Phoebe Dynevor tells us about the experience of working on her first feature film

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Photo credit: Oliver Holms
Photo credit: Oliver Holms

The newly renovated BAFTA headquarters in London provided the perfect setting for a very special event this week. Actress Phoebe Dynevor, our November cover star and one of our 2021 Women of the Year, hosted a private screening of her new film, The Colour Room, alongside Harper's Bazaar's editor-in-chief, Lydia Slater, and in partnership with the Platinum Card from American Express.

In the Sky Original film, Dynevor plays English ceramics artist Clarice Cliff, a hugely successful entrepreneur who not only revolutionised ceramics design, but also changed the workplace in the 20th century.

The Colour Room marks Dynevor's first feature film, something which she agrees was "absolutely" a very different process to her previous work in television. "I always wanted to go into film eventually," she told Slater, during an on-stage Q&A. "I've been doing TV work since I was 14, so going into film was always something I really wanted... It was great just having one script! And one director. And it just feeling a lot more intimate. I think that's what really excited me about the medium of film."

Photo credit: Oliver Holms
Photo credit: Oliver Holms

The film features a predominantly female cast and crew, including writers, producers and director Claire McCarthy.

"It was a thrill to work alongside very brilliant women for my first film," explained Dynevor, a factor which she says influenced her decision to go for the role. "I think it needed that. It's such a female-driven film so it really needed female talent behind it to be able to tell the story."

Those who might now be tempted to look Clarice Cliff up online could be disappointed; there's very little information about the ceramics artist to be found. So how much did Phoebe know about her before the project?

"Not a lot!" she admits. "My dad has one of her pieces, but until I got the script I didn't know anything about her, so it was fascinating to find out who she was. The film is loosely based on her life - there are a few slight differences - but being able to read the script and discover what an extraordinary life she led; I just thought it was a story that people needed to see."

Photo credit: Oliver Holms
Photo credit: Oliver Holms

She laughs, "You had to sort of fill in the gaps... There are a couple of books that I read and a documentary that I found online with her paintresses and her sister, talking about Clarice and what it was like to work alongside her, which was really fascinating. But apart from that [there wasn't much].

"It's quite fun playing someone that's, obviously, real, but there's not really much footage on her; we don't really know what she was like. So, as an actress, that's quite fun. You get to sort of build it yourself."

Cliff was born in Stoke on Trent in 1989, when it was commonplace for everyone to work in their local factory, or 'the potteries' as they were known. Typically, especially for women, workers would specialise in one skill, which they would then hone over the course of their life.

Photo credit: Josh Shinner for Harper's Bazaar
Photo credit: Josh Shinner for Harper's Bazaar

Cliff began guilding when she was 13, but then swiftly mastered that and moved on to painting. She then proceeded to learn every step of the process to making a pot, eventually launching her own pottery line. "Which was so unique," explains Dynevor, "and, as you see in the film, very odd. It was such an odd thing to do at the time, to learn every skill. No one really understood what she was doing.

"I just found that fascinating, that she wanted to master every skill so that she could get her head around the whole process."

"Is that something that would then inspire you, in terms of your own career?" Slater asks.

"Definitely, I think being in this industry, you need to know what goes into being a director, or what goes into all the elements of making a film in order to do your job the best that you can. But I definitely see myself as an actress and not a writer - I wish I could master those things and maybe one day I will. But I definitely respect Clarice for that!"

The Sky Original film The Colour Room is coming to Sky Cinema and cinemas on 12 November.

Photo credit: David M. Benett - Getty Images
Photo credit: David M. Benett - Getty Images

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