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The Making of Annabel Lee: An Interview with Angel Parker

Angel Parker as Annabel Lee

The original Edgar Allen Poe poem was written in 1849 but the Annabel Lee film project began in 2018 as a Kickstarter. Fifty-three backers funded the production of this Gothic short film, written by Angel Parker, who appears as Annabel in the film.

After speaking with actor/co-producer Nathaniel Parker, today I interview the film’s writer and lead actress:

Angel Parker

1.       What about Poe’s Annabel Lee poem inspired you to write a script?

Well, I first had the poem handed to me when I was in my teens and a friend suggested we develop it, so that was my first intro to this! For the longest time after that, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. It’s such a beautiful portrait of love and grief – it felt so visual. 

I really liked the idea of making a film that was not a direct transcription of the source material but could be one of many interpretations of it.  Edgar Allan Poe is obviously such a master of mystery and that it leaves endless space for interpretation. And I’ve always been so interested by the lines between fantasy and reality, which is probably why I’m drawn to Poe’s stories and poetry, so I found the idea of getting to explore that in this project really exciting!

2.       The poem is 170 years old – why do you think it endures?

I think that humans are always trying to find ways of expressing both love and grief, because every person experiences them differently. And what’s beautiful about this poem is it doesn’t try to be universal, it focuses on the narrator’s specific, unique experience and I think people are really drawn to that. 

3.       What were the most challenging parts of writing and filming the Annabel Lee short film?

In the process of writing, that would have to be the constant job of balancing the fantasy with the reality.  One of the major themes that interested me was how grief, fear and obsession distorts people’s perception. So it was a constant game of paralleling what E. was seeing versus what Annabel was seeing versus what I had decided was actually happening. After that we could get to the fun bit of deciding what to tease out and show to the audience. So it was a massive learning experience for me as a storyteller! 

Then when it actually came to filming, the hardest part for me was honestly the cold! Because by that point my job of writer was essentially over and I just had to turn up as an actress. The crew looked after us so well, but at the end of the day we were shooting in Devon in December and most of the time I was running around barefoot in a white nighty and getting into the sea.

I’m clumsy as anything as well so when I couldn’t feel my feet things got a bit problematic. One day I managed to do a spectacular trip headfirst into the camera, dragging Alex along with me. But it meant I learned there are many many ways to store hand warmers in your costumes. At one point when I had to lie down in the sea, the team actually built me a little bed of hot water bottles to lie on and would just pile coats right on top of me in between takes which didn’t stop our lovely medic having to take me off set because I went blue! 

4.       What parts of the process did you love the most?

I really love the process of redrafting. It was so cool to get to sit down with people who cared as much about this story as I did and get to hash out the themes and the characters and all the backstory for hours. I found that process really good fun.

And then the adventure of shooting down in Devon in such mad conditions and to be amongst people who were just throwing themselves into it was really special. Oh, and I got to fall off a cliff backwards in the dark which made me feel pretty badass.

5.       Did you learn anything about your art (or life) while making it?

I definitely learned about the importance of hot water bottles! But I think, if anything, doing this project really gave me the confidence to make films without the use of conventional storytelling. Being passionate about the story you want to tell and finding other people who are passionate about it too is really liberating. And that kind of supportive environment can create really exciting ideas.

It was also one of my first forays behind the camera, so I got to experience first hand the work and dedication that it takes just to get a project to filming, never mind through post and to being a finished product. Lots of actors don’t get the chance to see that because they’re there for so little of the process, so I feel really lucky to have had that experience.

6.       What do you hope audiences take away from the film?

One thing I really hope they come away with is questions! So much of the story is there for interpretation, and even though I wrote it with my own idea of what’s going on, I like that we’re giving the viewer space for their own perception.

But I mostly hope that people remember the characters and their love story because the idea behind the ambiguity and strangeness of the world we’ve put them is to symbolise that we live in an unknowable world, so what really matters are the connections that we make with other people. The only solid thing throughout the whole film is Annabel and E’s relationship, so all we have to follow is their reactions to things we don’t understand and the way that changes them as individuals and people who love each other.

In the end it doesn’t really matter what is chasing them or even if they are being chased at all in the eyes of the viewer, what matters is that they’ve found something really sacred and that will still have its own life even when one or both of them are gone.

