Film

Andrea Riseborough: We're at the turning point for female oppression

Andrea Riseborough has just made a film where 80 per cent of the crew were women. She tells The Big Issue that the plates have begun to shift

The Big Issue: You were on the jury at this year’s London Film Festival – did you feel a change was in the air?

Andrea Riseborough: From a female perspective, the difference now is that we have pitted against one another for so long – and we have been part of perpetuating that too, there has always been that rivalry. But now we have a huge sense of camaraderie and the sense that we are connected. That is really important. We are not alone any more.

A way to make somebody feel alienated is to isolate them, to make them feel they are the only person who is fighting that corner and occupying that space. It is a really basic war strategy, divide and conquer. That’s not to say that we have fixed the last 87,000 years of female oppression. But I do think it is a turning point.

Nancy is the first film your own company Mother Sucker has made. Was its London premiere a proud moment?

I don’t have any children, but I imagine producing films is almost like midwifery or growing plants – you put all this energy into these things and they grow and develop in ways you wouldn’t expect. One of the loveliest things is that when we had the Nancy premiere so many mates within the industry showed up. Women who really want to support each other.

The way you get any awards, notoriety, or even get submitted for awards is by spending an awful lot of money. So there diversity often dies a death

Andrea Riseborough

At the premiere we had Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jodie Whittaker, and that was liberating and really refreshing. They are turning up because this is a film made by an 80 per cent female crew and a 50 per cent POC [people of colour] crew. And that was the big political achievement, if any, we managed with Nancy.

Did you learn a lot in the process of making Nancy?

Seeing it right through from inception to fruition, what has been the most disappointing thing is that it doesn’t matter how many laurels you garner or whether you win best screenplay at Sundance, the very small selection of films that actually make it through to the general public and a mass audience are dictated by finance. Every year that is disheartening. And yes, it was disheartening again. But I think it is important to speak up and be transparent about it. The way you get any awards, notoriety, or even get submitted for awards is by spending an awful lot of money. So there diversity often dies a death.

Have you noticed a move towards stronger solidarity between female filmmakers this year? 

The BFI and Times Up movement work very closely together, which is a really refreshing because the BFI is so influential – they have an entire department devoted to diversity. So it has been really wonderful to work with them. And there certainly was solidarity among all the female filmmakers at the film festival.

At the London Film Festival, I went to hear Maggie Gyllenhall and Olivia Colman do Q&As and there was a poster for Nancy, next to other posters of two other films with women in lead roles – and not all of them Caucasian. I could not remember seeing three posters of women in a cinema before. It feels like a very exciting time. It has not been easy and it continues not to be easy. The way you get any awards, notoriety, or even get submitted for awards is by spending an awful lot of money. So there diversity often dies a death.

Andrea Riseborough supports The Big Issue

How does the Time’s Up movement work in the UK?

To make it really simple, Time’s Up UK is a group of whichever women want to come together and talk about better conditions for women in the workplace, and not just one workplace, but every workplace. And then the fundraising efforts go through an organisation called Rosa, who run the Justice and Equality Fund. They have been plugging away in the UK for a long time already and on a grassroots level were helping women. We already had great work going on here. It was just underfunded.

Andrea Riseborough stars in Nancy

What have your cultural highlights of 2018 been?

I was on the London Film Festival jury. So I watched 10 films in three-and-a-half days. It was a phenomenal experience. The film that won, Joy, is such a powerful film. Told in such a gentle, respectful, interesting way and with such beautiful cinematography, I loved the colours – really dark with lots of neon. I have also been watching Killing Eve, and it is extraordinary. I love Phoebe [Waller-Bridge]’s work so much. But one of my main dramas recently was Bake Off. It had such a dramatic conclusion. I was so happy Rahul won. With all the hard-hitting films at LFF, I needed some levity and Bake Off was the perfect antidote.

Nancy is available on iTunes, Amazon, Sky, Google, BT, TalkTalk, Virgin and Microsoft

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger – Scorsese's tribute to duo who inspired him
Martin Scorsese and Michael Powell, 1981.
Film

Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger – Scorsese's tribute to duo who inspired him

Filmmaker Melanie Manchot explains how her drama Stephen can offer hope to addicts
Stephen Giddings in Stephen
Film

Filmmaker Melanie Manchot explains how her drama Stephen can offer hope to addicts

She-Hulk star Tatiana Maslany: 'Fear is not necessarily the worst thing to feel'
Tatiana Maslany Image: Alexei Hay
Film

She-Hulk star Tatiana Maslany: 'Fear is not necessarily the worst thing to feel'

Much Ado About Dying filmmaker on social care and why we should all be exposed to 'good deaths'
Uncle David in Much Ado about Dying
Film

Much Ado About Dying filmmaker on social care and why we should all be exposed to 'good deaths'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know