The People Behind The Film
We have a confession to make. We have a bit of a soft spot for Theresa Varga. She’s about as pretentious as an Abrams M1 Main Battle Tank but a lot more cheerful. A grin and a chirpy smile are rarely absent from her face. The smile may be a mask (more about that later), but there is also the small matter of a huge talent and a dynamic, imaginative approach to film making that is both visually and dramatically enticing. So, we make no apologies for featuring her outstanding, and gloriously quirky ‘Mustard’, a mere two months after we had already posted ‘YouTroll’. Both films involved the creative input of Nathan Bryon , but ‘Mustard’ was far more weighted to Theresa’s inspiration. Underneath the nervous energy and open visage there is nonetheless a hint of something tough and unyielding. I imagine that her set is all bonhomie, jokes and banter, but everything still kept to a tight schedule, and everyone conscious whenever she is speaking.
There’s something you want to retain about being northern
Raised in a “really shitty town” in Yorkshire (that she can’t help but love anyway), in a family of five sisters and one brother (by parents with no artistic leanings), is not the most obvious route to movie success (which surely must come). While at school she suffered from bullying and became isolated from the other pupils. This experience is now informing her work and, especially, the characters. Theresa’s school life wasn’t happy, and she spent most of the time being anywhere other than in school. It was how she could get away from the “pressures of other kids!” She moved to London to study at the London College of Fashion where she eventually elected to study fashion journalism. While on the course, she realised that she actually hated fashion, but loved the broadcast element, and booked herself on to the film making course at Ravensbourne College in Greenwich (the one in London, where time begins and ends – effectively the centre of the universe). Suddenly finding herself in a stimulating environment where everyone is both incredibly competitive yet, at the same time, supportive, helped confirm that she had made the right choices. Mustard was her final graduation film, and immediately gained attention at the festivals it entered. It won the Ideas Tap Showcase in association with BAFTA whose judges lauded its “whimsical and visually eccentric” style. At the New York No Limits Film Series End of Year Summit, her film was highlighted and she took Q & A’s at the screening with some of Hollywood’s top directors. So, suck on that Doncaster.
The character was very OCD, so I wanted the film to be OCD as well
Theresa finds inspiration everywhere, particularly the Route 39 Putney to Clapham bus. She’ll sit there and look out the window and start daydreaming. What on earth she saw that could have made Mustard pop into her head, I don’t know. It is a quietly disturbing film, in which innocence has been corrupted, murder done and eggs broken. It started out as a simple tale for Theresa, but she came to realise that she needed to give more depth to the characters as the story was being written. To do this, she wrote complete back stories for the characters (most of which aren’t in the film). She feels these helped inform the performances. Her influences are obvious and the symmetry of the film combined with the highly stylised 1970’s setting evoke a world that is both fantastic and familiar. If Wes Anderson is looking for a protégée, here she is.
You have to trust the people you’re working with [creatively]
Theresa specialised in editing at first, but has since become far more excited by directing. However, she feels that the editor’s eye really helps to save time on set, knowing exactly what shots will be needed, and how a scene can cut together. Although she shoots to edit, she is also aware that on camera accidents can be gold dust to the story. A believer that everyone, both on and off set, can have a creative input to the project, means that she is able to delegate. She allowed the editor, Mdhamiri Á Nkemi, to run through the first cut without any supervision to see what he came up with. Then she started to give notes where she felt it was necessary and finally they sat together in the studio for the finishing touches. As mentioned in our previous interview for ‘YouTroll’, Theresa has learnt to find a natural rhythm to her editing and she likes to find ways to make the editing impact our subconscious.
Couples writing together… it’s a test of your relationship.
Theresa is good with ideas and the visualisation of them, but admits that she struggles with writing dialogue. So it’s handy having a scriptwriter as a boyfriend, and Nathan’s input was crucial to get the dialogue working. But don’t go thinking that all is harmony, light and cultural conversations in the Varga / Bryon household. They had serious arguments about how the character should be speaking. Nathan would write dialogue and Theresa would say something like: “Are you mad?! Penelopy would never speak like that, for chrissake.” (Just guessing here). “He probably hated me after every writing session,” says Theresa, “but I think we came up with a good product.” Her next project is called ‘The Salon’ and is the kind of film that will definitely cause a sensation when it comes out. It is again a film that has its roots in her past, and has as its theme the insecurities of being a young girl in an age of “perfection.” As ever, all she needs is a little money. So, if there are any producers out there wanting to speed Theresa’s career into the stratosphere – get in there now. Before you miss the boat.