[Interview] Charlotte Colbert for SHE WILL
[Interview] Charlotte Colbert for SHE WILL
SHE WILL l IFC Midnight

SHE WILL is a gothic fairy tale about Veronica Ghent (Alice Krige) who after a double mastectomy, goes to a healing retreat in rural Scotland with her young nurse Desi (Kota Eberhardt). She discovers that the process of such surgery opens up questions about her very existence, leading her to start to question and confront past traumas. The two develop an unlikely bond as mysterious forces give Veronica the power to enact revenge within her dreams.

For the release of the film, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Sarah Musnicky spoke with co-writer/director Charlotte Colbert, where they discussed the evolutionary process of SHE WILL‘s story, how Alice Krige came to be involved with the project, and the great hunt for the perfect location.

What was the process like in constructing the story for the film? I know for me, I usually start with an image or a quote, or something pops up. So I was curious as to your process.

Charlotte Colbert: We sort of found each other, the writer that I co-wrote it with, Kitty [Percy] and I, there was loads of stuff that I’d be working on within my practice, even as an artist, like the history of the witch trials, and nature and dreams and all those kinds of questions. And then she had written this script that was mad and out there. We got put together basically, and then kept developing the process and bringing each other’s worlds and dreaming together or nightmaring together. So this funny beast was created and let loose to find kindred spirits, and luckily, it found Alice [Krige]. We were very lucky.

Was there anything that, in the writing process, you had to nix for whatever reason?

Charlotte Colbert: Oh, my God. Yeah, definitely. Some of the funding fell through and then we had to rewrite some of the staff really quickly. Take away some of the scenes. I think pre-production was crazy. And it’s always like that, isn’t it?

Yeah, and as a writer, I feel like most people don’t realize how much stories shift from beginning the end. So it’s always fascinating to see what makes it into the final product.

Charlotte Colbert: It’s so interesting. After the whole process, I actually think we were quite close to the script. It’s really quite weird. The other thing that’s really interesting, and you probably find that as well within your practice, is the fact that stories seem to keep whatever layers. Even though you take stuff out, and no one’s ever read the stuff that was underneath, somehow, the imprint of it stays. I can’t understand it, I literally can’t understand it. But it’s like stories are sort of ghosts or weird membranes that connect us.

I just realized something I never realized before, and you probably know this, but I didn’t. Around the interior of our whole body inside, we’ve got a very thin membrane that goes around the whole thing. It’s called the Mater, and it basically is what holds your brain inside from wobbling against the skull. They say that craniology taps into stuff. They say that the muscle memory of trauma and stuff like that is often held within that very delicate membrane. It’s a really long way of saying it feels like that kind of delicate membrane is also the story and it holds everything together. But it’s so delicate, and you remove one bit and there’s still the imprint of whatever was there before.

Charlotte Colbert

It’s fascinating that you say the imprint because the trigger point for Alice’s character, addressing what happened to her in the past is also an equally traumatizing event via the mastectomy. All it takes is one instant to bring all that back up.

Charlotte Colbert: Totally.

And then connecting it with the witch trials and how, in the end, the Earth never truly forgets. Nature never truly forgets. It all comes full circle.

Charlotte Colbert: It’s so true. It is in the imprint of the land, isn’t it? Like there are ashes of those women, or some men, who people wanted to make disappear, but somehow their ashes survived as a kind of force.

How did Alice [Krige] become involved in the project? I had read somewhere that Sigourney Weaver was at one point considering it. So how did the casting process develop?

Charlotte Colbert: One of our producers is this amazing guy called Ed Pressman. He’s this amazing film legend in terms of how he’s done so many films, and he always seems to take risks, which is really nice. I’m always impressed with people who keep that, even though they’re way past making it. Anyway, he reached out to Sigourney Weaver and sent her the script and she really liked it. So I was flown over to New York to meet with her, and we had this quite surreal, amazing lunch. She’s such an incredible woman, and we worked on the script actually, for a little bit. Before she was called in to do a lot of Avatars. Basically, we had the decision of, should we wait, or should we keep going with less funding, basically, and we decided to open up the search.

