Sheffield filmmaker's movie grows out of a garden shed

A film by Sheffield writer-director Rachel Tunnard about a woman living in a garden shed goes on general release this weekend.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 22nd June 2016, 3:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 4:03 pm
Writer-director of Adult Life Skills Rachel Tunnar, left, with the star of her film, Jodie Whittaker

Adult Life Skills stars Broadchurch’s Jodie Whittaker as a 29-year-old grieving over the death of her twin brother and twiddling her thumbs (literally) while ignoring her mum’s ultimatum to quit the shed.

The story began life as a 14-minute short, Emotional Fusebox, which received a BAFTA nomination and earned her the funding from the BFI and Creative England to make the feature.

Rachel admits she did once live in a shed at her cousin’s house when she first moved to London and was earning very little as a film editor. And she has made films of her thumbs, but the rest is imagination.

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The former Tapton schoolgirl and Bristol University graduate (where she first met Jodie Whittaker and Rachel Deering who appear in the film and helped to get it made) now lives at Kelham Island after moving back from London, initially staying at her mum and dad’s in Lydgate Lane. “I was 29 and felt like a teenager.”

This spurred her to turn herself into a screenwriter and was then encouraged to direct it herself.

The film premiered at the Tribeca film festival in New York and won the Nora Ephron prize for female writers and directors.

Filming Adult Life Skills took place around Edale (“I wanted to get a sense of the outdoors and the scenery”), while the house with the shed is in Almondury, Huddersfield (“I didn’t want it to be too twee and cottage-y”) and other scenes in Sheffield, mostly interiors like a nightclub scene.

“It was important that the story was set in the North. I love Sheffield, and Jodie and the other Rachel are from Huddersfield. The dead brother is played by a Sheffield actor, Ed Hogg, and my dad appears as a pub landlord pretending to play the recorder.”

Rachel added: “I had written another screenplay while doing this and it’s in development with Film 4 and I’ve also got a TV programme that Channel 4 are looking at. I’ve also got research money from the Wellcome Trust to research consciousness and false memory for a murder plot.”

There was a preview at the Showroom on Wednesday (June 22) and she will be talking to Sheffield Hallam University students next week.