Andrea ArnoldOBE (born 5 April 1961) is an English filmmaker and former actress, who made her feature film directorial debut in 2006 with Red Road.


 [hide*1 Personal life

Personal life[edit]Edit

Arnold was born on 5 April 1961 in Dartford, Kent, where she was the eldest of four children. She was born when her mother was only 16 years old and her father was 17, and they separated when she was very young. Her mother had to bring up all four children alone, which is reminiscent of Arnold's own directorial debuted short, Wasp. When people are asked if the story is in any way biographical, Arnold replies "I grew up in a working class family, so I guess you could say I write from what I know."[3] Even as a young girl, she was writing dark stories about human experience. In an interview, Arnold speaks about how when she was a mere 10 years old, she wrote her first play that expressed her "horror" of the slave trade, and a few years later while studying for a dance GCSE, she made a performance piece; "I took quotes from the Diary of Anne Frank and read them aloud as I moved around the room. All the other kids would just bung on some pop music and dance. I remember the examiners sitting there looking at me, perplexed."[4] Arnold left high school when she was 16, when she was drawn to becoming an actress.[3] When Arnold was 18 years old she left Kent for London where she began working as a host and actress for a children's TV show called "No. 73". She worked in TV for the next 10 years, while continually writing on the side. She began scripting her youth oriented environmental series titled "A Beetle Called Derek" in the mid-1990s, where she began to yearn to direct.[3] Arnold realised she could turn her stories into films, so she studied at the American Film Institute of Los Angeles where she gained experience in the film industry. After finishing school and returning to Britain she had daughter, Coral, with her long-time boyfriend, Alex,[3] who is a software engineer, and began making short films for TV.[5]

Early TV work[edit]Edit

After leaving school in the late 1970s, Arnold got her first TV jobs as a dancer on shows that included Top of the Pops.[6] She first came to prominence as an actress and television presenter alongside Sandi Toksvig, Nick Staverson and Neil Buchanan in the 1980s children's television show No. 73. This Saturday morning show onITV, in which she played Dawn Lodge, had a similar premise to that of The Kumars at No. 42 in the way that the show was part sitcom, part chat show and based at a domestic residence. In addition to these parts, the show had the usual mix of music, competitions and cartoons (such as Roger Ramjet) that was in keeping to the formula of British Saturday morning children's TV of the 1980s. After a couple of years of experience in front of the camera, Arnold realised, "Television was great fun and I went along for the ride, but I never felt that comfortable in front of the camera".[4]

In 1988 No. 73 had morphed into 7T3, with the set being moved from the Maidstone house (in fact in TVS studios in Kent) to that of a theme park. This revamp would only last the season, but Arnold would be seen for another two years in the same timeslot as part of the Motormouth presenting team. In 1990 she presented and wrote for the environmental awareness show for teens, A Beetle Called Derek. This also featured Benjamin Zephaniah and gave exposure to The Yes/No People of Stompfame.


After retiring from her career as a television presenter, Arnold studied directing at the AFI Conservatory in Los Angeles and trained in screenwriting at the PAL Labs inKent.[7][8][9] Her early short films included Milk (1998) and Dog (2001). She won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for Wasp, in 2003.[10] She was also named a Screen International Star of Tomorrow.

Red Road is the first instalment of Advance Party, a planned set of three conceptually-related films by different first-time directors. Set on a housing estate in Glasgow, the revenge-themed story centres on a CCTV (security TV cameras) operator who develops an obsession with someone she observes, for reasons that become clear through the progress of the film. The picture has won the British director comparisons with established names such as Michael Haneke and Lars von TrierScreen International critic Allan Hunter said the film was "likely to emerge as one of the discoveries of this year's Cannes Film Festival (2006)."[11] It went on to win the Jury Prize at Cannes that year.[12]

Arnold won the 2007 BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for directing Red Road.

Her 2009 film Fish Tank premiered at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival,[13] where she once again won the Jury Prize. The film also went on to win the BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film in 2010.

In 2011 Arnold completed shooting an adaptation of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, produced by London's Ecosse Films. The film was shown in competition at the68th Venice International Film Festival in September[14] where it won the Golden Osella for Best Cinematography.

