Sarah Brocklehurst: Interview

The Brit producer on how she came to work on her first feature, comedy drama Black Pond.

Published on 8 February 2012.

What first inspired you to get into your craft?
Working in entertainment has always been my dream. I love the challenge of building productions from scratch, orchestrating collaborations, solving problems, surmounting the insurmountable, telling stories, making people think and feel. Producing is my lifeblood.

How did you first break into the industry?
Well, I find it hard to say that I’ve broken into the industry at all! Black Pond is the first film I’ve made and my involvement resulted from an existing working partnership, and indeed friendship, with Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley [Black Pond’s writer and co-directors].

I had produced a lot of theatre while at university and as we were graduating, I managed the Cambridge Footlights sketch show UK tour which Will and Tom wrote and directed. Since then, I have acquired deep respect for their talent, humour and diligent uncompromising work ethic. When they asked me in 2009 whether I’d produce Black Pond, I was delighted to join in their mad ambition and do all I could to support them and get the film made.
Which professional figure in your field do you find the most inspiring?
Anne Garefino. For her fearless drive to produce in any medium (film, TV, theatre), for cultivating a wildly successful partnership with Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and for being an all-conquering woman in a man’s world.

If you hadn’t managed to break into your field, what was your plan B?
There was a brief frolic of training to become a barrister, but we don’t talk about that anymore! Producing film and theatre is the only existence that can keep me happy. No more plan Bs.

Which film/TV programme do you wish you could have worked on?
Dr Strangelove. The Muppet Show.

What single piece of advice would you give to a young person trying to break into your discipline and get noticed? How do you stand out from the crowd?
Don’t wait around for others to give you the opportunities you seek. If you want to produce, go out and produce. If you want to direct, then get hold of a camera and start shooting as much as you can. Trust your ambition, learn from your mistakes, persevere and work very hard.

Were there any people who supported/mentored/championed you in the early stages of your career? How important are these kinds of relationships?
I learnt a great deal about film finance from Michael Henry at Limelight Films. Stage One and the Society of London Theatre supported me and gave me the opportunity to work as an apprentice producer with the inspirational Sonia Friedman.  Most importantly, Will and Tom trusting the flexibility and strength of our partnership, giving me the chance to make a debut in film.

How do you think the UK film/TV industry will change in the next few years?
Hopefully the next few years will bring out many more young, talented, driven filmmakers who realise that they can make great work themselves, without the budgets of yesteryear, nor the permission of others. It’d be nice to see more women here as well.

Find out more about the Outstanding Debut Award presented in honour of Carl Foreman.