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Categories: Interviews

The Spread interviews “Stutterer” producer Serena Armitage, who boasts an impressive body of work in TV production.

Serena_01GeordieBarrie2

Photo credit: Geordie Barrie

Serena Armitage is a TV producer who has recently jumped over to the film side of things as one of the producers on Benjamin Cleary’s Oscar-shortlisted short Stutterer.  As one half of the new production company Bare Golly Films along with Shan Christopher Ogilvie, Armitage brings almost a decade of experience producing and directing, from work on Come Dine With Me, Piers Morgan’s Life Stories and Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs. Serena spoke with The Spread about starting Bare Golly and making the switch to short film with Stutterer.

Why did you and Shan start Bare Golly Films? 

Ben [Cleary], Shan and I were all very close mates before we embarked on this project. We knew we had a good script and were determined to make it.  Bare Golly Films was initially founded to facilitate Stutterer. 

How do yourself and Shan compliment each other in style and experience? 

Shan is detail-focused, and likes to embark on forensic researches to make sure we’re getting everything absolutely spot on, whereas I’m normally chomping at the bit to get started and jump in head-first.  We balance each other out and are essentially motivated by the same thing: solid, character-driven narratives. 

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced working on “Stutterer”?

Trying to pull off high production values on a very small budget meant persuading professional crew, many of whom we hadn’t met, to work for free. It’s a big, big ask, and requires a lot of faith in the project. We were entirely reliant on everyone pulling together so there were a few sleepless nights in the lead-up to the shoot, but luckily the whole team played an absolute blinder.  

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How does working on a short like “Stutterer” differ from working on a TV programme?

The TV work I do tends to be pretty fast turnaround; there isn’t a lot of time to plan, and there’s a lot of thinking on your feet. This can feel stifling; the pre-production and filming of Stutterer was all done at pace but we spent a long time editing the film and this gave Ben chance to experiment. 

I work in factual programmes, which obviously differs in genre to drama, and I direct and story produce so I’m generally much closer to the action that I was in Stutterer. Things were often so frantic during the shoot that if wasn’t possible for me to be on set at all but Shan and I had 100% confidence in Ben and Mike [Paleodimos, the DOP], so having a bit of distance from the set was no bad thing and meant I was on top of all the logistics. 

There was a lot of new territory for me to explore in producing Stutterer, but essentially it’s still storytelling so you just need to ask the same question and that’s “does this story work?”  

Of all the shows and other projects you’ve worked on, which do you think shaped you most as a filmmaker? 

Probably Come Dine With Me as I’ve made so many episodes, and we work at a tremendous pace and there’s a lot of trouble shooting on location. It’s taught me a lot about managing people and creating narratives.  That said, every show or film I’ve worked on has been a massive learning curve and I still feel like I know so little! 

Just for fun: what were you’re favourite films of 2015? 

Naomi Kawase’s film, An. I wept solidly throughout.  I also loved Les Cowboys, Thomas Bidegain’s directorial debut. I found it very gripping, and it’s an interesting take on a topical subject. 

What are you looking forward to in 2016?

I still haven’t seen lots of this year’s Oscar contenders, so I’m looking forward to working through those. I’m a big fan of Eddie Redmayne so especially excited about The Danish Girl. 

Find out more about Serena and Bare Golly at baregolly.com.

Cameron Johnson

Cameron Johnson is a writer and filmmaker born in England, based in Michigan, USA, and currently living in Enniscrone, Ireland. He writes about all things entertainment with a speciality in film criticism. He has been working on films ever since middle school, when his shorts "Moving Stateside" and "The Random News" competed in the West Branch Children's Film Festival. Since then he's written and directed a number of his own films and worked in many different crew jobs. Follow him on Twitter @GambasUK and look at his daily film diary at letterboxd.com/gambasUK.

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Posted on Jan 11, 2016

2 Responses to “Serena Armitage interview – “Stutterer” producer”
Read them below or add one

  1. Avatar Peter Jane James Richardson says:

    Serena a fantastic achievement .love from all of us

  2. Avatar Vivien Hare says:

    Vivien Hare sends you huge congratulations & all the luck in the world at the Oscars. Serena we are all do proud of you. Lol .viv

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