Officially Selected Alumni Interviews

Erin Richards: Lift-Off Filmmaker Interview

Welsh-native New York Actress and Filmmaker Erin Richards’ narrative short “Hot Girl” follows Kara Quinn, a struggling actress desperate to be seen as anything other than a ‘hot girl.’ After deciding to impersonate Cara Delevingne in order to speak to one of Hollywood’s top agents, she realizes she may not be as powerless as she thinks.

Hot Girl” received a special mention at New York Lift-Off, and will be going forward to screen at LA Lift-Off in September. We interviewed writer, director, and star Erin to hear a little more about how this film came to be, and her path as a filmmaker.

Interview by Sneh Rupra

First of all, how did it feel for Hot Girl to be screened at New York Lift-Off, and to receive a Special Mention?

It was such a pleasure. The festival was beautifully run with some fantastic films, and to receive a special mention was a real honour.

Did you enjoy the Lift-Off experience, and meeting some of the other filmmakers also screening? 

It’s such a thrill to sit in a dark room with other artists who’ve put everything into these films. Then to be able to speak to them after and share our processes and experiences was so enlightening.

How did you come up with the concept for this film?

I wrote it one morning after waking up with the story in my head.

Did you always intend to write, direct, and star in this project?

Telling stories has always been what drives me. I’ve had a pretty fraught relationship with the English language. I’m dyslexic and went to a Welsh language school, so it wasn’t picked up on until I was around 21. As a result I had a real block with writing. About a month before writing Hot Girl I received some NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and was able to release those negative associations and start writing. Hot Girl was the first thing I wrote and it just made sense to me to direct and act in it because it was my story.

Were there any unexpected challenges you faced during production?

We filmed Hot Girl in my apartment in Brooklyn on the same weekend I had to move out, and I came down with the flu, so it felt like a mountain of challenges, but also like the most thrilling thing I’d ever done.

What has your own journey been like as an actress, and now as a writer- director?

My journey as an actor has been full of joy and magic. Ups and downs obviously, but looking back it’s offered me more self discovery than I could have ever hoped for. It feels totally natural to me to expand that now into my writing and directing.

On that journey, have you found New York to be an inspiring place, creatively?

So much so. The energy in NY is unlike anywhere. I think it’s a combination of the people who come here determined to succeed, and the city which throws us all in the deep end and demands we swim.

What are the most pertinent differences between working on a project of your own, and some of the other great work you have done?

The control element. With acting it’s such a wonderful challenge to come in as the last piece of a puzzle, bringing a character to life, focusing on that one element. But with writing and then directing my own work I get to influence every piece of that puzzle. It’s not control in an ego sense, it’s the ability to tell a story, transmit a message, that is my pure voice.

How has the experience of making this film changed your perception of filmmaking?

It gave me a much wider view (and appreciation) of the whole process. I’ve been diligently shadowing directors for two years, but it wasn’t until I was in the driving seat that I truly understood the incredible work that every member of a film crew or post production house does. It was very humbling.

It’s a very timely moment for a film like this – how do you think this film will impact the conversation?

If my film makes one person feel they are not alone in their struggle to be seen in this world, it will have done all it needed to do.

Are there any new projects on the horizon that you can tell us about?

We’re just going into our fifth and final season of Gotham. After that I plan to get one of the feature films I’ve written into production. Other than that I’ll keep travelling and reading and opening myself up to love and life all around me. That’s where the magic comes from.

Don’t forget to view the full Winners and Special Mentions list from New York Lift-Off.