Asha Dahya 00:13
Hello everyone, welcome to another episode of the rePRO Film podcast series. I’m your host Asha Dahya, thrilled to be bringing you another fantastic filmmaker interview this month, and I guarantee, you will laugh, squirm, be a little shocked, and maybe even comforted. Before we get to my chat with award-winning British Filmmaker Tia Salisbury, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the heaviness of what it means to now officially live in a post-Roe America.
On June 24 the Supreme Court officially released their ruling in the Dobbs v Jackson case and it has sent the country into a spin. Thankfully, many people on the frontlines of abortion access and activism have been preparing for this moment, FOR YEARS, so Roe v Wade being overturned is NOT the end of abortion access in the United States. There is going to be a lot of work to do on a state level now, and as the landscape rapidly changes, we will continue to amplify and support the work of repro leaders across the country.
Here at rePRO Film we are also committed more than ever to sharing important messages through brilliant films, giving bite-sized pieces of action every month in our periodical, and growing a community of people who turn to film, art and creativity in moments when all else feels a little hopeless. That is our promise to you.
So this month we wanted to switch gears a little and bring some joy and humor to the table. Our feature short film is called ‘Placenta Pâté’, and if you haven’t seen it yet, head to reprofilm.org to watch right after this chat because as you’ll hear, there are some really fascinating insights into the background of this film that will make you appreciate all the hard work, research and passion that goes into making even a short film.
My guest today is Tia Salisbury – a multi-award winning writer and director based in the UK. Her live-action shorts have been screened at BAFTA qualifying festivals including ‘The London Short Film Festival’. Although COVID was a tumultuous time for the film industry and for parents, for Tia, who is also a mum, it ended up being a rather productive and successful time in her career. She made a comedy short film which won 2 awards, and wrote a comedy series pilot.
Tia’s latest comedy short, ‘Placenta Pâté’, focuses on new parenting in all its messy chaos, as experienced through the eyes of clashing same-sex mums Libby and Erin, played by Bethan Nash and Georgia Frost. New mother Libby has breastfeeding woes, but when her wife suggests a traditional placenta remedy as the answer, underlying tensions rear their head, and it’s not just the kitchen getting messy.
Join me as I speak with Tia about all things placenta, motherhood, filmmaking, and how sometimes the best way to get your project funded is to annoy the crap out of funders until they give you the money and tell you to, “piss off”.
Asha Dahya 03:18
Thank you so much for joining me today. I’m so excited to be chatting about placenta, all things Placenta Pate with you and filmmaking and motherhood. But first, I’d love to have you share how the idea for the film came about and when was it filmed?
Tia Salisbury 03:35
Well, thank you for chatting to me about the film. It’s a real treat. And who wouldn’t want to talk about placenta for a bit of their day? Who wouldn’t? Kind of the short answer to the film coming about was? We were super lucky to get some funding and support from Exeter Phoenix who are a cinema, and it’s sort of an arts funding body down in the lovely city of Exeter in the West Country in Great Britain, where I live.
And yeah, they gave us a pot of money to get going with, which was through pitching the idea, developing the script a little bit. But kind of the longer answer is I honestly have been fermenting bits of this film for about 20 years, I swear to God. And I think some films come, you know, really fully formed that just wallop. That’s the film. You know, you have your theme, you have everything. And it’s just, you know, especially with shorts because they’ve got to be, you know, pretty succinct.
Asha Dahya 04:32
Tia Salisbury 04:32
But this was like bits of jigsaw that just fell into place over years and years. And I mean, honestly, the initial starting point was my brother had my niece who’s now a beautiful 20 year old, 20 something year old. And he was such a keen dad, but like had babies before any of his peers and wanted to be hands on and brilliant and all over it. And he just told me about I rang him the first week, how’s it going? And he’s changing his daughter’s nappy in the middle of the night. Just amazing dad moment and the little belly button nubbin that they tie off the umbilical. Yes babies have this little I think the technical term is nubbin and they you know it just falls out off over a few days and he’s changing the nappy and there’s no nubbin. And he looks round and the family cat is staring at him going [chewing sounds] and the cat’s eaten the nubbin. And it’s like, but that wasn’t what I bought the baby memory book for, you know.
Asha Dahya 05:31
That’s hilarious. And just so for our American listeners, when Tia says nappy, she means diaper. So just a bit of cross-cultural references there, but that’s quite hilarious. That feels like a short film script in itself. The cat ate the dried up umbilical cord / the nubbin.
