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Jane Eyre

Event Q&A transcript

Question 1 - Why did you choose to make a film of Jane Eyre?

I choose to make a film of Jane Eyre because it has always been my favourite book. I read it when I was around your age and it has always been my favourite book and my mum’s favourite book so it has always been close to my heart. I always felt that though there have been many versions made for film and television in the past there had not been a definitive version. With Great Expectations people always think of the David Lee film or with Pride and Prejudice I think people always think of the TV version with Colin Firth coming out of the water but with Jane Eyre there are many versions but not want that is the version so I set out to make a film that would be definitive and that would do the book and do Charlotte Bronte justice and I think we have.

Question 2 - Did you and the writer feel any responsibility to be faithful to the book?

It’s a real responsibility to be faithful if that is what you have set out to do. Some films I have done where that is not part of it and I have done a lot of historical movies as well where that is an aspect. I think it is more important to be faithful to the spirit of something rather than be faithful in a literal sense. Having said that I think we are pretty faithful with Jane Eyre and particularly I think because one the director’s things when coming on board was that he wanted to make the film fresh and original but also he felt that the best way to make it fresh was to go back to the book whereas a lot of people had varied from the book quite significantly. For example, the Orson Welles version does not deal with the St. John Rivers story at all, he just cut it out because it is very difficult in a film to… In the book, two thirds of the way through Jane runs away from Thornfield and Mr Rochester and escapes across the moors to St John River’s cottage and in a book that is ok because you are engaged in the story and you get to a new bit and get on with it. In a movie if you get two thirds of the way through and then a whole bunch of new characters were introduced and we are travelling with them for another 30 minutes people would be like ‘What?’, you’re not prepared two thirds of the way through a movie to meet a bunch of new characters and start a new story, but we wanted to be faithful to the story and keep that bit in so Moira’s stroke of genius if you will was to put that bit at the front of the movie and then do it in semi flashbacks so that you catch up with yourself two thirds of the way through so that is what we did to avoid that sequential feeling that works in a book but not in a movie.

Question 3 - How important was it to cast the right actress in the title role?

Well I think one of the things about Mia is that she didn’t come with that much baggage because when we cast her she hadn’t done Alice. Of course by the time this came out she had done Alice so she was a little better known because of that but compared to most actresses she is relatively new and what was great about Mia was that I was able to cast someone very young which is what I had wanted to do from the beginning because of the economics of filmmaking, a period movie costs a lot more to make than a contemporary film because you have to buy in costumes and horses and carriages and it take the actors a lot longer to get everything on. So period films cost a lot more than contemporary movies therefore you have to cast usually a reasonably big film star in the role in order to raise the money which is why you often see the relatively unknown in contemporary films and the bigger stars in period movies because they cost more to make so I was very lucky with Mia because I thought I would get all the way with Jane Eyre and then somebody would say well we’ll give you the money for this film but you have to have someone like Scarlett Johansson in the role I would know that she wasn’t too right because she is American or older than the character and as a producer you get forced into those positions. What was great about Jane Eyre is not it wasn’t as expensive as other period films because it is all set on the mores so there wasn’t street scenes or elaborate ball scenes that you get in something like Pride and Prejudice and Mia was at the perfect point in her star ascendance that Focus were willing to take a little bit of a risk with her and let me cast the Jane that I wanted who was exactly the same age of the Jane in the book, Mia was 18 when we were working with her as Jane is in Jane Eyre.

Question 4 - How did you get to where you are today?

To be a producer, you are a bit of a jack of all trades so you have to be quite good at a lot of things and you know I am not one of those people who are blessed with an amazing talent to play the violin or something spectacular in one field but I am someone who is quite good at doing… I can cast my mind to a bit of legal, I can add so I can do the finances, I love reading and I’m quite good at figuring out the structure of the film and I am quite good with people so I can persuade them to come and do things for the money that is available and persuade them to put money into the film so it is quite a jack of all trades profession and also lots different producers do different things. Some are much more just money people and some are much more creative, I tend to be quite creatively involved in my films, I’m not someone who just puts a deal together and then moves onto the next one which some people do and is totally valid but its not what I do. In terms of being a producer you have to be good with people and you have to be extremely tenacious because you get a lot of knock backs and you have to keep on keeping on the whole time.


Question 5 - What advice would you give to people looking to get into the film industry?

It’s really tough, certainly a lot tougher than when I got into it myself. It’s not, the funny thing about the film industry is that you find a lot of people in it who have had a career change from another career or who have taken an unusual routes into it because there is not really an established career path and a lot of people complain about the film industry because a lot of the people who get into it – it’s about who you know not what you know and I would have to say that there is a lot of truth in that and I have tried to fight against that because that was certainly not the case for me. I came from Portsmouth and I didn’t have a clue about anyone in the film industry at all. I was quite lucky in that when I left college it was the birth of the music industry and at the point because music videos were just being invented and MTV had just started no one knew what a music video producer was so you were able to bluff your way into, you could go to a record company and say ‘Hi, I’m a music video producer’ and they were none the wiser and although that is not possible anymore my point is that you still do have to do a fair amount of bluffing – we won’t call it lying exactly, we’ll call it bluffing because you do have to pretend you know more than you do and get yourself into a position where people are going to trust and believe you and then you have to deliver and it’s a little bit of smoozing and a little bit of entrepreneurship and for a producer anyway. If you are going to do more a craft, if you are going to be a cinematographer or a designer than there is more of an established route in terms of going to art college or going to film college and learning those trades but for me the assets are the same kind of ones as you would use to set up a market stall really, it’s all ducking and diving.