What if you woke up on your wedding day with a face growing out of your neck?
That’s the question that intrigued Sian Harries, who wrote, co-produced and starred in her debut film NeckFace, which has been nominated for a BAFTA Cymru Award.
With the award winners announced at a ceremony in Cardiff on Sunday, she talked to Nation.Cymru about the film and her delight at the nomination.
“My initial thought was aaaaaargh! Followed by some light swearing,” she said.
“Then I had to not think about it for a bit because we were in the middle of settling Rhod’s dad into his new residential home. But after a few hours of eating Welsh cakes and making sure, he had enough underwear, it finally sunk in.
“And then it was just joyous because I know how many people worked their socks off to make our little NeckFace film happen.”
She describes her debut movie, filmed on location at Llanerch Vineyard and Miskin Manor in March last year, as “a short comedy about a bride who wakes on her wedding day with a potty-mouthed monster growing out of her neck”.
“It came about because I got married and even though I’d always thought I’d be one of those chilled out brides, I soon realised the pressure society puts on women to be perfect on ‘the best day of our lives’ can make you want to smash everything,” she said.
It’s been an exciting time for writer/performer Sian Harries over the last year or so.
Her new BBC Wales comedy The Tourist Trap has just launched, and she’s also writing a sitcom about female friendship and making a documentary for BBC Radio Wales called Wales for Women which explores whether Wales has been uniquely forward thinking with regard to women’s rights.
In the next few weeks, she starts filming the third series of O’r Diwedd, a satirical sketch show which will be on S4C over Christmas. And of course, she also co-hosts The Rhod Gilbert Show with her husband on BBC Radio Wales.
But over the last few months, she has also found the time to travel to film festivals around the world promoting NeckFace, inspired by her own wedding jitters and described by one critic as “the worst wedding on the big screen since [REC] 3”.
Sian co-wrote and exec produced with Rhod and Ffilm Cymru’s Tracy Spottiswoode, as well as taking the role of maid of honour to bride Isy Suttie, who stars in the film alongside, Elis James, Nick Helm, Vera Chok, Di Botcher, Rhodri Evan, and Sue Roderick.
“I was writing the second series of Man Down for Channel 4 when I started writing NeckFace and it was another year before we were successful in getting a grant from Ffilm Cymru Wales and BFI NETWORK Wales, as part of their Horizons fund,” she said.
“We managed to swing a product placement and promotion deal with the wonderful Llanerch Vineyard who allowed us to film and stay at their location and the amazing BAIT Studios gifted us their incredible VFX work.
“My production company Llanbobl Vision paid for the rest, in association with the brilliant Rustle Up Productions and our incredible Producer, Barry Castagnola was just brilliant at pulling in contributions, favours, and help from everyone.”
Although writing, producing and performing could be daunting, she did not let the pressure get to her, she says.
”I really loved being across all aspects of it although it did get a bit busy at times e.g. when I was casting and talking to agents and also re-writing the script before filming, but it was fine,” she said.
“I was so lucky to have such a great Producer (Barry Castagnola) who would tell me to step away from the logistics to focus on the script.
“Also, on set, I was able to just focus on the script and performance because I had such confidence in the team around me. I love it when that happens.”
For a first short NeckFace boasts an impressive cast and crew, a result of roping in friends and calling in a few favours.
“I love Isy,” she said. “Her partner Elis James (who is also the voice of NeckFace) and I have been friends since primary school and have written comedy together since university, so I knew working with her would be a dream.
“We know Nick Helm from the comedy scene and have always thought he was brilliant and I’ve worked with the formidable and hilarious Di Botcher before as well as Rhodri Evan who is such a funny actor.
“Sue Roderick was also on the dream list and is luckily very good friends with my friend Carys and Vera is someone I met in a London improv class who I think is going to be huge.
“The Supporting Artists were also all friends of ours. It was such a weird feeling when I got to set that day and we started shooting the scene – the bit where Isy and I walked down the aisle – that was the first time I saw how many of our friends and family had turned up.”
With a UK premiere at Frightfest and a trip to Korea among the festival screenings, the horror/comedy has had a good reception from fans as well as the industry insiders that nominate and select the BAFTA Cymru award winners.
“NeckFace’s Asian premiere at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival was incredible – to watch our little short being screened with Korean subtitles and seeing people from such a different culture laughing at our NeckFace monster was so brilliant,” she said.
“Although Rhod and I did miss the bit when we were supposed to walk down the red carpet to fireworks because we were too busy chatting next to some bins.
“NeckFace had a blast though. We kept being told by South Korean fans how cute it was – our little monster has quite the Asian fanbase.
“Frightfest was also a joy and again it was such a thrill to see our work alongside so many brilliant horror films.
“Personally I never really thought of NeckFace as a horror. Being a comedy writer I suppose that’s the element I tend to focus on.
“I’m always surprised when people find the idea of a drooling, talking neck horrific.”
Reflecting on what she’s learnt from the first-film experience, as she writes the script for her next project, she says she will keep it simpler next time.
”I think I know what NOT to do this time. I don’t think it needs to be as complicated. I mean we had a talking neck monster, a choreographed fight, two marquees, and a fire,” she said.
“I think my next ones should just be me sitting down, no dialogue. Maybe I’ll do a thumbs-up or something.”
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