Tia Salisbury 05:50
Yeah, I mean, amazing, amazing. And like, well done, cats, you absolute bastards. And I thought, you know, it just seemed to sum up parenthood to me. And then and I so I had, I had these ideas that just grew over. Over, yeah. Years and years. And then when I became a parent myself is so intense that first those first few months, I really wanted to as a, as a filmmaker with older kids, my kids, 11 and 13 and I saw I kind of want to tell a love letter to myself back then, like I really did. Like, just if I could go back and just say to myself, You are getting this wrong, you’re going to be like, Oh, my God. But Clark, like, it’s so hard. And yeah, just I really. Yeah, that was. That was. What I pitched Exeter Phoenix was a love letter to and to a parent in that craziness of those first six months. Not the birth, not the pregnancy. Like, you’re in it and everybody else thinks, oh, they’re doing great. And you’re actually really starting to go like you’re really, it’s carnage.
Asha Dahya 07:05
That’s a good word to use, carnage, because it really is. You and I were talking about this in our pre interview call – That’s the hard part. I mean, yes, birth can be difficult. And when you leave the hospital after the baby’s born and you get into parenting. So but I love how you were able to find the humor and turn what is a difficult moment into something humorous, which we’re going to get into in a moment. The humorous, but the comedy aspect of it. I want to talk about casting a same sex couple which are we also talked about in our preinterview call and the fact that you didn’t make the storyline about that and what was your intent for doing this and how did you decide on making the parents two women?
Tia Salisbury 07:47
Yeah, I initially yeah, it came from my own experience of parenting and I mean, in a in a hetero marriage. And I, I just started writing the script and the dad, honestly, he just felt like this sort of. I just kept seeing this sort of harassed Hugh Grant. And I thought. Oh gosh, it feels so well-trodden. And then my daughter came home from school and one of her really good friends at school was getting not so much bullied, but but the boys in the class were like really flagging up that she has two moms and I just thought crowd really is that a problem and and something about like just like landed with me that I thought, wow, what what if I just present a different sort of parenting, a different, you know, just a different lens of parenting. But I don’t really that’s not the story is incidental. And that was what was exciting about that really.
And then suddenly I could totally hear who both those parents were and I just. And it just yeah, it just like it opened up so much in terms of the theme. And I was really aware, like I suddenly then was a bit worried I could do I have ownership over this story like this isn’t this isn’t the parenting that I’ve experienced. So we were really lucky to get lush new moms, Lauren and Aisha, who had baby Loudon, who was about four months old and connected with them through a friend. And they were so generous.
And we did loads of pre-scripting sessions with them and the actresses chat to them and they were just so generous and really, really on board with the idea of their story, not their story but seeing themselves on screen in terms of casting. And in fact we used the little boy is the baby in the film. So it just felt like, yeah, we had something there that Yeah. Needed a little bit more research on my part to feel comfortable with.
And then yeah, just, I just thought, yeah, this is definitely the way to go forward with it. But the casting was tricky because I was working with a long term collaborator, collaborator mine, Bethan Nash, who’s an amazing actress, and we’ve done a few things together. She trained at a theater school in Bristol, and I said, I really want you to play one of the moms. But this Channel 4 series called “It’s a Sin” had just come out, which is about.
Asha Dahya 10:16
I’ve seen that. Yeah. And it was on HBO in the US.
Tia Salisbury 10:19
Incredible, powerful story of two of them kind of dancing in Soho at the time that the AIDS started to really improve in London. And Russell T Davis who wrote it, said he really felt that he had to quit, cast that because of the nature of his own, you know, his very personal story to him. And I thought, yeah, I need to kind of honor that, I think, in our story. So I tried to pursue, I knew was going to play one mum and she said, Oh, you’ve got to use my friend George Frost. He’s just like just sending her talent is crazy. Get her while we can. And we’ve done some BBC comedy. So I knew she had real comedy chops and they were really good friends. So I think that, you know, the lack of being able to cast because of COVID, that just that was that was a great fit . So yeah, very lucky. Lots of times that we were lucky. And that was that was one of the times production wise. Definitely, yeah.
Asha Dahya 11:21
And you can definitely tell they have good chemistry together and it’s is very authentic even though it’s a scripted film, obviously. Yeah. Even though this wasn’t part of the film itself. The same sex storyline. I’d love for you to share some of the contextual background for listeners in terms of what it takes for a same sex couple to have a baby in the UK. You know, some of the financial and the legislative burden. That they have to go through just to get to that moment and why seeing that on screen is also, I guess, somewhat of a silent celebration that, you know, they are parents that you see that that dual parenting.
Tia Salisbury 11:58
Yeah. I mean, God, that was an education for all of us. And and again, made me really feel that we done the right thing, kind of, you know, just making the story more diverse. I mean, initially, a big part of the film for me was our daughter had been very ill when she was eight, and it was pretty seismic, really, I have to be honest. So that reverberated out through kind of years of, you know, still that will impacts on us as a family.
I wanted to have an aspect of that in the film that they’ve had a tough time, you know, having the baby. And that’s the elephant in the room. You know, that’s the thing that they’re not talking about. And again, keep it kind of not prescribed. But I knew that there was a real anxiety that they were trying to ignore and going about it both in completely the wrong way.
