Emotional Fusebox

Shorts Nominees 2015 | Emotional Fusebox

Rachel Tunnard is the writer and director of Emotional Fusebox, a comedy drama nominated for Best British Short Film at the British Academy Film Awards in 2015. Named as one of BAFTA's Brits to Watch in 2011, Tunnard offers her top tips on breaking into the industry, and reveals how she went about filming, funding and promoting her film…

Describe Emotional Fusebox in a couple of lines…

Emotional Fusebox is a battle of wills between Anna - who lives in a shed at the bottom of her Mum’s garden and wants to stay there – and her Mum, who has other ideas.

It was commissioned, not as a short film, but as a pilot for my feature film, How To Live Yours, which we shot in Autumn 2014. Emotional Fusebox uses the same characters and world as the longer story.

What were you doing before you started making films?

I have worked as a film editor / edit assistant for over a decade. Prior to that, I was at university and working a variety of jobs…cleaning, people counting on the street and doing the night shift at a book binding factory.

Can you sum up how you’ve made it to this point? What are the incremental steps you’ve taken to be where you are now?

I was lucky in the beginning with an opportunity on a film that was well beyond my experience – and then I just did what every rational person would do… I panicked, made lots of tea and tried to force people to like me so I couldn’t get fired.

I didn’t have any contacts in the film industry and, coming from up North, it never occurred to me when I was younger that I could make a film. Everything since then has been an unending cycle of opportunity, panic, tea making and befriending. Even when I was directing the feature film it was the same thing: befriending the crew and actors and being humble and nice is probably the only thing I’d say that is vital on a project. If people like you, and if they like your film as their film too, then they’ll go the extra mile and elevate your ideas beyond anything you thought possible.

How did you pull your crew together for Emotional Fusebox?

Having worked in the industry for quite a while, I was fortunate to know lots of crew and to be able to pull together the people I liked and respected the most. I also asked other people who they liked working with and who might respond to the script and to me.

We shot early in January, so most people we approached were available (as other productions hadn’t started after Christmas).

What was the process of getting Jodie Whittaker on board?

Jodie had no choice about playing the part because I wrote it for her and she is one of my best friends. The character of Anna is a mix of me, her and Rachael (who plays Fiona) who I met at university and who is Jodie’s best friend from when they were like, born.

What did you find most difficult about making the film?

I needed to wear five times more clothes than everyone else because I get so cold. Our brilliant first AD Elaine MacKenzie kept layering me up to the point where I couldn’t bend my arms. The gaffer was in shorts though – showing off his superior circulation.

Looking back [at the film], is there anything that you’d do differently?

I’d not film outside, in a shed, in January in the Peak District.

How much did Emotional Fusebox cost to make?

I think, in total, about 24K.

How did you fund it?

We were very kindly funded by Creative England / BFI Net.Work, who were awesome.

I should also say that I was personally supported* by CBTF (the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund) – because I was completely skint. They have also helped with some funds towards coming to the BAFTAs this weekend; otherwise I couldn’t really afford it. I received a grant from the John Brabourne Award for travel and train fares from Sheffield to London all year.

How did you promote your film?

We haven’t really done much to be honest. I have a love hate relationship with social media and I find using Facebook and Twitter to talk about work a bit like showing off. I do it, but it makes me feel ill. Luckily, lots of other people have talked about the project on our behalf, which saves me the embarrassment. 

How did you choose where to submit it?

You’d have to ask Michael Berliner the producer. I think we just went for London Film Festival actually and the other things have been a result of the success of that. The situation was a bit different because it was a pilot, not just a short film. It was commissioned after I had written the feature film basically to see if I could direct – because I hadn’t directed anything before.  So the objective wasn’t to make a film that does well on the festival scene, it was to get the feature film past the post. Which it did.

We are keen now to get it out online, via Vimeo etc., to reach a bigger audience.

In 2011 you were named one of BAFTA's Brits to Watch. Has this initiative helped you and your career?

Massively. You can’t underestimate how the word ‘BAFTA’ changes perceptions about a scruffy Northern woman like me. It essentially opened doors - and once they were opened I had my foot straight in there.

What’s next?

Panicking, making tea and befriending people.

What’s your plan for awards night – networking/ celeb-spotting/ getting drunk and dancing on tables?

I’m going to get drunk and try to touch Channing Tatum’s biceps.