London based filmmaker Lucy Luscombe's latest short Pagans centers around three best friends from London on a hedonistic, drug-fuelled night out in the English countryside. Their freewheeling antics take them from a bonfire parade to an underwhelming student party to a Pagan gathering at dawn. Despite the ecstatic moments peppered throughout, the women’s adventure is tinged with sadness: their partying clearly a form of escapism to dull the pain of losing their friend Sasha. During each stage of the excursion, which is at times surreal – as is the experience of loss – the girls come closer to finding some solace and resolution in the most unexpected of spaces.
Luscombe’s latest delve into British culture follows her intrigues in the rituals of Paganism, but encapsulates the alchemy of adolescent grief as its over-riding message. Blending both girlhood and pagan ritual Luscombe comments,
<<I suppose Paganism is a practice that encompasses the unknown through ritual. Death is the ultimate unknown and there’s a bunch of ritual in girlhood. >>
Transporting Pagan practice into modern life, the idea of the phone/ computer, or in Luscombe's words "the technologicl afterlife," unlocks a new method of mourning <<I think in this day and age, if you’re struggling to come to terms with the death of a friend you might bargain with the internet. You might like an Instagram picture or keep a group chat alive. Our phones have become such an extension of us that it felt right that Indra’s character (Sasha’s mum) wouldn’t be able to throw her dead daughter’s phone away. Instead she passes the burden on to Juliette’s character, who goes on to compulsively try and unlock it in an attempt to understand her friend and why she’s dead.>>
Luscombe on her inspirations, << Morvern Callar (2002) by Lynne Ramsay will always mean a lot to me. The humanity of Lukas Moodysson’s body of work and the quiet heartbreak of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s The Decalogue (1988) were an inspiration, probably. The live and kicking Mardi Gras parade of Easy Rider (1969), most definitely. In regards to process, there were perhaps some Loachian surprises for the cast in there and I might have gone a bit Cassavetes shouty/earnest/method on set at times. But I think it was Paul Wright’s Arcadia (2017) during which I actually dreamt this up.
Luscombe on the creative vision of the cast and set's working atmosphere,
<< With Vivan Oparah being our only professional actor within the group, I decided to keep the script as loose as possible. I wanted the cast to feel like they were going on an adventure for real, so none of them really knew what was coming. They didn’t know what the story of the film was, only who each of their characters were and how they related to each other within each scene.
We worked with a micro crew of talented individuals who were up for doing something crazy. Up for filming in challenging environments (our DP had a firework thrown at him). We went down to the infamous Lewes Bonfire Night which has an incredibly mysterious vibe and history as does the White Horse of Littlington where we filmed our final scene. Within every set-up we tried to make the environments as authentic as possible for our actors so they could respond naturally and vibe off each other. As the cast go on this journey our audience experience each new place at the same time they do.
Our hero cast is made up of 3 amazing young women who are also incredible musicians, writers and graphic designers. We were also lucky to have the addition of the incredible Lara Belmot (The War Zone) and Indra Ove (Interview With The Vampire, The Fifth Element) joining our cast. The film was produced by Amanda Mesaikos and Scott O’Donnell. >>