And when I sort of we start talking about that with Lauren and Aisha, they were saying, well, you know, like there’s this kind of, you know, gay tax in the NHS. And I was really kind of horrified to find that, you know, the NHS, which is this unbelievable organization in the UK, which means we get free health care, you know, you have to have a massive heart attack on the bus. They scoop you up, they fix you. They fixed our daughter. It’s free. The food is terrible, but it’s all great. Like, it’s amazing. It is, you know, the pride of the nation with good reason.
But when it comes to fertility treatment, you know, at best, there is kind of a catching up with the with the legal equality of same sex marriages and at worst, kind of a discrimination. So for instance, if you’re a straight couple, I try to have a baby. I think you try for a year or two years and then you’ll be offered IVF, which is about £1600 privately. So you have to you have to be trying for a certain set number of months and then you’ll be offered free treatment as a straight couple. As a same sex couple, you have to pay for six rounds. Six rounds.
Asha Dahya 14:16
Tia Salisbury 14:17
Privately. So it’s kind of like you’re just that that’s not equal, that’s not [not at all] equality. So, you know, I genuinely felt like that was a bigger story than to tell the like, which we assumed not about whether, you know, whether to script something in, but actually, you know, the films only just started on the festival circuit and I, I’m already toying with the idea of if a longer script that that is like a, you know, a prequel to this so any producers with a bit of a in defeat to budget they’d like to enhance.
[Hint hint] Yeah and I’m all in. I’m here. I am. But I think that was, you know, there was a much bigger story suddenly there that we chose to not to kind of signpost to much but made the film the ending I think so much more poignant for the actresses playing it. You know, the back story then it’s very hard for those couples financially, legally, medically, that they’re up against it to start a family. And it’s so emotive when you’ve made that decision to have kids, you know, it’s hard you walking down the street, every prom, every little, everyone in the local area.
There’s heartbreak around every corner. And it’s harder for those guys, for sure, and bonkers as well. Like some of the there’s organizations where men who some, I think have good intentions that they would like to be a donor in the most, you know, charitable sense. And some of them the men would like to be donors and they would like to be present for the donation in the most conventional sense of donating. And it’s like, wow, I think.
Asha Dahya 16:03
It’s not sperm donation that’s wanting to have sex with someone. You’re yelling at a certain time. I do know. I mean, it’s just shows that there’s still a lot of stigma and obviously harassment like we were talking about with your daughters, friends and their family. And so there’s definitely an important aspect of showing a same sex couple and having that contextual background. And it’s.
Tia Salisbury 16:27
Asha Dahya 16:28
I really want to go back and watch it again and be like, wow, these people are amazing knowing that, you know, that it was consulted with a real life same sex couple and they would have gone through all of that. So it’s really incredible what you did.
Tia Salisbury 16:48
Yeah. I mean, they were saying without the Internet, they would not have had a clue. Where do you begin? Like, how do you how does one even start to go about having a family? And so they said, thank God for thank God for the Internet age, because I had it been. Had they been wanting to have a family 15 years ago? I mean, just not a clue. Not a clue how to. And so it was a real eye opener about kind of the discrimination, really, that is the lack of equality that that we’re facing. And it’s like 5% of IVF treatment is now both partners of the same sex. So it’s like a lot of people. So yeah, we, we were excited to tell a different story, you know, for that very reason. Yeah, definitely.
Asha Dahya 17:31
I mean, it shows the important role that film plays in culture and breaking down stigma and misinformation and just sharing them help light up representation on screen as well. So it’s really exciting that you did that. So switching gears a little bit to the placenta part of the conversation because this really is the elephant in the room . And just full disclosure, both I am myself a parent. So for anyone who is a parent, I think we would be in close proximity to parenting and babies and the postpartum experience.
Asha Dahya 18:01
You may be familiar with the idea of, you know, people who make the placenta smoothie or do these things which are considered, you know, hippie or alternative. And I will share that after my second child was more my daughter I had to do the first time. I did not know. I had no idea what I was doing.
The second time when my daughter was born, my doula said, Do you want to keep your placenta? And I was like, What? Why is that a thing? Do people keep it? She’s like, Yeah, the hospital can either keep it for you for $2,000 and keep those really, really important blood cells and nutrients if something happens with the baby. Oh, yeah, that’s the thing. And the deal is that otherwise I can take it for free. And she has her kitchen and the house set up and she was able to dehydrated. She’s like, I can make it into pills for you.
So I thought, I have no idea what that is. Sure. Go ahead. It’s free. It’s not $2,000. So she made these dehydrated placenta pills. And, you know, I was told it helps with postpartum anxiety, depression, mental health, all of that stuff. I’m not sure if it actually did that, but I took it. So I am officially one of those quote unquote placenta people now. But all of that to say that there are many different, interesting and random stories out there about placentas and I’d love to find out from you, you know, taking the idea or something that is taboo or some people think is gross or weird or unheard of and bringing the comedy into all of that, I love that you kind of balance those two. I would love for you to talk about that.
