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“A fear of technology stopped me from directing”

Director Alexandra Boyd discusses the challenges of her debut feature film, Widow's Walk

Widow’s Walk, the debut feature film from director Alexandra Boyd, is released via Amazon Prime Video today. As someone who has worked in front of the camera for much of her career, Boyd made the move to directing after being asked to take the helm of a short film. From there she says was “bitten by the directing bug” and decided to write and direct her own story about a war widow who takes her little boy to a remote house to grieve, and their sadness evokes the spirit of a woman who lived in the house during the Second World War.

Boyd says taking charge of her first feature was both “challenging and daunting” and that she went through a “steep learning curve.”

“A fear of the technical side of filmmaking for many years made me think directing wasn’t for me,” Boyd tells TVBEurope. “With the switch to digital film, and the speed at which it’s developing all the time, I’d never be able to keep up with all the changes. My strengths are knowing about story and a very strong visual style that I can constantly connect to my cinematic vision for the film.”

In the end, the fact that Boyd lacked some knowledge of the technical side of filmmaking wasn’t such an issue as she was able to rely on her crew. It certainly didn’t stop her adding an underwater sequence to the film which was shot at Underwater Studios in Basildon. “The team there were so helpful with all the aspects we had to think of in order to pull off the complicated sequence I’d written,” explains Boyd. “I’m not sure I understood fully just how complicated it was, but I’d drawn a lot of storyboards and we made a schematic – leaving the technical aspects to Dan Travers and his underwater crew.”

“Fred, the owner of Underwater Studios, and our stunt coordinator, explained at the end of our week with them that he’d done a simple, single pull on a Jason Bourne film – a belt around the waist of the actor who’s dragged backwards on a pully through the water by a diver off camera. He’d also done two actors on a pull before, but he’d never done three. I guess it was a minor achievement for him and his team and it had made his year!”

Being a female director, and a debut female director, is never easy and Boyd admits that while the crew were based at Underwater Studios the experience was “a whole next-level of blokey bloke-ness.”

“I guess I got some props from them in the end via the female stuntperson who told me they’d been talking about me in the hotel bar in positive terms. But they’d never say anything to my face,” she laughs.

“She said they were impressed how well I knew my story, the storyboards I’d made and the fact that I was in the tank room the whole time. I guess on the big budget movies the directors stay in video village and the First AD does all the work. I would never have sacrificed being able to sit on the edge of the tank and speak directly to my actors.”

Amazon came on board to license the project once filming had finished with Boyd signing a four-year deal with the streamer. While she admits she would have loved to see the film in cinemas, Boyd says it is incredibly exciting to have Amazon supporting the project. “The sense of achievement for myself and everyone who worked on the film is overwhelming,” she explains.

“All films should be seen in the best possible environment and that’s usually a cinema,” continues Boyd. “Film festivals are one way for a few people to see your film but with a tiny film like this, even one which is punching above its weight, you have to be realistic. Releasing in a cinema with an unknown director and no big name actors is a huge financial cost and risk. But having my film seen on a streaming platform such as Amazon, a huge and far-reaching platform, many more people will get to see all the hard work and talent that went into making it.”