NEW YORK — The city is swarming with hopeful filmmakers this week, all in town for the Tribeca Film Festival. And while none may boast the social clout of Hannah Rothschild, the eldest of Lord Jacob Rothschild’s four children, few could match the charming Londoner’s tenacity or passion for storytelling, either. Instead of taking the debutante’s route, Rothschild has dedicated herself to the hard work of writing and directing, starting as a researcher at the BBC years ago, while penning articles for British Vogue and newspapers like the Daily Telegraph and Independent.
“I’m a director first, a writer second,” she says, sipping tea in the Mercer Hotel. And she has quickly become a recognized director, at that. On Saturday, Rothschild will screen “Eddie Loves Mary,” a stylish 10-minute children’s film about a brother-sister graffiti team scheming to get their divorced parents back together. The short has already won prizes while traveling the festival circuit from London to Cleveland to Los Angeles to New York, and Working Title Films has asked the director to take the project feature length. “It has been living the most glamorous life, this little film,” she reports.
This story first appeared in the May 8, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
But for Rothschild, making films isn’t all kid’s stuff. She recently completed a documentary film about the prickly painter, Frank Auerbach, after 12 years of trying to persuade him to do the project. “He finally said yes, and then I panicked,” she says, laughing. “That’s when the real work starts. You ask yourself, what is the story?”
And since an early age, when she entertained the family on long car trips, she’s loved a good story. “I absolutely knew I wanted to tell stories, whether visually or verbally,” says Rothschild.
Her father, a great patron of the arts, wholeheartedly supports his daughter’s choice of vocation. “As long as I’m working, he’s happy,” says Rothschild, who now has three children of her own. “I think that he can’t bear the thought of his children not working.”
She is not, however, interested in packing up and making the move west. “Hollywood?” Rothschild says, looking stunned. “I’m a European filmmaker. Absolutely born and bred in London. I couldn’t live anywhere but.”
Accordingly, a sense of place is something all of her films share. The Auerbach documentary was lovingly shot in Camden, while “Eddie Loves Mary” was filmed all along the road that Rothschild took to school every morning. Meanwhile, Norfolk, the English seaside town, provides the setting for her first feature-length script, a black comedy about a British family on vacation.
Of course, while her stories are all local, she’s hardly immune to Hollywood-style glamour. “I have casting fantasies,” Rothschild admits. “I’d go to Siberia to work with Julianne Moore.”