Tia Salisbury 19:39
Oh thank you yeah and fair play getting your you know you grew the placenta, right?
Asha Dahya 19:44
True. Why would I want to pay $2,000?
Tia Salisbury 19:47
Right and it’s yes., cheaper than athletic greens. So, you know eat it just like half it. Well we yeah again I kind of had seen years ago a cookery program on in the UK that became like a real watercooler moment where somebody made placenta paté on a, on a cookery show and. It was. Staggeringly disgusting. And, and then loads of people came to the party and like they had a present party and they because it’s, I mean, the placenta is huge. So they buried three quarters of it under a tray. And then all the guests, this party all sat around.
Asha Dahya 20:32
Did they know they were eating placenta?
Tia Salisbury 20:35
Yeah. Well like painting it, you know? I mean, Brits drink a lot, so they probably didn’t know what the hell was going on, but still really grim. And so that little that was in my brain as well. And then I thought, okay, I really want to explore this, this idea of how hard and messy parenting is, where let’s like fully cinematically whack that, work that into the story as placenta and I did have a friend who’d like, you know, been offered the chance to keep the placenta and gone yeah I want the placenta. And then it was just in the freezer for 12 years, you know, every time I open the freezer to get out…
Asha Dahya 21:12
Wow. 12 years? Yeah. And it’s big like you said, it’s a big organ.
Tia Salisbury 21:15
Still on its own shelf. Like, what are you going to do with
Asha Dahya 21:18
Oh my God.
Tia Salisbury 21:20
And yeah. So the idea that they suddenly remember and just, yeah, this sort of old wive’s remedy for mastitis is that you eat some of the placenta. But how? And then it becomes, you know, it becomes kind of part of the conflicts, the building conflict between, you know, we’re doing okay, this is great. I’ve got this. I’m going to fix this. I’m going to make you eat your afterbirth and then we’re going to be more okay versus we’re really not okay.
And how do I let you be part of my experience as the breastfeeding mum, you know, how do you you know, we talked a lot about how it would feel, you know, not being able to feed the baby. But you’ve got breasts, but you can’t feed the baby. You can’t help baby. It’s like a whole extra level of feeling. Useless, I think is, is when we were sort of exploring that with, with the idea of cooking up the, you know, particular center and also just how, yeah, it got messy, it got it got properly messy on screen which was that gross out. He was I think I said to you we were having a chat the other day. I loved Booksmart and just the idea that women can just be as funny as us, as in that sort of role, you know, gross out human. It really was. We were going for a bit of that like uncomfortable gross out humor.
Asha Dahya 22:50
Yeah, I love that.
Tia Salisbury 22:51
A bloke. Oh, my God. Blokes really struggle watching it. I’ve seen it screened twice and they are struggling. It’s hilarious.
Asha Dahya 22:58
But that’s like, I mean, I feel like that’s good because they should see it and there should be more women being allowed to write gross out humor and it be normalized in some weird sense and it’s still part of the human body. So, you know, equal center paté
Tia Salisbury 23:17
I think the challenge was to have it kind of like emotionally motivated and just kind of shoved in. But it is funny where middle aged women all start like proper doubling over what’s the placenta made and the blokes just go a bit silent and struggle slightly. So, you know, hooray for us for kind of making them uncomfortable. And yeah. And I do love the parts, but they’re a bit I think people are just staggered by what it looks like and it genuinely that’s what it looks like. It’s, it’s, it’s horrific. It’s like roadkill.
Asha Dahya 23:51
I mean, I think there’s something to be said about creating films and visuals on screen of, you know, aspects of women’s bodies that are just so taboo, generally speaking. I remember earlier this year we did an interview with a film that was about endometriosis, and there’s all these visual representations of blood and ovaries and uteruses. And the writer was telling me that a lot of people in screenings were like grossed out. Men were writing things on the Internet. But there really is a breaking through of that taboo, showing these things that, you know, millions and dare I say billions of women go through every day, every year.
And it’s a why shouldn’t it be on screen? Why shouldn’t it be written that that’s something normal? So I just thought I’d mention that because I think that’s one of the important aspects of what we do as the rePRO film fest really talk about all different aspects of reproductive health and maternal health. But now I want to ask a practical question. Yes. What did you actually use for the placenta in the film and where does one get a prop placenta made? Like what? Tell me about the mechanics of all of that.
Tia Salisbury 24:59
Oh, my God. I. Bloody hell, I thought that.
Asha Dahya 25:04
Literally bloody hell.
Tia Salisbury 25:05
I thought oh yeah you know what, let’s just go and get… we’ll just go and get a placenta. A couple of my friends were pregnant. I was like any chance? They were like: No, no, no, no, no, no. I was like, Oh, I really thought we were friends? Worked before with our amazing art director, raised a true love. And she, yeah, it was really lucky to work with her again. And we sat down and we were like, We’re going to need a few stages of it as well because it gets cooked and various things happen to it and really, really.
