Actresses Marnie Baxter and Nicola Stuart-Hill are planning to produce a short film about being a mum, written by and based on Marnie’s own experience. Bad Mother is about trust, our relationship with strangers in the modern world and how we judge each other as mothers. The film is being funded through a crowdfunding campaign. The team is also looking for mums who would like to be executive producers or sponsors. It is scheduled to begin shooting soon. Workingmums.co.uk asked Marnie about the film and what motivated her to write it.
Workingmums.co.uk: How did you come up with the idea for the film?
Marnie: The story is based on something that actually happened to me a few years ago when my children were little. I met a woman on an empty beach in Dorset, our kids hit it off and we spent a bit of time together. She seemed lonely, in need of adult company. I left my children in her care whilst I walked to get us all some lunch. But whilst I was in a queue for chips I started to panic about what I had done. The conversations we had on the beach started to play in my mind and I began to twist this woman’s intentions in my head.
When I got back to the beach all was well – the woman was still there and it was completely fine. But that afternoon haunted me for years – the idea that I had left my children with a complete stranger, was I a bad mother? Or had I just used my instincts, which turned out to be right? The feeling I had that afternoon and the possibilities of what could have happened is chilling. I told Nicky the story one night over a glass of wine, and she came back two weeks later with a first draft of the script. And that was how it all began.
Workingmums.co.uk: Your film deals with issues of trust. Is this something that has been lost in the march towards individualism and what has been the impact on mums in particular in your experience [given they are still often the main carers of children]?
Marnie: I think we struggle to trust each other these days, sadly. I think what is particularly interesting is how quickly vilified we are as mothers if something happens to our children, and I think that’s scary. So society is kind of increasingly set up to distrust. And that has a huge impact on parents, especially the main carers. We need adult company, support. We need to be able to rely on each other.
Workingmums.co.uk: How do you think mainstream film deals with mothers?
Marnie: Being a mum is a mix of emotions – it’s so complicated. It’s never just one thing – it’s a constant battle of having absolute pure love for someone, but also (and simultaneously) experiencing rage and guilt, pride, embarrassment and real fear. I think it’s only recently that we have started to see any sense of this on screen, and I think it needs to be explored in more depth. Mothers are often portrayed as one-dimensional – either loving and caring images of selfless patience, or bad tempered and impatient, troubled and selfish. I think we are all those things and we should show that on screen.
Workingmums.co.uk: Why do you think this is?
Marnie: That’s difficult. Mothers have historically given up everything to be carers and now we don’t necessarily have to. We are much more visible – we juggle busy lives with parenthood which means we have to be much more vocal. And with the internet we have platforms where we can discuss honestly how difficult it is and wonderful it is to be a mum all at the same time.
Workingmums.co.uk: Do you think there is more interest now in telling stories about mothers which are more varied and reflect the depth of experience involved?
Marnie: I think things are changing slowly, with the rise of women making films we are seeing stronger, more interesting roles for women in film. So we can see women who have a story to tell that includes having children – they are not just one-dimensional mothers; they are women who are also mothers.
Workingmums.co.uk: Are you optimistic that the Time’s Up movement will mark a change in how women are viewed on and off screen?
Marnie: Yes, I am. I am hopeful that we can live in a society where it’s acceptable for a woman to speak up if she feels she is being abused in some way, whether that be an abuse of power or a physical abuse. I hope we can move away quickly from vilifying people in the past and head towards stopping it from happening in the future. The power is in our hands to make that change.
Workingmums.co.uk: How difficult is it to be a mother in the film industry, particularly as an actress?
Marnie: You need a strong level of support to be a parent in the film industry as the amount of commitment required is huge. Being freelance means you are expected to drop everything to do a job, often staying away from home with very little notice. Practically I wouldn’t have been able to carry on working as an actress when my children were little if I didn’t have family and friends around me to help. It was/is a constant juggle. And that does mean that for some parents, continuing with their careers is almost impossible.
As a mother, I have a different wealth of emotion and experience, even a different way of looking at life, that I can tap into as an actress and put on screen. The more mothers are encouraged to continue working in the business, the more honestly we will see mums being represented on our screens.
Workingmums.co.uk: Do you think crowdfunding makes it easier to fund projects like yours or is it a sign that it is still hard to get interest from traditional sources of funding?
Marnie: This will be my first crowdfunding project – there is certainly a lot of work involved! However, it’s great to have the power in my own hands. And crowdfunding allows anyone to get involved in the process of creating a film, people who don’t work in the industry, but are interested to see how it all happens and would like to be a part of it. It opens it up to everyone – which is pretty exciting.