Find out more about Annabel Lee:

Host a Screening
Love Annabel Lee and want to show our film at your short film festival?  Contact: info@annabellee.film

The Making of Annabel Lee: An Interview with Nathaniel Parker

The original Edgar Allen Poe poem was written in 1849 but the Annabel Lee film project began in 2018 as a Kickstarter. Fifty-three backers funded the production of this Gothic short film, written by Angel Parker, who appears as Annabel in the film.

Nathaniel Parker, perhaps best known for his lead role in the Inspector Lynley series and playing Agravaine de Bois in Merlin, plays the priest in this film and also came on board as a producer.

As Annabel Lee does the rounds of the short film festivals, I was fortunate to be able to interview some of the people behind it: and today I interview:

Nathaniel Parker

1.       What inspired you to take part in a story about Poe’s Annabel Lee?

Actually, I didn’t know it very well before Angel introduced me to it. That’s one of the benefits of having such an imaginative daughter! I had heard of it and I read it wondering how Angel could possibly tackle it. Well, she did, didn’t she!

2.       The poem is 170 years old – why do you think it endures?

Nearly as old as me. Well, all good literature survives the test of time. Not all of Shakespeare does, but the stuff that does is a joy. So too with poets. Look at Blake or Rumi. Like them, Poe hits at your heart. Those heart-driven emotions never seem to change, do they?

3.       What were the most challenging parts of producing and filming the Annabel Lee short film?

Oh, blimey, where do I start? Raising the money was so daunting. Then Robson (Green) appeared, then my family, then Melanie (Roylance). I feel blessed, I really do.  

But that was just the beginning.  Finding the right director, the right actors, the crew.  These are all things I had never done before. I mean I have been around for quite a while, but not in this capacity. So exciting. Luckily, I had Angel as an anchor.  She knows even less about the technical side, but her inspiration drove me. I couldn’t believe I was getting a chance to work with my daughter on such a wonderful project. I know it sounds soppy, at least that is what my mother would have said, but it’s true.  Again, how blessed am I?  

Then, of course there was the first night. After so much preparation, getting cottages, and buying food, and transporting and all the other logistics, the first night we lost 5-6 hours thanks to the camera truck going off the single-track road. I was up that night until 4 a.m. cleaning pans for the food for the next day’s lunch. Then up at 6 a.m. That was an experience. Oh, and you know what else was challenging, coming off the same single-track road 2 days later in my car, and escaping, if not death, a really nasty accident. But all this was completely forgotten when I was on set and saw Angel and Alex acting their socks off. That was when I cried!

4.       What did you love the most about making it?

I think I just answered that question. The pride swelled up in me and I don’t think there was one time when they were on set that I didn’t have at least a wee tear.

5.       Did you learn anything about your art (or life) while making it?

I learnt I that have more than one life.  I may even be a cat, although I am allergic. I watched with admiration Angel’s imagination play out. Life is a compromise. The world wouldn’t turn otherwise, but art is pretty true. Joy.

6.       What do you hope audiences take away from the film?

I hope they don’t take only the angst I have highlighted. I hope they take away that life is complicated, and that love is demanding.  And that, if this was my little Angel’s first foray into screen writing: a) anyone can do it!  (honestly, she was a dyslexic little thing to start with), and b) follow those dreams!

Find out more about Annabel Lee:

Host a Screening
Love Annabel Lee and want to show our film at your short film festival?  Contact: info@annabellee.film

The Neighbours of Night Terrace: Lee Zachariah

The Kickstarter for the third season of the brilliant radio SF comedy, Night Terrace, is entering its final third. In celebration, I’m interviewing a number of people involved with the previous two seasons and the current series!

Today it’s:

Lee Zachariah

who is a Night Terrace writer and infrequent email replier for Night Terrace Season 1, Season 2 and the current Season 3 Kickstarter.

How did you get involved in Night Terrace?

John, Ben, Petra and David wanted to capitalise on the roaring success of Splendid Chaps, and create an audio science fiction series. They asked me to come along and help create it, which was pretty flattering.

Why did you get involved?

Writing an audio comedy science fiction series with your friends, featuring many of Australia’s best actors and comedians, and everybody gets paid? Why wouldn’t I get involved?

What do you love about the show?

So many things. I love the mythology it’s built up, even if I find it tricky to keep track of sometimes and end up having to text John when I forget a back story or key piece of continuity. But being able to put a comedic twist on classic science fiction tropes is a heap of fun, and I think the show provides the perfect structure in which to do that.

What’s your favourite line/quote from NT?

Right at this moment, purely by virtue of it being the line I’ve thought most about the past few weeks, is a line from the beginning of one of my season three episodes. And it’s not from any of the main characters, either. I probably shouldn’t pick one of my own bits, but teasing the next season feels like a savvy use of this answer.

