Getting to know the SYLVIA team

Rachel Prendergast

Suffolk Shorts met up with SYLVIA Producer, Rachel Prendergast in Suffolk this week. We wanted to get a better understanding of the production process of our First Light Festival headline film prior to the upcoming Q&A. It was also good to talk short film festivals from a filmmaker’s perspective.

Richard Prendergast, the director, has been locked in a dark warehouse, with no windows, to work on their next feature script. So he wasn’t allowed out! We hope he’s got the first draft done by the time he’s due on stage for the screening at Leiston Film Theatre – it sounds FASCINATING.

It’s difficult to talk about SYLVIA without giving anything away to those who haven’t seen it yet. But we did talk about how different it is the second time you watch it. Or the third, fourth… 

Rachel explained how the relationship with the real life protagonist has developed since she first saw the finished film. The ice cream scene has an extra poignancy when you know that Richard wrote it without knowing it had actually happened to her.

The Process

The film is a real family affair, with the two Prendergast children, Maisie and Evie in supporting roles. The girls had never acted before but their performances are beautifully understated and utterly convincing.

The team completed SYLVIA last July, and it has been the production team’s first year of being ‘on the circuit’. Suffolk Shorts wanted to know what mattered and what didn’t from the filmmaker’s perspective. The overriding message we got from Rachel was ‘Communicate’! It’s a lonely world out there, when you are self funding a short film. You may be co-opting friends and family to bring your dream to fruition, and you are certainly immersing yourselves in the story, whether it’s drama, documentary or a more experimental theme. Programmers need to tread a fine line between being professional and critically detached, and seeming to not care less. Something to have at the front of our minds when we open for submissions next year.

SYLVIA’s success is deserved and as we met Rachel was filling out the submission form for the Oscars, having already won Best Emerging Short at Cannes and numerous other awards, including Best Actress for Jodie Lennon.

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