Second Guest Blog Post from Beatrice Benn: An Interview with Piers Tempest

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Guest Blog Post 2 from Beatrice Benn at Hinterlands Film Festival 2023, who interviewed Piers Tempest at the screening of his latest film ‘Emily’ at Skipton Town Hall.


“I’ve always felt that an independent film is a film that almost doesn’t get made.”
This is something that Hollywood icon Glenn Close once said but is also a belief that runs through independent production company: Tempo Productions, founded by Piers Tempest and Jo Bamford. The company have produced a range of indie favourites, ranging from 2017’s drama The Wife (starring Glenn Close) to Brontë biopic Emily, which I discussed with the producer himself, Piers Tempest.


What brought you and the screenplay of Emily together? And why did you want to produce it?

I remember reading it on the way back from Toronto Film Festival about three years ago and I absolutely loved the script. I knew the landscape; I knew the story. It was very much driven by the script, which is the foundation of any movie. It is very difficult to find a script that is excellent.

Why did you feel that another film related to the Brontë sisters was needed?

I think that Emily has always been a little ignored, and what interests me in doing biopics is much more about finding and imagining the essence of the human. It is not factually correct, but it is Frances’ [O’Conner, writer and director] interpretation and imagination on what could have inspired Emily to write Wuthering Heights, which is far more interesting to me because you aren’t looking to make a photocopy of someone’s life.

We also wanted to make a film to inspire young people and encourage young girls not to worry about being judged by society, which Emily definitely wasn’t bothered about, as well as being true to their creative passion. It felt like the right time to make the film, especially with the impact of social media on young people.

Other than young people, who else did you try to aim this film toward?

We try to make our films as broad as possible and accessible to everyone, not just aimed at UK audiences but people from anywhere in the world. You also need to know your audience if you are writing a script, the people who are actually going to watch the film, it’s got to be audience driven.

Why is the story of Emily Brontë relevant nowadays?

I think her story is a tribute to creativity, she was really ahead of her time, she had to publish Wuthering Heights under a pseudonym, which reminds us how lucky we are now in western culture. And, social media can be brilliant, but it can also be toxic, so it is about showing how it is much more fulfilling to do stuff and create.

Was it important to you to make a film set in Yorkshire?

Very important. I make films all over the world, so it was nice to film here because it’s where I live. It is culturally great to do this, and it also brings lots of jobs into the local area. The most successful films are always authentic to the culture of their local area whilst still containing themes that are universal.

What do you look for in a script generally?

As a producer I’ve got to feel that I can make it, and that it will travel. I have to be creatively excited by it and think it is an excellent piece of writing. It has to be able to attract a good director and actors. And for me, it has to have something else that gives it a hook: what is going to make journalists write about my film? If you look at all of the 25 films I’ve made, they all have that hook, and for an independent film producer this is really crucial because you are competing on a playing-field with huge studio films. The audience doesn’t care if the film was made for £200 million or £10 million. I also like to consider why the script was written and what unique insight the director has on the story.

What would your advice be to aspiring young filmmakers?

If you are wanting to get into the writing and directing side of filmmaking you should just do it. Make your own stuff, use the resources you have. Work experience on films and TV shows is also good to see how the process works, and you can read any script online, which is useful to understand how screenplays are written. The industry is quite good at helping people get a foot in the door, but it can be brutal, so you do have to be good. It’s about finding what you really like and getting experience.

Why is Hinterland’s Film Festival important to Skipton and the Yorkshire Dales?

We are very lucky to have a film festival in Skipton. Celebrating rural creativity and bringing people together is great.

What film has had the biggest impact and influence on your career as a producer?

I love films in which worlds are created, like Lord of the Rings, those really immersive, holistic movies. But any film which I think is great will inspire my work in some way. I also love historical action films, like Elizabeth and The King, and we are actually working on one soon. We are very lucky to have so much inspiration in this area along with so much history.

What is your favourite film that you have produced?

I can’t pick, they are all like children to me. They all have stories and memories behind them.

What is your favourite film in general?

I cannot possibly answer that either! It’s so difficult to choose. In the last year I really liked Triangle of Sadness directed by Ruben Östlund.

And finally, what do you do in your role as a producer at Tempo Productions?

Everything: finding the material, putting the team together, raising the money, making it, delivering it, selling it. Producing is a thankless task because if a film does really well it is the director who gets all of the credit but if it doesn’t do well the producer gets all of the blame!

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