Published on: 01 August 2015 in Directors UK

Claire Oakley one year on from winning Best Director at Underwire 2014

Reading time: 3 minutes and 56 seconds

Claire Oakley won the Best Director award at Underwire 2014. Part of the prize was membership of Directors UK. Underwire recently caught up with Claire to find out what she's been up to since winning the award.

Directors UK supports the Best Director award at the Underwire Festival, Underwire is the UK’s only film festival celebrating female filmmaking talent.

Your winning film Tracks was up against some strong competition at the 2014 Underwire Festival. For those who may not have seen it, what was the film about?

It is a father and son story about passing on traditions from generation to generation. The father - played by Gordon Brown - takes the son - played by John Bell - hunting to kill his first stag and through this ritualistic rite of passage we see into their relationship: how proud the father is to pass on his knowledge and see his son step into the footsteps of his forefathers, and we see how much the son wants to do this but also has conflicted feelings about killing the deer.

Can you tell us a little bit about your experience of directing the film?

We shot the film in September 2013 on the west coast of Scotland. I wanted big views of old, untouched land that hadn't changed for centuries so we had a 2 hour climb to the location everyday. It was a feat of logistics and determination. We used as little equipment as possible (no lighting) and borrowed specially designed backpacks for all the camera gear from Alex Garland's "Ex Machina" shoot. The crew were amazing, there were only 12 of us and everyone went way beyond the call of duty and sanity! We had to think on our feet and make last minute script changes due to weather issues and various other disasters but what made it all worth while were the performances from Gordon Brown and John Bell. They were absolutely fantastic, and brilliant to work with - so generous and good humoured and talented.

What did it mean to be you to be recognised as the Best Director for Underwire 2014?

I was so happy! Apart from the professional accolade and the fact that I really respect the festival and the work they are doing to promote and recognise women across the disciplines, it also meant a lot to me on a personal level. Underwire programmed my first film - Beautiful Enough - back in 2010 and so through them I had my work screened for the very first time. It was an important moment in my career, a huge vote of confidence, and greatly encouraging. It meant a lot, 4 years later, to win Best Director with another short, I really feel I have accomplished something.

Directors UK provided an opportunity for you to meet with them as part of your prize. What was that like and how has it been useful to you as you move on to your other projects?

I had a great lunch with Phillippa Langdale and it was really interesting hearing about her experience and route into the industry. We have kept in touch and she was really helpful with advice when I was making an application for my feature earlier this year.

In what ways has the contact with Directors UK benefited you?

I've been to loads of screenings, q&a s and I went on a "directing actors" course which was fantastic. It is also great to have met a lot of other directors and to feel part of the community, especially in light of important industry campaigns and changes.

What is next for you now?

I have a feature - The Swan - which I wrote with Torino Film Lab last year. It has been selected for IFP in New York so Emily Morgan (my producer on Tracks and on this) and I will be taking the script there in September and meeting with lots of American financiers and producers. Here in the UK we have Soda Pictures on board and we are currently talking to the BFI and Creative England about taking it to the next stage.

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