Yeah, there’s a bit of a visual punch line as well. We need to do a different sort of placenta for that. So we needed it in various stages and we thought maybe we could get our hands on a pig’s placenta, which seems like quite close to it. It’s biologically looks really similar, but it turns out it’s really easy to get hold of animal parts from a dead animal. But getting bits from a live animal because of like mad cow disease. And, you know, it’s part of their like it’s part of the whole sort of, I dunno, brain stem down through central nervous system and then you know, you can’t just walk up a farm and go, please, can I have placenta, you know, legally you’re not allowed to do it. So now we all know that. So there you go, if you want them, you can’t, you can’t get them.
So thank god, Rose is amazing at prosthetic.. She just done all these incredible horror prosthetics for a Mary Shelley Museum in Bath. Oh, wow. Yeah. So she’d be making these. And I went into her studio and there was, like, this massive, like, prosthetic pig head and all these organs and Frankenstein stuff. And it’s a museum where they reclaim the story of Mary Shelley, which is Frankenstein is really about birth and death and burial. And it’s just been stolen by men for hundreds of years. You know who you are, Kenneth Branagh.
So they wrote that. Rose was so excited to come from that. And then up for the challenge of she made the presenter, she made a big massive placenta and then made a, I think ceramic. No, I don’t know what the process is, but you cast it in silicone and then she painted it, decorated it , and it was unbelievable.
Asha Dahya 27:25
It was so realistic.
Tia Salisbury 27:27
It was incredible. She did the most amazing job and then confided in me that she was actually seven weeks pregnant. While we were. Filming and sent me a photo of this.
Asha Dahya 27:39
And it’s like, well, it’s like you went full circle.
Tia Salisbury 27:42
It was like, you know what? She was so amazing. She was like, How amazing am I? And I was like, What a mom? And she was like, No, as an art director – my placenta is the same.
Asha Dahya 27:54
As the fake one I created for you in the film.
Tia Salisbury 27:58
So, yeah. So she did an incredible job. And yeah, soon as it came on set, we were just everyone was just so grossed out and prodding it and it was brilliant and it was love. It was lovely for the you know, we did that scene where the actresses first see it for the first time. We just did that as a single take and they just kind of reacted to it there and then. So yeah.
Asha Dahya 28:21
I mean, it is such a visceral reaction. Even as an audience member, when you see it, you’re just like, Oh, what are they going to do next? She’s just going to put it in her mouth?
Tia Salisbury 28:29
Yeah, and then we went from that to we had then like we actually had a pigs heart that was four pig hearts sewn together to represent it when it was being cut up. We then went into sort of real food world, but initially an incredible bit of art direction.
Asha Dahya 28:47
Wow. I love that. The magic behind the film, it’s almost a character of it’s own this placenta because you see it in such very vivid ways and it plays such a vital role in each of the character’s trajectory in this film. So I really love hearing about how it came about and it’s such a beautiful story about your art director and coming full circle. She got to see her own placenta and was awed by the work that she did rather than just motherhood itself. So I love that.
Tia Salisbury 29:17
Yeah. And again, it’s like I was like such a it’s like another, you know, it’s lovely to be mentioned in the same breath as sort of and which is just phenomenal. I think Alice Seabright’s work is a massive inspiration to me as a director, so it’s lovely to be showcased with you guys as well.
And you know what you talked about in that podcast, it was sort of like this, what we see on screen. And, you know, we don’t we don’t ever see births properly on screen. You know, we don’t see sex properly on screen. We don’t see birth properly on screen. We never see the placenta. So I just I was just yeah, all in for just kind of something completely other. But then, you know, making sure that was emotionally grounded rather than just for the sake of it.
But it’s staggering how it to me and anybody who’s had kids, it’s like, you know, it’s it’s something that we talk about. It’s something that we know we deliver after the baby is just a taboo thing. I mean, you yeah. It’s ordinary, the sort of that it has caused. It has. It’s got it’s like it should have its own credit. It’s just become the issue of the film, which that’s that’s interesting in itself, right?
Asha Dahya 30:25
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I know for myself now that I am a mother, when I see scenes in film or on screen of someone’s water breaking, it’s like a waterfall. It pisses me off. My. Oh, my God. Come on. And it just really makes me think, you know, if there were more accurate representations of birth and women’s bodies and the processes and things that we go through, perhaps that would go a long way to changing the culture around laws, around stigma, around ideology.
I mean, who knows? That’s just me thinking in the abstract that perhaps it is, you know, another reason why films like yours and End-O are really important to showcase those and and also to show to people out there with uteruses that you are not alone. This is normal, you are not crazy. So, yeah, I really love that. But I’d love to talk about your career as a filmmaker. Speaking of representation of film, navigating your career as you know, after becoming a mother, also dealing with COVID.
