A film of biblical proportions: Stockport film director scoops prize for futuristic take on Jonah and the whale

A Stockport-born director who thought she would ‘always be the bridesmaid and never the bride’ of the film industry has now taken her first steps down the cinematic aisle after winning a prestigious short film competition.

Aurora Fearnley won the £25,000 prize from The Pitch as budget for shooting her film Pulsar, a film with a spin on the classic tale of Jonah and the whale.

She is the first-ever female winner of the competition and follows in the footsteps of last year’s Greater Manchester winner Simon James Cookson.

Aurora explained that it was great to see the city recognised as a creative hub.

She said: “I think there must just be something in the water in Manchester!”

Now Aurora will have the chance to present the finished product to top producers and film experts in Los Angeles in November, and said she is excited by what the future holds.

“I wouldn’t say that I have an end goal, it’s just a case of making as good a short film as I can and then see what happens,” explained Aurora.

“The picture’s ambitious because I am too, which I think is the best way to be in this industry.”

With the theme set this year at having a unique take on a bible story, Aurora’s futuristic take on the classic tale of Jonah and the whale certainly screams ambition.

The eponymous character in the Book of Jonah tells the story of a prophet who makes the ultimate sacrifice when he throws himself overboard from a boat to appease God and end the storm that threatens the lives of his friends.

The prophet is then eaten by a special whale designed by God in which he lives for three days before being released.

 Aurora explained that it was the character of Jonah that drew her to the idea.

“I’m really interested in the conscious mind and how people make different life decisions,” added the 32-year-old.

“Jonah is the character who has to make the biggest life decision I’ve seen in the book so that’s what attracted me to it.

“He’s the bad character that becomes good – everybody likes an anti-hero.”

Having come up with a similar idea for one of her entries to The Pitch a couple of years ago, the ambitious filmmaker did enough to impress the panel of five judges this time around, which featured Cloud Atlas actor David Gyasi.

“Essentially for me it was the story and the character that really grabbed me, along with the way she has translated the original text to a modern and futuristic setting,” explained David.

“I could really envisage the film and the audience who it will appeal to.”

A former three-time runner up in the event, Aurora entered this year with a now-or-never attitude that, coupled with her determination, is believed to have won her the £25,000 prize.

“I think maybe they just got sick of me coming back and thought having me win was the only way to get rid of me,” laughed the charismatic Mancunian.

“I think that’s the key to the whole industry – it’s not always the most talented people, it’s the most persistent.

“If people see that you keep coming back and they know that you can take knocks, and they think you can survive the industry, then you stand out.”

She certainly has taken her fair share of such knocks as she revealed that the disappointment of not winning The Pitch last year almost led her to throwing in the towel for good on her dream career.

She said: “Quite a few times last year, I thought to myself that I could be stuck in an ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ situation.

“I thought I would just give up completely, I was spending all my time developing ideas that never got used. Last time I really thought I had it and I didn’t and I think that was a big life lesson.

“This year I just went with the thing I wanted to make the most rather than trying to appeal to what I thought the judges would want to see, and weirdly enough that’s the one that’s won.”

Having been through the loop of the idea-pitching process more often that she would care to mention, the talented director knows that her biggest challenge is still to come.

“The shock I felt at first has been replaced a little bit by the fact that I now have to build a spaceship,” she joked.

With a team of almost 40 people behind her, she must put the excitement of winning behind her and piece together her trans-Atlantic trip at the end of the year.

She added: “Yes I won but I’ve now got the whole different journey of making the film!” 

Click here to see the trailer.

Picture courtesy of Dan Lane, with thanks

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