Tell It To The Bees, a 1950s-set story starring Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger as a Scottish smalltown beekeeping doctor and local mother who fall in love.
(…) In returning to feature filmmaking, Jankel – who with Morton made her name in the 1980s directing The Max Headroom Show for television, and is nicknamed AJ – is hardly playing it safe. Lesbian romance Tell It To The Bees, which is adapted from a book by Fiona Shaw (no relation to the actress of the same name), boasts complicated VFX for the bees and faced the budgetary challenge its period setting and the limited daily shooting hours for child actor Gregor Selkirk.
(…) The project was reactivated when Jankel formed a new producer partnership, this time with Daisy Allsop (low-budget feature Orthodox), who had served as an associate producer on Skellig. Jankel wanted to add a magical realist element, developing the role of the bees, which in the story belong to Paquin’s doctor character Jean and become a fascination for young Charlie (Selkirk), who is the son of Lydia (Grainger).
“In the book, the bees are more in the background,” explains Allsop. “We’ve really brought them to the fore. The bees are the way the child makes sense of the world. He tells them his secrets. He thinks they’re going to help him.”
Jankel and Allsop had read Weird, an unmade script by sisters Henrietta and Jessica Ashworth, and brought them on for a fresh adaptation. “Weird involved a fantasy element, set in a very real situation,” says Jankel. “It wasn’t too sweet, and it had an edge to it, which we felt was really great for Tell It To The Bees.” (…)
The Scottish connection
When it came to shooting the bee sequences, the film’s director of photography Bartosz Nalazek – who assisted Janusz Kaminski on three Steven Spielberg films and shot second unit on The Post – suggested they look at 2012 documentary More Than Honey. That film’s cinematographer Attila Boa came in to handle the bee photography, bringing with him bee wrangler Peter Hopfgartner.
“Hopf doesn’t even wear the bee suit,” says Allsop. “He does things and the bees follow him.“ Jankel – who dubbed Hopfgartner “bee whisperer” – adds, “He slept with the bees, seduced the bees, tickled the bees, fluffed the bees.”