Spotlight on Molly Manning Walker, the Director of the live action short film and Oscar contender Good Thanks, You?

Starring Jasmine Jobson (Top Boy) and Michael Ward (Steve McQueen’s Small Axe)

When Molly Manning Walker was 16 she was sexually assaulted and this awful experience prompted her to create GOOD THANKS, YOU?.This live action short film was created to encourage people to talk openly about the subject and is her directorial debut. The film stars two of the UK’s prominent new actors Jasmine Jobson who has starred in two seasons of the Netflix favourite TOP BOY and Michael Ward who recently won the 2020 BAFTA EE Rising Star Award. 

In the aftermath of an attack, Amy is left voiceless, trapped in a whirlwind of incompetence. She must find a way to confront what has happened, in order to save what matters to her most. 

Molly Manning Walker is a cinematographer and director based in London and a graduate of the NFTS. As a cinematographer, her graduation film November 1st took Bronze at the Student Academy Awards, and Molly was nominated twice at Camerimage in 2019. Molly’s directorial debut feature is in development with Film4. Molly is represented for Directing by Independent Talent. Her latest award winning short film Good Thanks, You? saw 90% of behind the camera roles in both production and post-production occupied by women.

Can you tell me a little bit about the reasons behind your decision to write and direct GOOD THANKS, YOU?

I was assaulted when I was 16. I wanted to talk about it openly but whenever I did the air got sucked out the room. My experience with the authorities was more traumatising than the assault, which I felt I could deal with. I wanted to make something that looked at how re-traumatising the questioning of a survivor can be. Whilst also reflecting on how it really affected me. I hope the film gave space to open up more conversations.

Digging into the past to excavate memories of your own sexual assault has undoubtedly played a big part in making this film a success. But I guess the burning question is, why would you want to repeatedly return to those traumatic moments with such intensity and detail?

You know for me I’ve always felt the need and want to talk about it. I felt whenever watching films that were about rape or included rape that they glamourised it. That they never interrogated how it is dealt with. 

You have a cast of both rising and already well established actors. There is also an impressive list of names working behind the camera, 90% of whom are all female. Tell me about your audition process and why it was important for you to work with an almost entirely female crew.

I saw Jasmine in a pay about 5 years ago and I knew straight away that she was the one. She has the capability to carry a deep sadness in her eyes in such a subtle and beautiful way. I think she’s totally amazing. Anyway she went on from that play to be in Topboy and Isabella (the casting director) fought really hard to get to her. Michael was actually the only boy we saw. He had also been in Topboy but we weren’t able to see any of his stuff. Isabella insisted he came in on a day we were seeing some of the girls and he blew us away. You know it’s right when they stop the search in its tracks. 

Getting a female crew was super important for us due to the nature of it. We actually had an on set therapist and when we opened the discussion up before the shoot we realised that a lot of people had suffered from a sexual assault (in many different forms). 

How do you feel now that the film is finished and is making its way through the festival circuit, where it’s clearly proven hugely popular?

You know its always a good feeling to get into festivals, but it’s not really what its been about for me. It was always an attempt to start a conversation. So many people have reached out and said how they have had a similar experience and how important the film is. Thats enough for me.

What do you hope your audience will take away from GOOD THANKS, YOU? More specifically, those people who have never experienced anything like this, those that have, but also those who have committed sexual assault themselves.

I hope people take from the film not to approach sexual assault from a archaic view point. It doesn’t matter what the survivor was wearing or where they were at what time or if they were drunk. We have to crush these views. We have to move the conversation forward. We have to support our loved ones and ask useful questions. We have to believe people and offer support. We have to not take “Good thanks, you?” as an answer.

Whilst GOOD THANKS, YOU? is clearly a standalone piece, I find the characters of Amy and Lewis to have enormous pulling power, which makes me want to see more of them. Is there any chance the short can be expanded into a feature at some point in the future, or maybe even a series?

I think it’s best for my mental health if this particular story is left alone! But I do feel the need to continue to talk about consent and sexual assault.

Who do you look up to and who inspires you and your art?

I love the films of Eliza Hittman, the way she examines body’s is so magical. I deeply inspired by real life and find it really troubling to write about anything that isn’t grounded in reality. Maybe it’s connected with my childhood need to get into trouble. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your directorial debut feature currently in development?
It’s called How To Have Sex and it tracks three girls on the holiday of a life time. 

As a filmmaker myself I have found that on a couple of occasions when I’ve been interviewed about my work, I wasn’t asked about certain points I wanted to discuss. 

So my final question is a little bit odd, but: is there anything that we haven’t covered, that you feel compelled to add or chat about?

Just wanted to shout out everyone who worked on this film. Making short films is unbelievably hard and we couldn’t of done it without each and every one of you! 

Molly Manning Walker

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