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 writer/director who grew up on the coast of New Zealand, where the dramatic landscape inspired her with a love for photography and great story. After graduating with First Class Honours from Met Film School in the UK she worked with the BAFTA award winning Feature Doc Director, Jerry Rothwell. Vanessa has since gone on to set up her own production company and has over ten years of directing experience across a variety of formats and genres, including: fiction, documentary, short films, music videos and corporate films.
Her first short 'The File Room' premiered at LA Shorts Fest and played at several international festivals. In 2016, her ambitious historical drama "The Widow's Last" won at The Pitch Film Competition UK and was awarded the grand prize of a £25K production budget and development support. The film made its debut at the Galway Film Fledh 2017 and went on to play in 25 film festivals globally, several of which were BAFTA and Oscar Qualifying. 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.
Between 2017 and 2020 Vanessa took two career breaks to have two children, however, during this time she has continued to pursue her passion for film. In 2017, Vanessa was contracted by producer Larry Frenzel, to write and direct her first Feature Film, "Epie and the Moon Man". The film is based on the novel "Dandelion Summer" by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Wingate and is currently in Development. Alongside this, Vanessa has a further slate of features and TV projects in development.
Vanessa is a member of Directors UK, Women in Film and TV and Cinesisters, the UK's collective for female directors.
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.