British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

An interview with Spilt Milk director, James Dunstan

Hi James, thank you for speaking with us. Congratulations on winning at this year’s awards – your film is really striking. Could you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind it?

Spilt Milk is a modern day coming of age story displaying themes of sexuality and gender identity. These are explored through the complexities of Scarlett’s relationship with her best friend Frankie.

I was inspired by Scarlett’s story; I felt that it was an important story to tell. Also I loved the way in which the script was written, it was complex but at the same time so well crafted. There was actually a lot I could relate to on a personal level in terms of Scarlett’s story. After reading the script for the first time I felt so strongly about it… this was a story I needed to tell, as a director.

What’s your background as a filmmaker? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do?

Film is something I’ve always been passionate about. I was a film fanatic growing up, however it took me a little longer in my adult life to realise that it was something  I wanted to pursue as a career. When I eventually returned to education in my mid-twenties I really wanted to learn about the craft of filmmaking – from both a practical and theoretical perspective – and I’m so glad that I was able to do this at the University for the Creative Arts, because I learnt a lot about every aspect of film.

Why did you decide to enter the film into the awards?

Because we wanted to win!

That’s the spirit! So, how did it feel to win?

It felt really validating to win. We always set out to create a piece of work that exemplified everything we had learnt over our three years at UCA, and as a team we all worked extremely hard to produce something that met a professional standard, which we hoped would have an existence outside university.

Why is it important for you to get recognised on a national platform?

I feel this is important for every crew-member involved because, as our graduation film, Spilt Milk represents each of us as filmmakers as we graduate from education into the professional world of film. To get any kind of recognition is amazing, and I can only hope that it will lead to other opportunities in the future.

Have you entered the film into any other festivals or awards?

So far, Spilt Milk has screened at eight festivals, most recently at Translations: Seattle Transgender Film Festival, and at the 48th Nashville Film Festival where our lead actress picked up a Special Jury Prize Award for Exceptional Performance. We’ve also won awards for Best Student Short from Orlando Film Festival and BendFilm Festival in Oregon. We’ve just had confirmation of acceptance to the 20th Brooklyn Film Festival, which we’re extremely excited about.

And lastly, what’s next for you..?

I am currently working freelance within the locations department on several feature films, most recently as a Location Assistant on Tomb Raider (2018). I am however hoping to work on my own material over the coming year… we’ll see what it brings!

Thank you James, best of luck in the future.