What’s the best feedback you’ve had about the series?

A friend of mine described in great detail an embarrassing outburst of laughter on public transport at a joke in the first season. The purity of that reaction can’t really be beat, although certified famous person Neil Gaiman praising us on Twitter comes awfully close.

What key skill would you bring if you ended up travelling in time and space with the crew?

Being killed off early, thus increasing the odds of everyone else making it out alive

Would you like to travel in time and space with Anastasia, Eddie and Sue?

Sure.

Really?

Hm. When you put it that way…

Today, 15 November, the Kickstarter has cracked the $18,000 mark. Can we kick it up to $19K today?

Be part of the next season of Night Terrace! Zip over to Kickstarter to listen to the very first episode, and pick your pledge level!

The Neighbours of Night Terrace: Petra Elliott

The Kickstarter for the third season of the brilliant radio SF comedy, Night Terrace, is entering its final third. In celebration, I’m interviewing a number of people involved with the previous two seasons and the current series!

Today it’s:

Petra Elliott

portrait photo of Petra Elliot

who is a Night Terrace co-creator and actor (playing Sue Denholm) in Night Terrace Season 1, Season 2 and the current Season 3 Kickstarter.

How did you get involved in Night Terrace?

I met Ben when I first moved to Melbourne, and we’d worked together before on Museum Comedy. He invited me to co-host the very first episode of Splendid Chaps, which is when I met John, David and Lee. It was only supposed to be a one off gig, but I must’ve done okay, coz they asked me back for every future trillion episodes.

By the end of a year of Splendid Chaps, we knew that project had to end but wanted to keep working together, highlighting each of our individual set of creative skills, and … TA DA!! Night Terrace was born. 

Why did you get involved?

I’d enjoyed bringing the comedic scripts written by John and Ben to life for each Splendid Chaps episode, and by the end I was comfortable enough to riff along with them – and even insert gags to surprise them! It was a dynamic I loved, and I honestly would’ve signed up to continue doing anything with them.

When John announced the Night Terrace concept to the Splendid Chaps Christmas episode live audience, and they responded with SUCH a big cheer, I knew then and there it was a project worth making. 

What do you love about the show?

Our recording days are such a big hoot, so it’s undeniable that I love the process of making the show. How the hell did we convince such amazing humans to share their talent with our little project? 
But also, I’ve listened to these episodes A LOT! Not just for dramaturgy and promo purposes, but because I legitimately enjoy them. And I still enjoy them, after all the re-listens. The jokes, concepts and story arc conceived by John, Ben, David and Lee are simply delightful. I can’t believe I not only get to add my 2 cents to these adventures, but also get to speak the lines as Sue. I’m a lucky girl.

What’s your favourite line/quote from NT?

This is from the live episode, written by all of the lads (see how I don’t pick favourites?!). We got together to do a table read of this episode: it’s always fun when the whole cast can get together ahead of recording days to bond, discover our characters, explain the scifi gags to each other and watch the script come to life. Also, I’ve always loved the Schrödinger dilemma. 

ANASTASIA: No, that was Schrödinger. And also wasn’t Schrödinger. Long story. 

Bloody Ben. Copy cat. Scratch that. My favourite is.. 

SUE: How much do you know about the Uncertainty Principle? 

EDDIE: I’m not sure. 

What’s the best feedback you’ve had about the series?

Being broadcast by BBC Radio 4 Extra was amazing, and helped me realise we’d truly made a high quality product worthy of recognition by industry peers we’ve admired for a very long time. 

The ultimate feedback, though, is the number of Splendid Chaps fans who not only believed in this project enough to back us the first time, but then jumped straight back in for another season, and another. That tells me we’re getting it right! 

I really hope we reach our crowd-funding target as I want to continue sharing the stories of Anastasia, Eddie and Sue for everyone who’s shown us such magnificent support. 

What key skill would you bring if you ended up travelling in time and space with the crew?

More ginger. 

Would you like to travel in time and space with Anastasia, Eddie and Sue?

I think I would. Being stuck in one time and place means you can lose perspective, so taking a look at things on a different planet or alternate point in history might give me the insight I need to make sense of what’s happening in our own hectic world right now.

Really?

I dunno. Ask me tomorrow. 

Would you like to be part of the next season of Night Terrace? Zip over to Kickstarter to listen to the very first episode, and pick your pledge level!