The BYT Interview: Abbie Lucas

Abbie Lucas is a film and theatre director based in London. Her most recent film credits include Repeat Until, a distorted romance, and the black-and-white online series A Quick Fortune, which has been included in the official selection of several festivals around the world, including London’s Raindance. Lucas is also a co-founder of the Concorde Theatre Company, a transatlantic theatre exchange where she currently serves as UK Artistic Director.

You're a director based in London. How has living in the city influenced your filmmaking?
When I first moved to London I had that experience that I think many new Londoners have, of not knowing how the areas in this city connect to one another. I think that left this residual impression that the people in London exist and experience the city in many different, individual bubbles. A lot of my work is quite intimate and often set in a fixed location, and that's how I feel about London, it's busy and bustling, but the more interesting stories are going on behind closed doors.

You recently screened Repeat Until at 01zeroone in Soho. What are some of your favourite places to see films in the capital?
London has a lot of great film events going on. Cinema-wise I like to see what's going on at the BFI, the Curzon and the ICA, and smaller places like The Cinema Museum and Whirled Cinema. Sometimes the best nights are the small, one-off ones, where filmmakers have pitched together to screen their content wherever they can. And of course, BYT Film Club is a must! 
You also direct plays. Do you learn things when directing for the stage that inform how you direct films and vice versa?
Absolutely. Directing for the stage is all about delving into it with the actors, so you become better at the ins and outs of directing performance, which should be top priority in film as well, but it can sometimes fall by the wayside because of all the technical elements that need attention.
A cursory Google search reveals that you're known to be called "Lady D" by your actors. Can you reveal how that nickname came to be?
That's one of those things where the mystery is probably better than the real story! I was directing a short play in 2012, and as we were about to start a rehearsal one of the actors said  "So D (for Director), where do you want to start?" and the actress Billie Vee (a good friend of mine and the writer and star of Repeat Until) snapped back with "You can not call her ‘D’! She is a lady! You must call her 'Lady D'!"  Somehow it stuck and spread to other casts. I now frequently receive emails from actors and producers that start with 'Dear Lady D'. Some people who don't know what the D stands for speculate that it might be something more risqué... I'm happy to keep them guessing.

"The line between commercial viability and artistic integrity is a fine one."

You're the Artistic Director and co-founder of the wonderful Concorde Theatre Company. What was one of the main challenges in setting up the business that you couldn't have anticipated?
Have you ever seen a corporate tax return? It may as well be written in Mandarin for all I was able to understand of it. I had never set up a business before, so all aspects of the process were a challenge. I think one of the most difficult things for people trying to make a business out of art is keeping in mind that for it to be successful it has to make money, and many of us are so used to putting the art first and the money second because we get so much fulfilment from the process. The line between commercial viability and artistic integrity is a very fine one. It's a slow, intensive process getting a business off the ground, but we've just had our British play SHARDS go through some exciting development opportunities at the Park Theatre and the Criterion Theatre, and there has been some interest in our next American play Eudaemonia, so... baby steps!    
Can you tell us about any projects you're currently working on?
I've been guest directing and editing a new comedy sketch series by comedian Dan Tambling called 12 Sketches in a London House (find out more at I'm also going to be working on a few episodes of another series with writing duo Hunt the Vigan (Erin Hunter and James Gavin) called God's Design Studio, which shoots early next year, and then there are a couple of short films planned… a busy year ahead!