Manjinder Virk Oct14


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Manjinder Virk

Manjinder Virk. Photo by Phil Sharp

Manjinder Virk. Photo by Phil Sharp

Manjinder Virk on her new film, Out of Darkness 

As an actress, Manjinder Virk won great critical acclaim for her role as Lorraine Dunbar in Clio Barnard’s award winning film, The Arbor, about the life of playwright Andrea Dunbar. She also played the lead role of a British suicide bomber, Nasima in Peter Kosminsky’s BAFTA winning drama, BRITZ.

She has written, directed and produced her new short film, Out of Darkness, which premieres at the BFI London Film Festival this week. The film deals with the impact of death as an aid worker’s story is told through nine different voices. The cast includes Riz Ahmed, Jimmy Akingbola, Monica Dolan, Tom Hiddleston and Manjinder herself.

She told me more about the themes she wanted to explore in the script and challenges of making short films.

This is your second short – what was the inspiration for it?

Death and how different cultures deal with loss. My mum made a comment at a funeral about how some families allow their children to see death from a young age, how it isn’t hidden from them and it can stop them being scared of it. The first line for the film came from that conversation, “My mother always told me to look death in the face, to not be afraid of it.” I’d also experienced the loss of someone close to me and I was trying to understand what happens to them after life. Then I became interested in how people in situations of war deal with the impact of witnessing death first hand, on a daily basis – especially aid workers. I spoke to an aid worker and they talked about how they are almost expected to carry on as normal after witnessing violent death but how it can catch up with them later.

You’re the writer, producer and director on this project – what’s been the hardest part of the process?

Because it started as a small project I didn’t think I’d have to do so much after I’d finished the film! Having no producer means I’ve had to do a lot of admin and submitting it to festivals, etc. That takes an awful lot of time when I’d rather be working on other creative projects. Because it started as a small project I didn’t think I’d have to do so much after I’d finished the film. Saying that it’s been a wonderful learning experience.

Manjinder Virk & Tom Hiddleston on the set of 'Out of Darkness'. Photo by Tom Sharp

Manjinder Virk & Tom Hiddleston on the set of ‘Out of Darkness’. Photo by Phil Sharp

As advice to others, do you think doing as much of the process yourself is the easiest way to get it done?

Yes and no. Making films is about collaboration and making shorts is a great way of finding people you can collaborate with. Doing it yourself means you can just get on with it, it is easy to make films now as nearly everyone has access to a camera, even if it’s your iPhone! But on the other hand, it’s really good to make work with experienced producers, crews, production companies, with a budget and there are talent schemes that can really support and develop you as an artist.

You’ve got a pretty stellar cast, did that make any difference to getting attention from festivals?

Competition is so fierce now, especially in shorts. Every year more and more people are making shorts, which is great and having a brilliant cast helps but it can only get you so far, it still has to be good film.

I’ve started to watch more shorts recently, I avoided it in when I was making Out of Darkness as I didn’t want to be influenced by what is or isn’t out there. Vimeo is fantastic for discovering exciting shorts.

I’d love to make a feature one day. Shorts are good to find your feet as a director, without the pressure of a full length film. Ultimately I’m drawn towards stories that I want to tell and be a part of telling – whether that’s as an actress, writer or director.

Out Of Darkness premieres at the London Film Festival this week, playing 17th and 19th October. It will also be screened at Aesthetica short film festival in York from Nov 7-10th.
See the trailer
:  Manjinder Virk on Twitter: @manjinder_virk