I think this is a conversation so many other filmmaker mothers out there and parents wanting to hear right now. So I’d love to hear your thoughts. You know, how did you navigate COVID? How have you navigated your filmmaking for you as a mother? Well, thoughts that you really want to share.
Tia Salisbury 31:39
Yeah, I mean, COVID as a piece of piss, wasn’t it?
Asha Dahya 31:43
Yeah, it really was. Still is.
Tia Salisbury 31:49
Really It was. I felt like we were on this massive snakes and ladders board all the time because in the UK we had the thing like every time someone in the household tested positive, everyone had to just like go in the bunker for ten days and be like, Yeah, we’re everyone’s, everyone’s in work, everyone’s at school. Oh, shit. And we’re right back at the bunker, down the snake, and then like, Oh, please, can you make your school trip up the ladder? We made this go trip across the whole class. Got it again.
It was a weird one for us because our daughter, because of her health problems was had been put on the UK shielding list. So we were really I just kind of thought, okay, I’m, my overriding thing is to keep her safe and well so I’m, I’m going to turn down any, any work that means I have to be, you know, on a set or with any number of people or indoors. That’s not going to happen for me. And I just to backtrack slightly, I had gone from before I had the kids.
Tia Salisbury 32:49
I worked as a CGI animator for about 15 years and then had the kids. Then it turned out being an animator as a mom where like everything’s in slow motion. It takes a week to do 4 seconds of animation for Nickelodeon. That’s not going to work. So I’d been retraining in live action, finding my feet with that. And and I was sort of working freelance and doing my own bits and bobs, feeling a little bit flung out of the industry. In truth, because I’m not in London, I’m not able to work full time. I haven’t been to film school. And just as as the pandemic kicked off, I thought, you know what, I’m going to commit to doing comedy. That’s what I’m going to do. And I signed up the first Thursday night that we went into full lockdown in the UK in March. I signed up to do a online course where you learn to write sitcoms and it was ten of us and we all just sat on this Zoom call like shell shocked, absolute shell shocked
You know, as we analyzed scenes from, you know, Fawlty Towers, it’s just it was just insane. And then what I ended up doing was doing a lot of writing. So that was great. I could do that. And then I made a a no budget short film, which was a comedy short film that actually ended up doing really well for itself and won a few festivals and just screened in in L.A. at the Hollywood Comedy Shorts Festival. And that kind of gave me loads of confidence.
Also led to the, to the short film funding with Exeter Phoenix. So I felt really championed by them and in a weird sort of way, a climate where I thought, I’m not gonna get anything made. I’m kind of making my most exciting work and I’m just riding that out now, actually. I’m thinking, okay, great, I’m not going to go to London, not going to focus on longform, just on a really nice music promo with a great comedy actor in the UK, Spencer Jones. He’s got his own BBC series for a fantastic local artist, but he no mate. So it’s I think suddenly you just find yourself by going that that route to that career path, which I feel like everybody else is kind of climbing up that ladder. Like, I can’t even I don’t even know which city that ladder is in. I’m too busy. Like, I’m on the school run. I can’t even focus on that ladder.
And then that bit can become a superpower in a way, you know, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to get where you want to go. It’s just not going to go the same way that everybody else does. And you’re going to start curating slightly different work. So I do feel yeah, brave for and I had a really sick kid, you know, if I make a shitty film that’s not the scariest thing but can be you know it’s fearless so we’re kind of creatively there with her. So it’s maybe it’s like I can give great career advice to the young women coming through because I’m kind of going at it my own way. But that’s probably no bad thing, actually.
Asha Dahya 36:06
Yeah. I mean, the way you’re talking about, you know, having to go on your own path, there’s some sort of sense of freedom in that way. You don’t feel the need to hustle and compete. And I live in Los Angeles. And when my husband and I moved here, we and he’s a photographer, you know, we’re in it all the time. And then having kids just kind of gives you this always forces you to slow down and reevaluate. And then, of course, the pandemic, a whole different that’s a whole different light so that for every everyone parents or not. So I really love the idea that people in the film industry are thinking of new ways to create what they want, their artistry and their work out there. So good on you for doing that. And I love seeing the work that you’re doing and that your most exciting work is happening during this time that women often get written off in their careers. So that’s something that’s really lovely.
And the other thing that we spoke about on the phone the other day, you said something really powerful, that who gets to have a say in terms of the narratives you create on film and why we need more women, mothers, queer people, non-binary people? Can you share your perspective on the importance of the quote unquote, whose gaze we see on screen and why needs to be more diverse?
Tia Salisbury 37:20
Yeah. I mean I think there’s a balance with that, isn’t there. Because I also I also worry a little bit about like the owners shouldn’t be on us to smash through glass ceilings day in, day out, you know?