It was difficult to find the perfect person and, amazingly, Alice really responded to the script. We met, and I felt completely we were kindred spirits and, I was in awe of her as a person, as an actor, as just a human. I mean, she’s just mind-bogglingly amazing, and just so soulful and profound. I was so grateful that she took the leap of faith. I think it’s an amazing leap of faith for actors to do.

And so, did Kota Eberhardt, who plays, Desi. I just thought God, this young girl coming all the way from California to Scotland, not knowing anyone personally. I was like, I’ll promise you’ll be okay.

As an Angeleno with the sun currently blinding me through the window, I would say yes, there is a difference. [laughs]

Charlotte Colbert: Yes, exactly. [laughs] It’s so crazy. From then on, all the different characters came and wove themselves around Alice in some ways. Rupert [Everett], who was at drama school with her and Malcolm [McDowell], and all these different sorts of characters came on board. Alice just really connects with all the elements in the film just in the story that she brings to life. We found so many amazing things. What’s so interesting is being so collaborative in developing the character and the techniques of her movement and the way she moves in her sleep, and luckily, [Alice]’d done ballet before. So she’s got this incredible strength and posture and the way there’s grace to her movements. Her physicality is so careful and interesting.

Courtesy IFC Midnight

When it came down to shooting on-site, what was the location scouting process like? Did you guys intend to shoot originally in Scotland when you started? 

Charlotte Colbert: So, the land is very much infused with that kind of history, and that’s sort of there still in the landscape. It’s not sort of plopped on. Actually weirdly enough, 90% were women who were tried as witches. So it was always in Scotland, but nevertheless, the scouting process was insane. [We] saw every single corner of Scotland to find a wooden cabin. You would think it would be quite easy, but let me tell you, it is not. To find the right wooden cabin is really, really tricky, and it was very challenging to shoot in because you’re on top of a single-lane track.

But it was such a dream to shoot there because you’re surrounded by forest in the middle of nowhere. The sounds are just like, a miracle, and the scapes, and the skies are just massive. And even though it’s cold and difficult, and there’s no toilet, it’s still so beautiful that you’ve carried away by just the aesthetic connection to everything and that kind of Cosmos, that kind of feeling of sort of utter insignificance, but also full connectedness to everything, which is so amazing.

The manor was actually closer to Glasgow. It’s a very strange place, that manor. It’s quite bizarre. It’s the source of many rumors and tales and sightings. It’s a very peculiar place. And then, we also shot in this amazing location where there’s that incredible staircase, which was at a hotel. We couldn’t close the hotel to shoot cause it’s quite a small project. So there would be scenes where Malcolm would be like, “Is anybody there?” and someone would be like, “Yes! Over here. Do you need any help?” [laughs] So funny.

And then, we also shot in the university, which was incredible, for the film studio and everything. The film students helped out, and it was really amazing getting everyone involved. They thought it was quite fun. Basically, for me, it was quite important in terms of the lines to find the really straight contemporary lines of the world associated with dreams, and to him and that, and then the more organic natural world of where she finds her strength and solace.

I like asking everyone this because there’s always something that we all can learn from one another. What’s something that you’ve learned from your previous projects that you were able to apply to this film?

Charlotte Colbert: In terms of the filmmaking part of it, very much from the short, it felt like time was always going to be of essence, and [it was] very difficult. I think I learned that you’ve got to push for everything because you’ve only got that one shot. And in the one instance where like, for example, Oh, you’ll be able to shoot it later. Don’t believe it. [laughs] Go for it as much as we can. Because ultimately, you just have that one moment. You’ve got to push for that in that one moment, I think. Even though everyone hates you at that particular moment.

SHE WILL is now available in select theaters and on-demand, with Shudder taking the first streaming window. To learn more about the film, check out our review.

Sarah Musnicky
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