An interview with: Daisy-May Hudson
Our ‘creative of the month’ is Breakthrough Brit, Daisy-May Hudson. As the young director and producer of ‘Half Way’, Daisy documented the traumatic experience of journeying through the rehousing system in the UK – alongside her mother and younger sister. Femini's Editor, Sophie, caught up with Daisy-May to talk about her inspirations to film and the process of transforming a scarring experience into inspiration
What made you first pick up that camera to film your experience of having to leave your family home with your Mum and sister?
I’d never made a film before but was always interested in documentary as a tool for creating empathy and for drawing similarities between people’s experiences – I found it really powerful – because I’ve always been a social activist, I guess. And so I got a camera for my 21st birthday, like a canon DSLR and I found out we were going to be homeless when I was at university and I came back to see all my stuff in boxes and I was really, really distraught. I ended up going for a pint with one of my friends and one of them said, “why don’t you film it?”
That was kind of the spark, the idea, but I guess it came from a place where I felt that, at a time all the power had been taken away and we had no choice in that situation but to move into a hostel, by filming it I could make us visible. It felt like I was taking control and being active about a situation because when you’re in a hostel there’s nothing really that you can do that can speed it up but I felt that, if I was filming it, that would be something active and that made me feel better.
It’s amazing the strength it must have taken to turn something so traumatic into something so positive and inspirational, do you think that that makes you unique, or would you encourage everyone to take back control, and turn things around for themselves?
Someone told me this is saying, which is a bit cheesy but it’s kind of true: “turn your poison into medicine”. And that was a situation that, looking back, gave me so much strength and, although if I had a choice I would maybe choose that it didn’t happen at all, it definitely gave us power. Being able to turn it into a film, meant that it almost kind of put it in a box and it was a portrait, then, to our family strength rather than looking back on a situation that was really tough. Now, I think, having filmed it means other people can watch it. When I’ve done screenings of it, single Mums have stood up and said that they’ve found strength in it and people that have been directly affected by housing struggles have been impacted by the film.
Even if you have never experienced anything like that – and maybe you’ve had a comfortable life – you can see that people will still relate to my family because they’re really just human portrayals, and so then they can put themselves in their shoes, and that’s really important for changing social and political narratives. So, I think, definitely, I’d just encourage anyone to be active, that’s the bottom line, so if something’s painful, be active to change that situation or to make it better – even at times when you feel depressed and it’s really awful, being active makes you feel better.
So, you describe filming it as taking back some of the power, is that ultimately what helped you get through the experience?
Definitely. For me, it was 100% a coping mechanism which then very fortunately turned into something bigger than that but at the time I was filming, and filming that every day, it was just purely for me to get through it. I think that’s why my Mum and my sister allowed me to film, even when things got really difficult, because they knew how important it was for me to film and so in that way they were very selfless. I think we all had different coping mechanisms but mine was definitely filming. And now it’s kind of a long-term coping mechanism for all of us because it’s still difficult when we watch the film, particularly for my Mum, but putting it in a box and knowing that our experience will help others and, you know, the dream would be to try to shape policy in some way, and knowing that our experience can help that allows us to cope with the past.
So, you are a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit, can you tell me a bit about that and how it happened?
I can’t remember what year it was now, was it 2015? Yeah? Well, during the time of being homeless I managed to get an internship at Vice so I worked my way up from intern to producer/director in the space of about a year and a half/two years (producing and directing documentaries for them), so the first film that I produced and directed for them was a film called Ice Man and it was a story that I told about a man who can control his immune system with his mind. I was really scared but my boss said I could do it so I went and did it and it turned out quite good, so that was something I was really proud of and then at the same time I had also finished Halfway and had had a couple of screenings by that point too and was then nominated for this BAFTA scheme because of those two films.
I guess a ‘ones to watch’ kind of thing, and it’s a really amazing scheme because I think often when you’re trying to get into film there’s not really a clear route, there’s a clear route if you’re rich and your family and friends are in film then it’s very easy to get into but sometimes, and particularly, I feel, as a working class woman, it feels quite impenetrable so the scheme was really instrumental in allowing me to meet different people, in allowing me to get advice, and also the recognition, just having it attached to your name is pretty amazing for opening doors and things like that, it is doable without something like BAFTA but it really helped a lot and also in terms of giving me confidence.
Did you deliberately make the crew of Halfway all female or was it an accident?
I do actually find it much easier and less tiring to work with women, I mean, it’s such a strong assumption, but I am a very strong feminist and I’m not afraid to say that I find, sometimes, when you work with men you have to talk loud or you have to wait, you know, women wait for each other to speak, (not all) men don’t wait for each everyone to speak. I just found it a much more nurturing environment, particularly with something as sensitive as my family, the people I wanted to be closest to me I wanted to be women and the sound engineer and the composer were men and they were incredible and I loved working with them. (They were considerate and listened and it was such a collaborative experience and I actually would love to work with them again and again and again).
The editor was definitely a conscious effort to be a woman. Not at the beginning, I interviewed about 20 different editors and I would just come away from the experience and they either wanted it to be too campaign-like or they would focus on the wrong parts, sometimes they were patronising, and I felt like I would never find someone that was right for it and I spoke to my friend and she said, “well, it sounds like you have been interviewing a lot of men, why don’t you try and find a female editor?”. So, then I started asking around and I found Vera Simmonds who is one of the most incredible editors I’ve ever met. We just met for half an hour and within just a few minutes of speaking we were just on completely the same page. She understood the responsibility of what it’s like sometimes carrying your Mum and she understood what it’s like to be in a female-centred family and she really just got it, and working with her was the most relaxing and creative, incredible, experience ever, I never felt that I had to fight for anything, ever, we always just got it together.
How has your Mum been a role model for you throughout your life?
She is my angel. My dissertation, you know when you have to write a dedication on your dissertation, mine is to my “angel Bevva”. She has just been, without getting all gushy, she is just the best thing ever, she is so strong, she’s been through so much, she brought up her brothers and sisters because her Mum walked out on her and she is selfless and kind and compassionate and she has no money but will give you her last penny, she is raw and emotionally open and sometimes I think, “Mum you have to stop crying a little bit now”, but I think, you know, and she told me to not be scared to be emotional and you can still be strong and be emotional, and she taught me to believe in myself, like, I never thought that I couldn’t do anything, she just told me that I could do anything I wanted which is amazing, yeah, she’s just the best!
My relationship with my Mum has made me very interested as a filmmaker in motherhood and that relationship, that very maternal and primal relationship between a mother and her daughter and hopefully that’s something I’ll explore in my future work.
Full interview in Issue Three