Asha Dahya 37:33
Tia Salisbury 37:34
I mean, I’m knackered anyway. Yeah. So, yeah. And also sometimes I’m a bit like, oh my God, do I have to lean in? Can I just lean out a bit?
Asha Dahya 37:44
Oh, my God. It makes me think of that…I don’t know if you have you ever seen Ali Wong’s Netflix comedy series? She is a brilliant comedian. American Asian.
Tia Salisbury 37:52
Is it a series or a stand-up show?
Asha Dahya 37:55
It’s a sort of stand up special on Netflix and it’s one of the first ones. And she was heavily pregnant when she was doing it. But one of the things she says that in it she was like, Guys, I don’t want to lean in. I just want to lie down. And she talks about her husband being this, you know, hobbit educated tech guy. But the kicker is, in real life, she’s actually more well off than him because she’s done, I think, three or four Netflix specials now. Although a comedian, she did a film with Keanu Reeves that she wrote and but that just the line of like “I don’t to lean in I just want to lie down.” I’m like Ali, yes, that’s what I want to do. So it just made me think of that.
Tia Salisbury 38:36
So I mean, there’s something in that because then I think you there’s the kick. But I’ve seen it with like Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I mean, the British press love to build someone up and then like literally, like, you know, they’d have you like, guillotined in a square if they could.
Asha Dahya 38:50
Same with Australia.
Tia Salisbury 38:51
God. Know your place. Know your place. But. And then, you know, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, it’s like she’s criticized for being too posh. And to this, it’s like she’s not she’s not the kind of, you know, poster girl for every single comic voice going. And, you know, she is in the working class comedy voice. But, you know, you can if you want that, oh, my God, there’s quality out there in spades. So yeah, I kind of I’m aware that I never want to be on a campaign trail other than, you know, I’ve got a daughter, so I am going to keep making shit for ever. And I’ve now sort of like, you know, growing into the confidence of knowing: I just have to get my process. Hone my directors process. Not be a dick on set. Not have other dicks on set and make stuff that really chimes with me and makes me laugh and connects with me. And someone else out there will find that.
And I’m just going to keep doing that and make sure that there are people of my age and my background with my, you know, as a working mom with some of those thoughts and some of those interests. And it’s really important. You know, I could have just slipped off and gone and done other stuff. And it’s nearly happened hundreds of times, if I’m being honest. So yeah, it’s like I just think sometimes people will give you the money to make something and piss off because they’re so fed up with you. Just coming back again and again and again, like, here’s some funding. Now fuck off.
Asha Dahya 40:33
Is that your advice for filmmakers? Just badgered them until they say, here’s some money piss off?
Tia Salisbury 40:37
Until they give you money to fuck off. That’s my top tip.
Asha Dahya 40:43
You do realize that’s going to be the pull quote for it? And the soundbite that I use on social media? Here is Tia Salisbury’s advice for filmmakers: Here’s the money. Now fuck off.
Tia Salisbury 40:54
It’s for life. It’s is across the board for life actually don’t limit it to the great fuck.
Asha Dahya 40:59
That’s even better.
Tia Salisbury 41:01
Yes, part of me is kind of I don’t want to be like, you know, some sort of pioneering comedy filmmaker. But there aren’t many. There are there’s very few of me around that I’m finding. And actually there’s positive discrimination in that as well. I think there are schemes coming through. The next tour that I’ve just written is an absurdist world where men have to go through the menopause called ‘The Manopause.” So it’s there’s so much there’s so much estrogen in the drinking water. Now they’ve got to go through the menopause as well.
And I just I think so. You know, I could see that someone somewhere is going to feel that there’s something kind of buzzy about that. And that’s not that’s not a film that’s going to get made by, you know, a 24 year old male graduate who’s amazing , you know, coming out of the National Film Television School, which is not something I can do. Even the summer schools, right. The training up, you know, how do I hone my process? How do I get more experience? It’s all summer schools. I can’t go to a summer school. So you know that there is I think you just have to kind of have an awareness of your limitations and those might also be your strengths as well.
Asha Dahya 42:17
No, I love that. That’s really beautiful. It’s it’s a great way to kind of not be so stuck in the struggle of it, but realize that that can be a way to find your path forward. I think that’s really I mean, filmmaking is such a hard industry anyway. I think you’ve all constantly got to be thinking outside of the box and who’s your audience, what’s your motivation, all of that. So I think it’s it’s constant reevaluation. What do you want viewers to think about or feel after watching Placenta Paté? I mean, obviously, this is a comedy short film, but is there something you want them to leave with after watching?
Tia Salisbury 42:53
Oh, wow. Oh, my God. After such a year, after our lovely global plague. It’s just. I still can’t believe we got to make it. I can’t believe, you know, just the creative generosity of everybody. The cast, the crew. Shout out to Kerry Brown, Saffron Watson, who are young producers. It was so hard to make it like, you know, the actors couldn’t touch the baby. It’s a film about parenting. You can’t touch the baby. It’s just, you know, it’s bonkers.
