Emma Connell wins Best Actress Award at the British Horror Film Festival

Winterson’s actress, Emma Connell, has won the Best Actress Award at the British Horror Film Festival, for her role in new short film, The Familiar Fingers of Culture. The dark drama recently received its UK premiere in Leicester Square, and we caught up with Emma to find out more about the project, the award, and what she sees as the emerging opportunities for upcoming actors in the industry. 

Please introduce us to The Familiar Fingers of Culture and your role within it…

“I play Brooke, who is a female escort but also a mother to her daughter Mia. The film is sort of like a dark drama that follows Brooke in her day life being a mum and then at night as an escort.”

“I think the thing that attracted me to this script and this project was the strong female lead and I have a bit of a habit of playing tragic heroines! But this one is different…she’s very unhappy in her work, obviously torn between being a sex worker and then trying to raise her daughter and fighting – dare I say it – the patriarchy of her world and then comes up on top. So, she is a defiant, independent, strong woman in the modern world.”

“I don’t want to ruin the ending, but it starts very, very nice and you don’t think it’s a horror film and then it all goes wrong when she ends up in the wrong man’s house.”

And we understand that the film has now premiered in both the US and UK? 

“We went to LA. I’ve never been there before, and I was so excited that it had an LA premiere and that it’s been selected for this amazing horror film festival called Sream Fest. We went to, apart from stalking Hollywood stars, to the TCL Chinese Theatre for the screening and I invited lots of people, lots of my contacts in LA, and they all turned up, loved the film. We had Josh Gadd come to the screening, otherwise known as Olaf! He was lovely, very complimentary about the film and the performance, so that was fantastic.”

“We had London last weekend, we’ve got New York next month and then Berlin in February.”

Please tell us more about the Award you won at the UK Festival…

“This is Sherman…. I won an award for best actress! Which is very exciting, my first ever award, and it was at the British Horror Film Festival last Saturday here in Leicester Square.”

“It was quite a good day to win an award and have to stand up and say something about the industry. So, I stood up and – hence the t-shirt – stood up and spoke about the Mark Wilson Foundation because it was black tshirt week and I think it’s important for actors and crew alike to be safe on set but still making films and feel like everyone’s got equal opportunities.”

“I come from a working-class background and had to have scholarships to go to drama school. The Mark Wilson Foundation is helping encourage people into film and TV.”

Equal representation is something we talk about a lot at Winterson’s, whether that be for women, minority representation, or wider equality. How good a job do you think the industry is doing on this front at the moment? 

“Well, funny you say this because I actually met some very lovely women on Saturday, they also won one of these lovely awards, for their short film called First. They are starting up a new campaign called First Female Films. They are producers, directors and creatives who are working in the BBC or in television at the moment and they’re trying to put together a collaboration, a creative team of women to make more film. Because a lot of the film industry is still being altered in a way so more women can create some stuff and have equal opportunities, so it’s been great to talk to them. They particularly liked my performance in Bits where I wasn’t crucified to a cross in my underwear.”

Looking more generally at the state of play in the industry today, how do you see things? Media is undoubtedly changing, but are there more opportunities for actors now in a way due to the rise of digital platforms?  

“The arts funding had been cut, there wasn’t a load of work. TV on demand and streaming hadn’t really taken off yet, so I just kind of sat there thinking, oh my god am I an actor? Thinking gosh, this is going to be really hard. So, for the last 7 years I have worked more in screen and tried to understand that world and I think it’s changed massively. Because I’d like to think that now we’ve got more opportunities what with Netflix, Sky, Amazon…. There’re more things being made, and I think the consumer is able to watch what they want when they want so we can cater for what people want to see.”

And finally, what advice would you give to recent grads coming into the industry? 

“I would say – believe in yourself – always believe in yourself, seize the opportunities that come your way but be sensible about the business because it IS a business and I treat it…well I don’t hopefully take it too seriously but I do treat it like a business and prepare yourself for it being an industry which is very saturated so you need the faith but you also need to work hard. Please do get in touch with me if you think you need to ask me anything about how I’ve navigated my way 7 years down the line. Yeah, I think it’s about faith and believing in yourself and keeping your online profile professional.”

For some exclusive behind the scenes photos from the set of Familiar Fingers of Culture, visit the Winterson’s Facebook page here.