Elizabeth Sankey, Romantic Comedy director (and one half of the band Summer Camp), spoke to Georgia Ayres about inspiration, challenges and Meg Ryan.
I used to think of Bridget Jones as this strong relatable character who was just living her own peaceful life. Elizabeth Sankey’s debut film made me rethink this, opening my eyes to just how much of the film is centred around Bridget’s weight, amongst other things. Romantic Comedy is a well thought-out analysis of these different aspects of the genre: from why people watch romcoms to the representation of characters within these films. I got the chance to ask Elizabeth a handful of questions...
What inspired you to work on this film?
I’d always wanted to do something on romantic comedies because I grew up really loving them. When I got married and went back and watched them I sort of realised they had a lot of things that I had not realised were strange. That made me rethink the messages I was getting from them. Then I had worked on another film essay called Beyond Clueless. So I knew it was a way you could analyse a genre. It just made sense to me. I wanted to explore my own relationship with romantic comedies.
What was the biggest issue you faced in making the film?
I've done lots of writing, but never anything this long. I had also edited before, basic music videos for my band. But I'd never done anything that was on this scale. So the technical aspects of just making sure it not only made sense, but it was also interesting, hopefully funny, and I wanted it to be moving. Then the challenge of just feeling like I didn't have the confidence to do it, or to go through it because I think as a woman you sometimes question whether or not you have the accomplishments to do something. You feel like you're just sort of pretending, you don't deserve the opportunity to do it. I did not go to film school or anything like that. So I was worried that people might just think I was an idiot.
What actresses do you think influenced the role of women in romcoms?
Most generations have an actress or a couple that will be the person that they watch in romantic comedies. Then that woman will sort of become the person in which all women kind of see themselves or compare themselves to. I think obviously Meg Ryan - she did some amazing romcoms, including more offbeat ones. Also because she worked so much with Nora Ephron, I think she kind of became Nora Ephron's muse. Also Julia Roberts has this sort of thing where she is so insanely beautiful and charismatic that she can get away with playing women who are a bit horrible, like in My Best Friend's Wedding. You're still kind of rooting for her.
What do you think would be the next steps in changing romcoms to be more inclusive?
In terms of the terrible representations that we have in our culture, it’s several things. It's about people in positions of power getting things made and getting stories told that maybe aren't about people that we've seen before. The problem is that many of the people in power are white, straight and middle class. That they kind of get scared about telling stories about other people. Just cast people of colour. Tell queer stories about queer relationships and include people from these backgrounds in the process.
People think that there's not enough money to take risks. But actually that's why the rom-com genre is just so perfect for introducing representation and diversity. Because its really cheap to make them and always elicits a romantic or a cathartic or humorous experience for the audience.
Romantic Comedy screens at the Inverness Film Festival on Sun 10 Nov, 4pm.
This blog was written by:
Supported by Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s Film Audience Network, and funded by Creative Scotland and Lottery funding from the BFI.