With a triumphant screening at last year’s BFI London Film Festival of her debut feature film as writer, director, and star, we spoke to Jessica Hynes about her film The Fight.
VH: What was it that made you want to jump into ‘drama’?
Jessica Hynes: I had an opportunity to direct a film. The original treatment wasn’t as dramatic as the final film. During the development of the story, I just felt I wanted to follow my instincts, create the characters in a slightly different way than the original anticipated. I was lucky to be given the creative freedom and that’s how the story evolved. I didn’t set out to write a specific genre, I just wanted to write real characters that felt authentic and make a story that would connect with people and that an audience could enjoy.
VH: Tina is at the centre of the film; can you tell us about how she was created?
Jessica: Initially the idea of ‘Tina’ was more simplistic and possibly more comic, but she naturally came into being. I wanted her to feel relatable, not too extraordinary, someone that could be any one of us. She’s the one who’s trying to keep everything together.
VH: It feels as though Tina’s trying to let go of the guilt.
Jessica: Tina has to let go of the guilt. She feels guilt about her past and shame about her childhood. She needed to push through that and that is really what the film is about. She uses boxing as a physical manifestation of her battle to confront those emotions and rage that plagues her and that she wants to move on from because she has so much to live for. She has amazing children, a lovely life but there’s almost a wall between her and them. Her story is one where she manages to that down that wall and walk into her future or rather boxing to her future. It’s about saving her future and saving her family.
VH: When you say ‘walking into her future’ it made me think of the final scene in the film when she’s [Tina] about to start her physical fight, as if she’s saying ‘I’m here, I’m ready to begin’. Why did you decide to make this the final scene?
Jessica: I wanted the end to feel uplifting. I wanted it to feel like, she’s [Tina] got in the ring and that she’s ready, that she was strong enough to forgive herself and everyone else and ready to fight because the battle doesn’t stop.
It’s a bit corny but I live for that. I wanted Tina to be that silk jacket and, in the ring, because I wanted her and the family to have that ‘hooray’ moment.
VH: It’s great shot and ending.
Jessica: We only managed to get that shot because Russell [Brand] agreed to be the Ref. We couldn’t afford that day filming in the boxing ring but when Russell agreed the financiers found the money to do the scene and that was because of Russell we were able to do it.
VH: This isn’t a boxing film but it is featured, why this particular sport?
Jessica: The inspiration for the film came from a boxing gym I’d gone to in Folkstone. It was an amazing old Victorian gym with red walls, lovely old boxing shelf, and old punch bags. I thought this place was so beautiful, someone should make a film here. I started to think of a story I could create and that’s when I came up with the idea of Tina and started to develop a story from there. The whole film came from a specific boxing gym, it was just incredible. The whole boxing theme came from a simple inspiration. The idea was how can I create a story so I can come and film in this gym.
VH: Usually it’s something or someone that inspires a story, it’s wonderful that a place inspired this story. As you’re a writer and actor, this is your first time directing. How did you find the experience?
Jessica: It was phenomenal, I loved it. I was so happy to get the chance to direct and it was all the sweeter as it was something I had given up on. I really did not think I’d get the opportunity or thought that I would. When I did get the chance, it felt miraculous but I was really ready. Given that Alice Lowe had made Prevenge in 11 days and I loved her film and thought I’m going to have a go at that. I was really inspired by Lowe’s film and thought how can I get myself in that position so ended up meeting with financiers to make a low budget film and they agreed to make mine.
Katie: Can you tell us what you’re working on next?
Jessica: I’m writing something at the moment and I’ve got to finish the script and hope for another miracle. Fingers crossed!
VH: Fingers crossed definitely! There seems to be a trend where female directors make their feature and then its years before we see another, we want their films out there, so I’m excited to hear you’re working on the next one.
Jessica: I’ve got to finish the script but I’m on it!
The Fight is out on DVD & Digital on 9 September 2019