Interview: Female Filmmaker Special with Glow in the Dark Films

9:00 am

It's been a hot minute, but we'll get into that another day.

There's something exciting in store today for the beginning of the new year (taking the whole of January off seemed more than fair)! Glow in the Dark Films are a documentary filmmaking trio from London, creating warmth and heart with their creations since studying for their MA together. The trio consists of Anna Snowball, Eleanor Mortimer, and Grace Harper, and together they've answered some of my questions about their journey, how they get inspired, and the kinds of things they like making. There's something about the dynamic of a group working freelance together, especially a group of women, that really appeals to me, and Glow in the Dark Films have completely and utterly inspired me. Keep reading to find out more...


Magic & Musings:
Hello! And thank you all for taking the time to answer some of my questions. First of all, can you each introduce yourself and what you do?

A: We’re Anna, Grace, and Eleanor and we work as a documentary filmmaking trio called Glow in the Dark Films.

Magic & Musings:
When and why did you choose to form your filmmaking collective?

A: We met at the National Film and Television School in 2013, and joined forces after graduating. We found it was easier to navigate the world of freelance work together.

E: (& we liked each other loads.)

G: And making documentaries can be quite solitary, and when you’re doing it alongside close friends it becomes more fun!

Magic & Musings:
Why the name ‘Glow in the Dark’?

E: Films glow in the cinema, and also it was a warm-sounding name which captures the way we approach filmmaking.

Magic & Musings:
I know you all work in documentary film, but how would you each describe your individual filmmaking styles in three words?

A: Understanding outsiders, prioritising allowing privileged moments of insight to unfold on camera.

E: People-watching, sometimes with animals too.

G: Hanging out with cameras.

Magic & Musings:
What are each of your filmmaking backgrounds? What drew you to the documentary film genre?

A: I did Media Arts at university, where I randomly decided to take a documentary module. I fell in love with documentaries, both making and studying. After graduating, I did a 6 month filmmaking residency at the BFI before starting film school.

E: I had no idea documentary making could be a job, but borrowed a small video camera while I was on my year abroad in Paris, and got completely hooked, spending days wandering the streets filming things I came across. I loved capturing those little accidental moments.

G: I worked as a video journalist/blogger and camera operator, and found myself being introduced to amazing people with incredible stories that I knew could be something more than what I was doing. I’d watched more Buffy the Vampire Slayer than Maysles Brothers when I was growing up so had no idea about the creative possibilities of documentary, but my boss at the time started showing me documentaries and told me about the National Film School and that’s how it all started!

Magic & Musings:
When you started sharing your work with those around you, did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place?

A: It was really helpful to begin making films in academic environments – it meant that my audience size grew slowly – from classrooms, to lecture theatres, to cinemas and online releases.

E: I’m with Anna: film school did help with that. You get forced to show films, even at a rough stage to people, making it easier to overcome that kind of anxiety.

G: I agree with both Anna and Eleanor, but in another way I think self-doubt is normal and probably for me will be there forever. Each new film feels like starting again with all the self-doubt that is normal when you care about something, and that first time you show your work to someone is always terrifying.

Magic & Musings:
What advice would you give to female filmmakers attempting to start out in the industry?

A: Follow your instincts, make films about things you find interesting and keep going. Don’t try and be the person you think you should be, or make the films you think people want. That never works.

E: Yep!

G: Totally! And also surround yourself with people you like and who you want to support and will support you. Filmmaking can become all encompassing, so you want to make sure you enjoy it.

Magic & Musings:
What are some risks you’ve had to take with your career in order to get to where you are today?

A: Investing time and money in ideas to film some footage before any funders have shown interest. It usually works out!

E: Every film you start is a risk as there’s no safe way to get commissioned, but you just have to keep at it and try not to doubt. If you’re interested in something, you can make others interested too.

G: Another risk is that there are always many different routes you can take, and sometimes it's hard to know what’s the best one. It can feel risky to follow your instincts, but it always ends up being the best option.

Magic & Musings
Do you have a particular way of ‘getting in the zone’ when working? Like, a hot cup of coffee, some calming music?

A: Breaking down my list of things to do into manageable chunks each day. It means that I can just focus on the task in hand instead of feeling overwhelmed.

E: Having a little place to work, with things that inspire you on the walls. And tea. Lots of tea.

G: A walk to the studio and lots of music. Lots of Whitney Houston and En Vogue right now.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

A: I find it incredibly helpful to talk to colleagues and friends about your project, and show some footage. They can give fresh insight, good advice, and encouragement! I also find that treating my personal projects the same as my commercial projects (paying people to help me out, sticking to schedules and budgets) helps me to take them seriously.

E: I read things, watch things, and try not to get too frustrated with myself.

G: We all rarely let ourselves do this, but I know when I do it’s the thing that makes the biggest difference – taking a break. I always return after a break with new perspective and more clarity.

Magic & Musings:
Are there any female filmmakers currently that strike you as changing the way films are made about women/starring women in lead roles? Are there any that are using film, for example, in ways that accurately express female sexuality?

A: I really enjoyed Andrea Arnold’s American Honey. It follows a teenage girl called Star as she travels America with a bunch of kids selling magazines. It captures what it feels like to be a young female discovering the world. Also Maren Ade’s film Toni Erdmann, which explores a father/daughter relationship. I like how complex the daughter Ines is. A lot of films create a simplistic female role that exists in relation to a male character, but Ines is full and complicated person - likeable and dislikeable, strong and weak.

E: Chantal Ackerman is incredible, and so is Agnes Varda. Their female protagonists are women who refuse to fit into the box society has made for them.

G: Crystal Moselle who made The Wolfpack has made some beautiful shorts with young female skateboarders and dancers that gives a totally realistic perspective on female sexuality, and of course Celine Sciamma with Girlhood – that scene when they are singing Diamonds all together is one of the most personally recognisable scenes I’ve seen in recent cinema. But I’d love any recommendations on this, I love seeing films that accurately express female sexuality!

Magic & Musings:
Can you recommend everyone reading a book you’ve enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

A: I’ve recently finished Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, which I really enjoyed.

E: There’s a book I’m reading called I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This by Nadja Spiegelman about three generations of women, which captures the complexities of mother-daughter relationships.

G: I’m currently reading a novel called the Art of Joy by Goliarda Sapienza which is actually about a female seductress! And it’s great. And listening to the new War on Drugs album which is wonderful. And I haven’t sat down and watched a film in a while because while I’m shooting I often don’t actually watch films, but I’m really excited about A Ghost Story which is coming out soon.

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you all and your work? What’s on the horizon for Glow in the next few months?

A: We’ve all been working on independent projects over the summer, which will be released in the new year. Our website is or you can follow us on Twitter or Instagram.

G: Thank you for asking us the questions, it’s been really fun to think about this!

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