In conversation with Jeanie Finlay

As our Celebrating Women in Global Cinema programme continues, so do our interviews with inspiring women from the film industry.

This month we caught up with Director Jeanie Finlay, ahead of the screening of her latest documentary Seashorse on Sun 1 Sep, which follows the extraordinary story of a pregnant transgender man. 

Which filmmakers or films have most inspired your work?
My favourite living filmmaker is Hirozaku Koreeda (Shoplifters / After Life). I look forward to his films so much and savour every moment. He always follows the emotion in his stories.

I love Kim Longinotto (Dreamcatcher) and Carole Salter’s (Almost Heaven) films, they make hugely powerful, intimate documentaries with a tiny crew. They’re astonishing. I think about Chris Smith’s film American Movie a lot.

I’m also a huge fan of maximalist, ultra designed cinema – Max Ophuls (Lola Montes) and Powell and Pressburger. I fell in love with my husband after he took me to see a screening of Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus. Brooding passion, swooning nuns in the heady atmosphere of the Himalayas, brought to life by Jack Cardiff in a sound stage using chalk, smoke and mirrors. How could I resist?

What can you tell us about your latest project and the themes you wanted to explore?
I’ve spent the last couple of years making two films which both come out in 2019, both very very different from each other but weirdly complementary. I anticipate that both of them will elicit strong reactions from audiences.

Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth – One trans man’s pioneering quest to fulfil an age-old desire: to start his own family.

For Freddy, a young trans man, the challenges in getting pregnant were enormous and I was given unprecedented access, even through some enormously challenging times. When I was pregnant, I felt my most primal, my most animal, I was interested in how the runaway train of emotions and hormones would affect Freddy, his sense of self and gender.

Game Of Thrones: The Last Watch.

I was embedded on the set of Game Of Thrones during the making of the last season for a year. I’ve made a (huge) character driven, observational film about the blood, sweat and tears that go into making the largest TV show in the world, from the POV of some of the crew. I ended up making, what I hope is a funny and heartbreaking film about fantasy and dreams and the small stories hidden inside a pop culture behemoth.

What advice would you offer other filmmakers that you wish you had known when starting out?
Don’t believe the London myth – You can live outside of London and make films for an international audience.

Don’t put off starting a family for film or wait for the right time, there never is one. I got my first film commissioned when I was 6 months pregnant and my daughter has come with me at every step; on shoots, to the edit and to festivals.

Follow your gut instinct – if you are fascinated by a story, then audiences are likely to also connect with it.

True intimacy trumps fancy cinematography any day of the week, so don’t be afraid to build relationships with people and just get out there and make your film.

When you’re not at work, where are you most likely to be found?
Either out running in all weathers with my running group Notts Women Runners or in the cinema. I love nothing more than crying the dark surrounded by strangers.