Preston teenager’s short film to premiere in New York’s Times Square

Posted on - 1st October, 2022 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Competitions, Preston News, Proud Preston, Uncategorized
The Snake and the Apple tells the story of writer Holly. Pic Millie Hine

A short film written and directed by a student from Preston will premiere on the big screen at a film festival in New York later this month. Written and directed by 17-year-old Millie Hine, The Snake and the Apple was selected from over 4,000 entries to feature at the All American High School Film Festival. Millie is only one of two filmmakers from England to have been selected for the festival, which is now in its tenth year. Filmed on location in Preston, The Snake and the Apple cleverly blends fantasy with real life, telling the story of writer Holly and her family struggles. We spoke to Millie to find out more.

First of all, congratulations on being selected to show The Snake and the Apple at the All American High School Film Festival. How does it feel to have a film selected?

Thank you so much – it still feels a little surreal! It’s a festival I have had my eye on for a long time. It was the one festival that would just be a dream to be selected for, although given that so many submissions are from students in film schools or young people who already have a foot in the film industry door, I almost didn’t enter. It’s an amazing feeling to know that someone sees something in your story. It’s certainly given me a new sense of confidence in my filmmaking – and just the idea of having the film premiere in Times Square… I don’t think it’s sunk in, even now!

Tell me a little bit about what inspired you to write the script. 

I’d had the idea of ‘a story about telling a story’ rolling around in my head for a little while. Writing is definitely an outlet for me, so I boiled the concept back to why I wanted to tell a story about a story. The result was a character called Holly and her troubles with her family and the book she uses to save herself. I think I gave a little bit of myself to that idea and the results gave back in the most fulfilling way a filmmaker can ask for. Plus, my love of fantasy films – we’re not quite at Lord of the Rings level yet but even they started off as words on a page!

Millie with the cast and crew of The Snake and the Apple. Pic Millie Hine
Millie with the cast and crew of The Snake and the Apple. Pic Millie Hine

Where is the film set and where did you shoot it? 

The film is set in Preston. Growing up surrounded by so much greenery, I think my mind tried to paint the scenes into these locations by default. I’d go on a few extra dog walks in the lead up to filming to map out the scenes in a little more detail, but I think I ended up adapting to whatever felt right on the day. It was great fun being able to film so locally – especially when we’d have a few onlookers who were curious to see what we were up to!

It looks like you worked with a great cast and crew, who else has been involved?

Definitely, they put up with near hypothermia and my tiny budget to bring The Snake and the Apple to life. The audition process saw around 40 actors interested, which, after reviewing each audition, I was able to boil down to two incredible actors.

The actress who plays Holly came up from Devon for the ten days we were shooting. After a lengthy chat, she insisted that she loved the script enough to want to make such a big commitment, and I couldn’t be more grateful. She was exceptional. And, to complete the pair, the amazing actress who played Grace brought such a brilliant edge to the character. There was certainly a complexity to the characters due to the duality of their personalities which, as a director, was a challenge I couldn’t wait to get stuck into, and they approached it with such confidence and passion, it was as though they’d been playing the characters for months.

In terms of our crew, I have to owe my thanks to my college. As this project had more components, I knew from the start that I was looking for a strong crew. I approached the media department at college which put forward their best students as a potential crew. As I’m not a film student, I was so grateful for this offer, and so, alongside some of my close friends who had helped out with some of my previous films, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer crew!

Forty actors showed interest in auditioning for the parts of Holly and Grace. Pic Millie Hine
Forty actors showed interest in auditioning for the parts of Holly and Grace. Pic Millie Hine

Were there any challenges shooting?  

From rain to COVID, to a limited budget to broken lights, there were certainly hiccups along the way. But in all honesty, it was all part of the fun. I learnt so much making this film – more than any of my other films – and if things hadn’t gone wrong here and there, I don’t know if I’d have had that same experience. About halfway through filming, we thought we’d lose the actress who plays Grace to a ten-day isolation period. It was the biggest ‘back to the drawing board’ moment I think I’ve ever had – but as we all sat around the table, warmed up with some cups of tea, and thought hard, the greatest fears of making this film seemed to come out as a great feeling of bravery. I think I’d drafted an entire second version of the film in my head in ten minutes without the character of Grace. It was terrifying, but it was thrilling. And in some ways, I’d like to have seen how that film turned out.

And what has been the most enjoyable aspect? 

I think there are these special moments when you’re making a film. It’s always lingering, kind of making itself present when you’re writing the script. But then when it comes to actually filming, actually directing, there are these little sparks that go off like fireworks and you fall in love with your film all over again. I’d like to think it’s the same with any kind of art. It’s what makes getting up at six in the morning to stand in the rain for five hours to film a scene worth it.  

