Prince Charles screening on the 14th March was supposed to be the kick-off of our limited theatrical run. Sadly, we got very unlucky with timing and only managed one more screening before we had to call it off because of COVID-19. Our VOD release will be on the 4th of May so we have that to look forward to, and once cinemas re-open we plan on doing a few more screenings then as well to give more people the chance to see it on the big screen.

LV: Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

AS: We used to make films when we were little as games but they were terrible of course! We never really thought of doing as a career until I’d finished university and Hillary quit her PhD but now we can’t imagine doing anything else!

LV: Do you already have other projects you’re working on?

HS: We’re in post-production for our second feature, “Much Ado”, which is a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. It’s in the original Shakespearean dialogue but set in the present day with university age characters and where the men are usually soldiers, ours are rugby boys. Jack and Sean who play Ben’s friends Ethan and Luke in “Soundtrack to Sixteen” came back to work with us on that so we look forward to people seeing them in quite a different context!

Read our review of “Soundtrack to Sixteen” here.

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