BFI NETWORK met with writer-director Runyararo Mapfumo and producer Grace Bridger for the lowdown on their latest short film, Masterpiece
Runyararo, Masterpiece is your third short. What has been your approach to making films?
Because I knew that I wouldn’t have lots of money, I’d work resourcefully. I would find a location, talk to actors who I thought might be interested in making a short, and I would try to write something that was relatively simple. My main priority was to just try and get something made. The first film that I shot was literally at my friend's house. I got the crew through working on some random jobs by saying to them: ‘Hi, I have a short that is literally going to take two days to shoot. Do you mind coming over for the weekend, and we’ll make you really nice food?’
My second film cost £500. It was my final uni project and got into a few festivals.
And Grace, how did you get into producing?
I came into it quite late. I studied film and television, but I was young and disorganised, so I thought that producing wasn't for me. Moving to London changed that. I was living with a filmmaker who needed a producer for one of his shorts so I came on board, and from that moment I knew that I wanted to do more. It was a good crash course in what I thought producing was versus what it actually is. On that shoot I met another friend who needed some music videos produced, and, again, I just went in blind. All the work was unpaid, so I’d work at weekends.
Is it hard to juggle producing and a day job?
Grace: It definitely is, but I think that a lot of people are working full-time jobs - in the film industry or otherwise - and then doing stuff on the side because that's the only option you have. You have to make every bit of time count. As long as you know that it can be done over the weekend and then on Monday roll into work and be semi-alive, then it's fine. We shot Masterpiece in one day. The lead up was very stressful, but it was all done outside of working hours.
So how did you two team up to make Masterpiece?
Runyararo: Grace kept popping up at events that I was at; I grew to know her face, and we began to chat a little bit. I just talk to people and try to find out who they are. All of my work is quite relationship-based; I like to know the people I’m working with and that I’m going to get on with them. I can't tell you how many meetings I've had with people where we part ways feeling like the project is going to move forward, but then it doesn't work out. You can't chase somebody to want to do a project. They have to want to do it for themselves.
Grace: Runyararo mentioned to me at an event that she wanted to make a short film and needed a producer, so I asked her for the script and director’s statement.
What made you want to take on Runyararo’s project?
Grace: I knew some of Runyararo’s work, but I could also sense how professional she was. I got what she was trying to do.
Runyararo: I put together a pack, which always has a mood board, a statement on how the project has come about or what my feelings towards that project is, why I want it to get made, that kind of thing.
Grace: She had sent me the actors' names and their headshots, so it felt like a very clean, slick package. When someone is already thinking about a lot of the elements that you're going to have to pick up, it gives you a lot of trust in that person. You know it's going to be hard, but you've got someone also putting in as much effort as you.
Runyararo: It is always a two-way thing. I feel like if I want to get this thing made, it's also my responsibility to make sure that I can help everyone as much as I can. I always try and do small things, even if it's learning a little bit more about cinematography so that I can communicate better with my DP, or knowing what each department needs.
You can watch Masterpiece directed by Runyararo Mapfumo here.