📷 : Stewart Bywater
Louisa Connolly-Burnham’s first major role was being cast as Shannon Kelly in Series 1-3 of Wolfblood with the show proving a huge hit on CBBC and she also joined House of Anubis in 2013 as series regular Willow Jenks. Having launched her own production company, Thimble Films, in January this year, Louisa has directed, written and produced her debut short film The Call Centre, in which she stars as Paige. The Call Centre is currently having international success at film festivals, with Louisa being nominated for Best Producer, and will continue its run on the festival circuit until late 2020. Catching up with Louisa recently, she chats about being in the cast of Wolfblood, launching Thimble Films and her short production The Call Centre.
Can you tell us about Thimble Films?
Once I had the idea for The Call Centre, I knew I wanted to make it under my own production company which is why I launched Thimble Films in January 2019 when we went into pre-production for the film. I always knew that I one day wanted to launch a company that I could create my own work through and the name came from a life-long hobby of collecting thimbles (super cool I know). I also really want Thimble Films to be a platform for other people’s work, women in particular, as there’s still a clear misbalance of representation in the industry.
As a director, writer and producer, you have made The Call Centre, what can you say about the production?
Paige, an introverted, unassuming young woman, spends her days setting up people’s life insurance in a drab North London call centre. She is bored of her life, longing for intimacy and connection that she unexpectedly finds on the phone with a customer called David. Convinced there was something between them, she decides to break the rules to go and find him. An adventure fuelled first by loneliness and lust turns into something much darker when Paige finds herself out of depth with a total stranger.
How does it feel having your film premiered at festivals and being nominated for Best Producer?
I honestly can’t believe how well it’s been doing – so far, it’s made the official selection at the Oscar-affiliated Foyle Film Festival along with a nomination for “Best International Film”, Aesthetica Film Festival and Underwire Film Festival along with a “Best Producer” nomination. I really love and believe in the film but I guess as a first-time female filmmaker, I just really wasn’t expecting all the success we’ve had so far – I’m completely over the moon and long may it continue!
Where will the film be released in the future?
Once The Call Centre has finished its festival circuit at the end of 2020, we will release it online – we’re not exactly sure where yet but will be discussing this with short film distributors in due course and will let everyone know as soon as possible.
How long was The Call Centre in the making?
I began writing The Call Centre in November 2018, we filmed in March 2019 and finished post-production in July and were submitting to film festivals by August. I’ve been told we actually got it made relatively quickly – often projects like this take years!
Had you always wanted to become a writer and director of your own productions?
I have always loved writing ever since I was a child and would have wanted to study English at university had I not become an actress. The passion for directing only really came in my late-teens/early twenties when I started to act more regularly and spent more time on sets. Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of directors that have told me they think I should direct, probably because I’m bossy, but I guess I was always bursting with ideas that went beyond just my performance as an actress and they must have seen that in me. I’ve always been really interested and excited by the different pieces of the puzzle that we call film and I’m so happy I now have a chance to explore that.
Where does your love of acting come from?
I get asked this question a lot and I’m not really sure how to pinpoint where it all started. None of my family are in the arts as such, but they’re certainly a very loud bunch that like to show off at the dinner table. From the age of about four, I used to put on little plays with my Grandad Eric and my Nanny Anne would film them on an old camcorder and little brought me more joy than those moments. I also remember being FURIOUS when I wasn’t cast as The Virgin Mary in my school nativity play, so perhaps that was an early sign? (I was the third shepherd from the left).
What was it like filming The Marine 6: Close Quarters as Sarah Dillon?
Marine 6 was my first ever action movie and it was unbelievably fun running around covered in mud and blood, dodging bullets and explosions, and there was even a RACCOON (long story)… but the best thing about this job was the fact that my great friend James Nunn directed it, so it was awesome getting to work with him.
How was it appearing in Death in Paradise?
I mean it was a month shooting in the Caribbean with a bunch of legends… what more can I say?
You played Shannon in Wolfblood, what was it like being part of the popular series?
Wolfblood was my big break when I was nineteen, so it holds a very special place in my heart and all the cast are still the best of friends. My character Shannon initially comes across as a bit of a geek, but in reality she’s fearless, funny, loyal and a bit of a badass. The fan base for this show blows my mind daily, I still get approached when I’m out and receive wonderful messages all the time – I have so much love for our Wolfblood followers and I hope they all know that. I think people really connected with Wolfblood because the show focused on the outcasts, the weirdos, and it glorified being smart and kind and accepting. The important things.
What was Willow Jenks like to play in House of Anubis?
It was so lovely to play Willow in-between shooting seasons of playing Shannon in Wolfblood because the characters were polar opposites. There was such a freedom with playing Willow because the stakes weren’t as high and she was pretty wild and quirky. Again, all of the House of Anubis cast are still super close and I feel very lucky to have been welcomed into such a special family for Season Three.
After being a series regular on both shows, what do feel you learnt from your time on them?
Turn up on time, be prepared, know your lines, be kind to everyone, make people tea and make your mark.
What do you enjoy about acting on stage?
The great thing about stage is having proper rehearsal time and the immediacy of the audience’s reaction. It’s quite addictive actually, there’s no thrill like it, terrifying but brilliant. I’d love to do more, it’s a real passion of mine and I’m dying to do some Shakespeare.
What are your upcoming career plans?
I have a few projects in development with my production company Thimble Films as I’m really keen to direct again and, of course, continue my first love of acting – watch this space!
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