She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to the film industry.[15]

In all of her film's there are some common themes that Arnold chooses to use to propel the narrative. Since childhood, Arnold has been interested in human psychology and the human experience. She says, "I am obsessed with why people turn out the way they are.[4]


Initially released in 2003, Wasp was a short (26 minutes) written and directed by Arnold. Released in 2003, it stars Natalie Press as a struggling single mother determined not to let her four young children prove an obstacle in the pursuit of rekindling a relationship with an old ex-boyfriend (Danny Dyer). Dartford (Arnold's hometown) is the setting. The film was commissioned by the UK Film Council and the Britain's Channel 4. It won the Sundance Short Film Prize in 2005, and won Arnold an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film[16]

Red Road[edit]Edit

Red Road was a 2006 film that is a part of a creative series proposed by the Advance Party of Filmmakers to create three films using the same characters, all directed by different new directors. It tells the story of a CCTV security operator who observes through her monitors a man from her past. It is named after, and partly set at, theRed Road flats in Barmulloch, Glasgow, Scotland which were the tallest residential buildings in Europe at the time they were built.[17] It is shot largely in a Dogme 95style, using handheld cameras and natural light.

One rule was that if any of the directors decide to incorporate a new main character, then all of the other films must incorporate that character as well. All 3 directors cast together so they could all see who they believe would fit their film as well as the others. Arnold mainly used first time actors, stating that "I always want the world that I create to be its own universe. When you have really famous people, I find that it is very hard to transcend that awareness. I am always aware of who they are. When you see someone for the first time, that universe feels even more real. I like the idea of working with either unknowns or people that haven't even acted before."[18] Red Road cost 1 million dollars to make[19] and was shot digitally on a schedule of 6 weeks. The film was accepted into competition for the Palme d'Or inCannes and received the Jury Prize. [19]

Fish Tank[edit]Edit

Fish Tank premiered in 2009 and was accepted into competition for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and received the Jury Prize.[19] In its initial production, distributor Artificial Eye had acquired the UK theatrical rights, while ContentFilm International handled the worldwide sales. The film was backed by the Limelight Fund,BBC Films and the UK Film Council's New Cinema Fund.[20] The film was shot entirely on location in the UK.[21] Arnold was adamant about shooting the film in chronological order, so that the journey of the film would make sense to new coming actor Katie Jarvis. She would only give her a day's worth of script to study so that she could take it day by day.[22] The film originally premiered on around 45–50 screens in Britain, making them less accessible to the general public. In regards to this, Arnold said, "I definitely feel sorry more people don't get to see my films. They aren't inaccessible, and if people got the chance to see them, I know they'd like them. I wish cinema [owners] could be braver, or had more money to help them show films like mine." The film cost around $2 million to make, which is still a relatively low budget for a feature length film.[19] Fish Tank won many awards including the best film award at the Evening Standard Film Awards.[23] Fish Tank was released on 11 September 2009.[3] The film and Arnold were honoured at the 20th Annual Women in Film and TV Awards in 2010.[24]

Wuthering Heights[edit]Edit

Arnold's recent film based on Emily Brontë's novel from 1847 stars Kaya Scodelario and James Howson. This is the first film that Arnold has directed that she did not write herself, though she did co-write the screenplay. Originally, the film adaptation was set to be directed by Peter Webber, who directed Girl with a Pearl Earring, but Arnold was asked to take over and gladly accepted.[23] The film was made in 18 months, which is half the amount of time Arnold used to make Red Road and Fish Tank.[4] Oscilloscope Laboratories picked up the North American distribution rights to the adaptation, which won Best Cinematography at the Venice Film Festival in 2011, being praised for its visuals.[25]

American Honey[edit]Edit

In 2014 Arnold announced she would be shooting her first movie in the U.S. entitled American Honey.[26] Written by Arnold, the movie is rumoured to deal with a group of teenage runaways who sell magazine subscriptions.

Work with film festivals[edit]Edit

Arnold has been very active in working with film festivals around the world. She has been described as a "film festival regular even between films."[27] In 2012 she was a member of the Jury for the Main Competition at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.[28] In 2013 she was named as a member of the jury at the 70th Venice International Film Festival.[29] In 2014 Arnold was announced as the chair of the jury for International Critics' Week at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.[30]

In September 2013, Arnold was named the New York Film Festival's inaugural "Filmmaker in Residence." As the first "Filmmaker in Residence," Arnold was responsible for "creating a template for the programme."[31] The programme is designed to "further the goals of filmmakers at an earlier stage in the creative process." Through the programme, Arnold was given the "opportunity to focus on developing or refining new work, and participate in master classes, mentorships or cultural exchange and enrichment film programmes with the Film Society of Lincoln Center members, the film community and the public."[32]


Year Film
1998 Milk Director
2001 Dog Director
2003 Wasp Director
2006 Red Road Director
2009 Fish Tank Director
2011 Wuthering Heights Director


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