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17th January 2018
Love in LA
Title of film: Try a Little Tendernsa
Director: Michelle Craig
What does a girl do when she packs her bags and moves from London to LA? She makes a short funny film of course. UNIT9 creative partner Michelle Craig talks about her foray into directing fiction

The last time 1.4 met up with you –  you were Creative Partner at UNIT9 in London and now we’ve just viewed your fabulously madcap film, Try a Little Tendernsa, which is very much based in the States.  Please give us a brief catch up to what motivated your move to America and what you’ve been up to.

I had been lucky enough to build a lovely business with my partners at UNIT9. As the company grew the realization hit me I wanted to write and direct, and that hit me hard. I was terrified about changing my path in life.

I’d been adjacent to the thing I wanted to do most for the longest time but wondered how the two – UNIT9 and directing – could fit together without it feeling like a conflict or like…signing myself to my own roster…which felt super weird!

I saw a lot of opportunity for UNIT9 in the US and really wanted to bolster us there, and I wanted the chance to reinvent. I felt it would be harder to be accepted as a ‘newcomer director’ in my home market. I pitched it to UNIT9 and they were as excited as me to make it work. I wanted to be able to balance both passions.

I’d always had this fascination with Los Angeles. I guess a lot of people do. I was a forces kid, so moved constantly and I used to dream that LA was home and all the moving was just to get me back there, which it did eventually. It’s a city for writers and dreamers. There are opportunities everywhere. It’s still the town things get born in, even if they don’t get made here.

I packed my cat, my laptop and my books and made the move. Since then, UNIT9 has been blossoming, my writing is…well it’s happening! The thing I am most excited about is a partnership called Nowhere which is a development production company. We are now up and running and shooting our first film next month.

What prompted you to write Try a Little Tendernsa? We wouldn’t for a moment think that the script draws on autobiographical experience would we?

No! What?! Me? No, no I’m awesome at love…

Real talk! Disney, John Hughes, and my parents and grandparents have totally destroyed any realistic expectations of love! They all have big stories. I want that! I want to leave a book on a train and have someone chase me down to return it (not in a creepy way), I want that beacon of light to shine over someone and just know (preferably not as I’m running them over!) The idea of ‘swiping’ is just a little bit soul destroying.

I’d started to rebel against this idea of ‘modern love’ and wanted to find something IRL. Now, as part of that I found the same things would happen that you hear about via Tinder or Bumble. Ghosting…and I found myself making up stories; really elaborate reasons for why something didn’t work out. One particular guy was just so spy-like that he inspired the short. I think I’m dangerous in love.

Is this first time you’ve written and directed fiction?

Tendernsa is the first script I’ve written and directed and it was a total joy to make. When I decided I wanted to write, I wrote a feature script with Martin Stirling called ‘Launching Grandpa’ which we’d love to get made in the next year or so. It’s Gooniesesq, with a little bit more morgue robbing.

Right now, I’m just finishing a script ‘Goldie’ which I can’t wait to share more on.

Please describe your creative process – did you simply write in words or were you forming a storyboard as you developed the script?

I start with a playlist. I try to create the radio station for the idea. That leads to beating the story out, and then getting to the writing. For Tendernsa, I had become friends with Marion (the lead actress) so we got to workshop and play with her character, which led to some of the funniest lines.

What were the main challenges of the production?

I had huge creative doubt; I really struggled with what to make as my first short. Then I realized it was ‘my first’ so I should just have fun. I was lucky to have the support of a brilliant production team and DP and cast who all just invested so much love to make it work. I guess in short, I was the main challenge of the production!

What are your plans for this year?

I’d like to direct a couple of commercials and music videos. I was lucky enough to do so last year. I’d like to finish ‘Goldie’. And really drive Nowhere and UNIT9’s missions.

Mostly I’d like to do some good work for the greater cause. I miss making more social projects.

(And maybe fall in love).