Emma Freud (OBE) is a broadcaster, cultural commentator, producer and script editor. While starting her career in television and radio, she has spent more recent years working as a script editor and associate producer. She has worked with her partner, Richard Curtis, on numerous projects such as The Vicar of Dibley, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’ Diary and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Her latest film, About Time, came out in 2013.
As well as her film work she is also regularly involved with charity campaigns such as Comic Relief, Make Poverty History and Live 8, and was awarded an OBE in the 2011 Birthday Honours list. We’re really excited to have Emma’s input while judging all our films, and especially the input she can have casting her eyes over the screenplays. Emma kindly answered some of our questions.
Questions: Jack Brindelli and Katy Quigley
You come from a multi-talented family (daughter of ‘original celebrity chef’ Sir Clement Freud, niece of the artist Lucian Freud, and of course great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud), was it ever a daunting task to step out from that and make a name for yourself in your own right?
I know it looks like it should have been in theory – but it really wasn’t. Sigmund and Lucian were never mentioned when we grew up – my dad wanted to make his own mark in the world – he told us the reason Sigmund was talked about a lot was because he had invented the flush toilet.
You’ve worked in a huge range of roles in the media industry, how did you finally end up working in the film industry? And what made you decide to be a script editor?
I ended up in the film industry because my current boyfriend wrote a film and I worked on it with him. He asked me to be his script editor because he very strongly believed that films are best edited by people who really empathise with the film and want it to be the best it can be- not people who are sceptical about the film and just want it to make money.
How large is the gender divide in film/television, and do you feel that made it more difficult for you to carve out a distinctive career of your own?
I haven’t felt that strongly but I do know that it applies – in the 27 years I’ve been involved with Loose Ends it’s only once had an all woman line-up.
You’ve worked with your partner Richard Curtis a great deal – editing scripts for films like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. How does that process work for you two?
We talk a lot about the film he is dreaming of writing – then he tries to write a first draft keeping me at a bit of a distance – and then when I read it, I try to give notes to make the film more like the film we both dreamed about. I then read every draft and have opinions about every single word – it’s not nice for him.
Returning to the idea of making a name for yourself – do you think that’s likely to become more difficult for new editors/writers/film-makers in the wake of significant government cuts to arts funding – most notably the closure of the British Film Council three years ago?
I get very gloomy about the cuts – but on the other hand, I’m terribly excited watching my kids learning already, even before they are teens, how to shoot and edit film, so I believe not much will stand in the way of young talent getting started.
In what ways do you think new institutions like the Norwich Film Festival can play in helping them in the short and long term?
Giving that young talent a forum to get connected and get seen.
What’s the best thing about your job and what’s the worst?
The best thing in the film process is the first read-through, if the film seems to work and the first time it’s screened if it gets a good reaction. The worst thing is when the first time it’s screened it gets no reaction and you know you’ve got 3 months brutal editing ahead.
Do you read reviews of your films or do you try to ignore the critics?
I try to ignore them – I don’t always succeed. Then I try to forget the bad ones – that doesn’t work either.
Of all the films you have worked on, do you have a favourite and why? Also any film’s that you wish you had written?
At the moment, the most recent, About Time is my favourite, because it’s about all the things that Richard and I are trying to get right in our lives. There are lots of films we wish we’d made – 500 Days of Summer was jolly good.
Can you tell us about any future projects you’re working on?
We’re working on an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot that is just about to shoot, with Dustin Hoffman and Judi Dench. And 20 tortoises.
Do you have a dream project you’d like to get off the ground?
Not really – at the moment our dream project is having happy, healthy children.
Finally, what advice would you give to potential new film-makers looking to overcome the obstacles of this era?
I’d advise them what I always advise Richard in every film – make it mean something – make it about something that matters to you. Then just get it made – if someone ever asks you how much is the film going to cost, the reply is ‘How much have you got? Because that’s exactly the amount it’s going to cost.”