WRITER & DIRECTOR
I’ve always been moved by human stories and lives from bygone eras, especially ones that grapple with real issues that we can all relate to, which is perhaps how this story was born…
When I first began reading about the famine, I was deeply moved by personal accounts of Irish suffering and loss... I was outraged! Why didn't people do more? How could so many be left to die? The following day I was at CNN, editing a news piece where I was confronted with present day images of death, hunger and desperation and it struck me - How am I any different today, I turn a blind eye to the need I see? It was this thought that became the fuse which lit the flame for our film.
The past has this beautiful way of posing essential questions of our humanity in a way that is removed from the muddied waters of the present but encourages us to see things from a new perspective.
The Widow’s Last is very much a story of the past that resonates with our present. It poses the question – how will we respond to need we see through the life of a destitute Irish widow who encounters a wounded Englishman and must decide if she will be hardened by hatred or moved in compassion? The film employs a parallel narrative, to sharply counterpoint the paths of forgiveness and hatred. When we meet Kathryn and Sean, they are both in a place of hardship, they both blame the English for their suffering but as the story progresses and their choices diverge, we see with painful clarity the downward spiral of Sean’s character as he seeks vengeance and the redemptive nature of Kathryn’s path as she chooses compassion.
The Great Hunger is perhaps one of the darkest times in history and I wanted our film to reflect that. It needed to feel raw, gritty and personal and everything from the set design, to costumes, locations and cinematography went into building this tonally.
My goal cinematically was to create a sense of the intimate and epic - to feel up close and personal with our characters and yet very aware of their isolation. We used the stunning and visceral landscape of rural Ireland as a character within the film, it became an isolating presence, a cold and barren force of nature infusing the narrative throughout. Then in sharp contrast to this, the camera stays relentlessly close to the characters and the claustrophobic cottage works to build a sense of oppression and entrapment. This contrast between intimacy and isolation was a key feature of the piece.
It is my hope is that this story and these characters would light a path for us in turbulent times. That it would speak of the freedom found in forgiveness, the beautiful paradox that in giving we gain and the redemptive power of compassion.
Vanessa is an award-winning NZ screenwriter, director and editor with over 13 years of experience in the London film industry across a variety of formats and genres, including fiction, documentary, short films, feature films, music videos, commercials and corporate films.
After graduating with First Class Honours from Met Film School in the UK, she worked under BAFTA and SUNDANCE winning directors; Jerry Rothwell and Sarah Gavron. It was under these master storytellers that Vanessa learnt the art of crafting compelling narrative. Branching out, Vanessa began freelancing in roles such as Production Manager, Producer, Director and Editor for clients such as CNN, Bosch, Sony, Dyson, The British Museum and Cancer Research. After a period of consolidating this industry experience, Vanessa focused in on her passion of Screenwriting and Directing narrative content.
In 2016, her ambitious historical drama "The Widow's Last" won the Pitch Film Competition UK and was awarded a £25K production grant and development support. The film made its debut at the prestigious Galway Film Fledh 2017 and went on to play in 25 top tier film festivals globally. The film was officially selected for the 71st BAFTA Longlist and went on to win Best Short Film at Edinburgh Indie Festival and Best Production Design at Birmingham Film Festival before it was picked up for distribution by Aer Lingus and Omeleto.
Between 2017 and 2020 Vanessa took two career breaks to have children, however, during this time she has continued to pursue her passion for film. In 2017, she began collaborating with LA producer Larry Frenzel, to co-write and direct her first Feature Film, "Epie and the Moon Man" - based on the novel "Dandelion Summer" by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Wingate. Alongside this, Vanessa has a further slate of features and TV projects in development.
Vanessa is a member of Directors UK, WIFTV and Cinesisters, the UK's collective for female directors. In 2021, she moved to Sydney, Australia, where she is excited to continue developing and creating film and TV content. Working with actors, bringing scripts to life and crafting poignant cinematic moments are among her greatest passions and overarching all of her work is the desire to create powerful, story driven films.
VANESSA BEHIND THE SCENES
A week before the shoot the DP Andy Catarisarno and the Director Vanessa Perdriau scouted and tested all filming locations to establish best light and set-up options.
Vanessa seeing the cottage for the first time.
The Waterfall at Gleninchaquin Park.
Vanessa standing in for test shot's for Kathryn as she digs for potatoes.
Test shot for opening shot of Kathryn as she digs for potatoes.
Test shot for OTS of Kathryn as she digs for potatoes.
Dusk in the valley of Gleninchaquin Park.
Scouting the location of Sean's hovel. Significant CGI was used to create the hovel between the crack in the rocks and the heather was cleared and a grave dug.
Gleninchaquin lake, test shot for film close-ups.