Millie enjoyed working with the actresses who played Grace and Holly. Pic Millie Hine

I saw that it has already won some awards, tell me about those. 

The film’s lucky enough to have won best screenplay at UPIKE Film and Media Arts Festival, where we held a live table read of the film. We also featured in the Lift-Off Global First Time Filmmaking Session and were included in the official sections at Reel Girls Film Festival for best screenplay, which we only lost because I won with another screenplay! We’ve also been selected to feature in the Student World Impact Film Festival, where we’re currently in talks to get the film on Amazon Prime. We’re awaiting some more results in the next few months, too, so hopefully, some more film festivals will be on the way. Of course, having the film premiere in Times Square is something I’ll be forever grateful for – so anything that gets even close to topping that would be amazing!

Is this your first film? 

No, but it’s the first film that’s seen this kind of response. I think films have always been a constant in my life, and I’ve always been writing and trying to film my stories. So, with the opportunities that college presented me, I was really able to let my passion direct me towards something a bit more substantial. There’s definitely still a long way for my filmmaking to go, but The Snake and the Apple is the project I’m the proudest of – the one I’m most willing to share beyond friends and family!

Millie was inspired to shoot The Snake and the Apple locally. Pic Millie Hine
Millie was inspired to shoot The Snake and the Apple locally. Pic Millie Hine

What do you enjoy about screenwriting and filmmaking? 

It’s got to be the magic of a story. I’ve always told stories, for as long as I can remember. You can pour a bit of yourself into them and encapsulate a feeling in a way that’s interesting and exciting. Mix that feeling with a blank piece of paper and a camera and you can share those stories. At least, that’s the way I do it. 

Are you studying film at college? 

No, I’m actually studying English Literature, Maths, and History! Although I’ve certainly found my way to the media department at college a few times since starting my A levels. Although I enjoy the study of film, I like the idea that taking subjects that don’t directly address film have pushed me to learn how to make films in my own way, and with a different spectrum of ideas for the camera.

The Snake and the Apple was shot on location in Preston. Pic Millie Hine
The Snake and the Apple will be shown at the All American High School Film Festival in Times Square in October. Pic Millie Hine

I saw that you have won awards for some of your other scripts, tell me a bit about those.

I’ve written three feature screenplays, the first of which won at the Reel Girls Film Festival when I was fourteen. It was the first feature script I’d written and the first festival I’d entered, winning seemed to open up a door in my mind that hadn’t been able to open before. From there, I adapted Lord of the Flies into a feature film and the lives of the members of the youth-resistance group in Nazi Germany, The White Rose, into a feature film. The White Rose went on to win Best Drama at Gil International Screenwriting awards and as a finalist in the Monthly Film Festival, which saw it up against professional screenwriters, so I was happy with coming in the top six. I’m currently looking at pitching The White Rose and getting it in front of producers to help bring it to life, too!

What are your plans for the future?

I’ve got another film in the works at the moment, with A-level exams on the horizon, it’s taking a little longer to get this story to a final draft. However, putting away the textbooks to start chipping away at the screenplay has become routine by now. It’s a great way to contrast an intense revision session of logarithms and differentiation.

I’m approaching this film from a different angle this time, too – writing it as a feature film and a short film. While I’m hoping to get the short film shot over the summer of 2023, having the feature film adaptation in the background gives the short film a great scope of potential. The short film, and slightly longer writing process, also gives us chance to reach out to potential sponsors, investors, and time to build up a budget.

I’m hoping to study English Literature at university. Although I’ve considered studying film, I really wanted to develop my skills as a storyteller, understanding how others did it so that I might do it, too. I’m also looking at getting my application for Oxford sorted in the next few weeks, too – so just hoping all of that goes well!

But even with studying English next year, I’m flexible to wherever filmmaking takes me. If a producer picked up my screenplay tomorrow or an amazing film course presented itself to me, I’d certainly be open to that. I think I’m looking at studying for an MA at the National Film and Television School, or studying in the USA, after university. I think it’s just about whatever lets me tell the best stories. And right now, studying English Literature feels like the right way forward. But no matter what, I’ll always keep writing and I’ll always be filming. 

You can subscribe to Millie Hine’s YouTube Channel and follow Millie Hine’s filmmaking Instagram account.

You can view The Snake and the Apple here.

The Snake and The Apple will be shown at the All American High School Film Festival on Saturday 22 October 2022.

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