Interview with Producer & Creative Director Julie Gardner (THE CLIMB)

THE CLIMB was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the July 2018 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Lynne Davison: The Climb was Lacada’s first film after I founded the company in January 2016. After 20 years managing productions for others I wanted to branch out on my own to produce engaging screen stories with high production values. Lynne the writer/director and I had known each other for a number of years before we partnered up on The Climb. (Lynne had been a camera assistant while I co-ordinated the pilot episode of Game of Thrones).

Our regional screen agency, Northern Ireland Screen had organised a table read to showcase a handful of short film projects they had developed with new and emerging writer/directors. I was instantly bowled over by the raw power of The Climb’s stripped back simplicity and I knew instantly that I wanted to bring it to the screen.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

8 months from start to finish. The table read was in February, we waited to film in summer, when we have long hours of daylight here in Northern Ireland, then the post production slotted around the editor’s other ‘big’ jobs at the post house, meaning we were done and dusted by Hallowe’en.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Crikey, only two?! Overcoming obstacles.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

We had two challenges. There’s the usual financial one – how to produce something cinematic on a budget of around £10,000. The other was the physical obstacle of the mountain itself. It could only be filmed for real on a mountain, with real climbing, within the budget parameters which allowed for one single filming day. Taking a crew and cast from the city to the heart of the Mourne Mountains, without any kind of contingency was a hairy prospect. On the morning of the shoot we arrived at the location and were dismayed to find cloud enveloping the top of the mountain. Shooting the script chronologically from the foot of the mountain to the top we were able to turn that to our advantage – it became a beautiful metaphor: as Julia’s mental fog cleared the nearer she reached the summit, so the early morning cloud burnt off as the filming day progressed, finishing in a spectacular golden hour.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

We were all thrilled to hear the individual audience members’ takes on our story. When making a film we know the story intimately as we’ve examined it from every possible angle. Hearing international audiences getting the nuances of what we’d set out to achieve, outside of our filmmaking bubble, was really heartwarming. It’s genuinely affirmed our belief in our abilities as filmmakers. To know that it hit home as powerfully for the audience was an incredible feeling.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

This idea was inspired by the true story of a climbing friend of Lynne, the writer/director.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

There are two films, both firm joint favourites. The filmmakery answer is Jean Luc Godard’s ‘Pierrot Le Fou’ which blew my mind when I first saw it as a teenager. Poetic, astonishingly beautifully shot, by turns political and cartoonish, it’s the film that literally and figuratively exploded the artform of cinema for me. The other is Jaws. You can’t beat Jaws, it’s just the perfect entertaining film in every way.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

FilmFreeway’s platform is an absolute gift to filmmakers. To have so many incredible international festivals reachable at the touch of a button would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. We are so lucky to have it, and I am certain that it has opened the world of festivals that would previously have been out of the reach of new and emerging filmmakers.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Just one? I’ve really eclectic musical tastes, so I’ve pulled up my Spotify history to check – it looks like it’s Iron Maiden’s ‘Brave New World’. People who don’t know me very well are always surprised to find that I love me some heavy metal.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Yes. I’m am very lucky to be able to say I’ve got films coming out my ears at the moment! Excitingly I’m currently in pre-production for a new BBC one hour drama, which will be airing around Christmas time. Continuing with the indie films I have four shorts on the slate for the autumn. Three of them have come through the same scheme as The Climb, and I’m really looking forward to working with some more exciting new writing/directing talent. The fourth, Port, is one I’ve co-written and is based on a really cool underlying short story by the Nobel prize-winning author Heinrich Boll. I’ve two feature films winding their way through the development and financing maze.

I’ve also just recently successfully crowdfunded £10k to allow me to produce and direct a rock documentary pilot, Parental Advisory, which has been a passion project for a long time. Inspired by John Olson’s 1971 LIFE Magazine photographic essay featuring rock stars at home with their parents, ‘Parental Advisory’ is a rock biopic series with a twist. Offering a candid portrait of world-famous rock musicians, and the music world, through the eyes of the person who knows them like no other – their mum or dad. It’s a celebration of talented kids who dare to succeed outside the system.

I’m also really looking forward to be holding the inaugural Northern Ireland Short Film Awards at the end of the month. This is something I’ve been inspired to set up as a chance for us all to celebrate the best of short films locally, as well as a fun social night to connect filmmakers and talent who, often working in isolation, form part of our vibrant filmmaking landscape here in NI.



Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival


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