Asha Dahya 43:23
There was a COVID restriction that you put on set?
Tia Salisbury 43:26
You just yeah, we just we were really in it was so hard to shoot it. So it’s. What a lovely, lovely thing to be able to, you know, for you guys to host it. That’s, you know, I’m so grateful for that, that people would watch it and enjoy it. So thank you. Anybody who watches it first and foremost and I’d really love anybody who’s new parent or anybody who’s thinking of becoming a parent or anybody who is a parent just to kind of. You know, give themselves a break because it’s just so hard being a parent and it’s just the rollercoaster of your life. And I just wanted to make an entertaining kind of. You know, well-made, short in the in the mold of an amazing. Alice Seabright short, for instance. And have you hung out with this couple? And just them be a little bit better off in the world at the end of the film than they were at the beginning , because no one’s going to get it. You’re not going to get parenting, ever. I always had an ending that was kind of like, Oh yeah, you’ve got this absolutely sorted out, but no, you haven’t. So yeah, I would love to give all, all parents the world over a bit of a hug and and also to have the bravery to try telling other people’s stories. And maybe it won’t always feel right. Maybe it won’t always sit right.And I did worry about telling someone else’s story. And and hopefully, you know, we kind of chatted around that and and wrote a script that reflected real life experience of parents who who weren’t parenting in the same way that I have done. And I’m so I’m so much more comfortable with the fact that we we did tell somebody else’s story who maybe isn’t on the screen as often than I am, that I am uncomfortable in, you know, kind of trying to take ownership of it, not someone else’s narrative. So, yeah, that, that balance I think we, we got right. And, you know, I don’t always feel represented in industry and on screen. So, you know, I should be telling stories with other people who feel the same way.
Asha Dahya 45:48
Yeah, brilliantly set. I love that. What’s next for you in terms of filmmaking? How can listen to support your work? Where can we follow you, stalk you, all that kind of stuff online?
Tia Salisbury 45:58
Yeah, I’m on all the usual social media stuff, which I loathe.
Asha Dahya 46:05
Same to a degree. Yes.
Tia Salisbury 46:08
But it is, you know, it is brilliant. And I yeah, I’m, I’m yeah. Just figuring do some more music promo work again, which is such a treat to do that stuff again and work with some bands that’s really that’s a really, you know, I think that’s a perfect thing for me. It’s containable and I get to do it in the city and this fantastic restless, you know, world famous for its amazing music. So really lucky to be able to tap into that kind of as a bit more of my bread and butter work. And then yeah, I’m writing a short that I’m hoping to pitch to the this new BBC scheme for comedy shorts and various other schemes out over the summer. So getting that. The unleashing ‘The Manopause’ upon the world before it really happens, before the drinking water really makes everyone grow moobs and start going through it for real. Welcome men and and yeah. And I’m excited to see where Placenta Pate goes and how it connects with audiences. And yeah, just I do feel there’s maybe a longer form film in there having, having learned what I’ve learned about, you know, the origin story that would have got that couple to where they are when we meet them is, is kind of a fascinating field, first sort of comedy drama. I think you’ve been amazing rom romcom in there actually.
Asha Dahya 47:14
Well, I am definitely looking forward to the long form version of Placenta Paté or whatever title it takes at some stage and especially Manopause. I think that sounds like a wonderful, almost like I Am Legend, post-apocalyptic, pandemic type, Walking Dead film, but with a comedy feel to it because it is you after all, also I’m definitely looking forward to that..
Tia Salisbury 47:53
Spoiler the lead male does not cope with it very well.
Asha Dahya 47:57
You can watch Placenta Paté in this month’s periodical. And we’re going to share links to your social media. People can get in touch. Tia Salisbury all the way from Bristol, UK. Thank you so much for chatting with me today.
Tia Salisbury 48:09
Oh, thank you. It’s been a joy. I do appreciate it. Thank you.
Asha Dahya 48:14
Be sure to follow Tia on Instagram and Twitter @tiasalisbury for both. And check out more of her award-winning work at TiaSalisbury.com. To watch ‘Placenta Pate’ during July, head to reprofilm.org and sign up to our monthly periodical if you haven’t already.
The rePRO Film podcast is executive produced by mama.film. Hosted and produced by me, Asha Dahya, Edited by Kylie Brown, with original music by ParisJane and Marrice Anthony. Our Monthly periodical is programmed by Neha Aziz and written by Emily Christensen. This month we welcomed 2 new colleagues to our team – Alex Sgambati is our Social Media Manager and Rebecca Sosa is our Distribution & Impact Strategist.
You can find us on social media @reprofilmofficial on Instagram and Facebook, and @reprofilmfest on Twitter. I look forward to bringing you our next conversation, next month. Bye for now!