Leyla Pope has an Iranian mother and English father. She grew up in Tehran, Dubai and Saudi Arabia, before moving to London at the age of 10. Her latest short film Love Struck was recently broadcast on BBC 2 and she is currently developing a feature film based on her short pilot Bubbles.
What training have you received?
Formally, I have an MA in filmmaking and scriptwriting, and have been on a BBC scheme for directors. But by far the most formative training for me has been through working with actors on courses run by Stephen Bayly. His approach is Meisner-based and, through watching hours of acting, I came to realise that you can really sense truth in a performance and when you find it, it’s immediately compelling. As a result I have become far more hands on as a director; I give more time to improvisations and rehearsals and tend to keep script work until last.
What kinds of projects attract you?
Ones where there is a strong character-led narrative and a story that does not shy away from taking us to difficult, intimate spaces. I am also very into visual story telling so I’m particularly drawn to projects where I have the freedom to layer the storytelling with colours and composition.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given as a director?
Don’t compromise on the important things; of course you have to choose your battles but stay true to your artistic vision. It was advice I was given by a very jaded director who had lost his way.
Tell us the most significant moment in your career so far
Wow. I feel it is too early to say that, but I think probably a major turning point was when an editor, John Richards (Band of Brothers, Girls’ Night) agreed to meet me on the basis of a script I had written, without knowing anything else about me. I learnt far more watching films with his critical eye and razor sharp running commentary than I ever had at film school.
You’ll die happy when…
That’s even harder—probably when I’ve tided my sock drawer…A little more seriously, though, when I’ve done a lot more justice to the stories I’ve experienced. I feel incredibly lucky to be on the path I am on but I have a long way to go in learning this craft.