TorinoFilmLab - Training, development, Funding


The Girl From the Estuary

Gaëlle Denis, Ohna Falby

United Kingdom, France


Small town Brittany, it is the peak of summer. Misfit Marnie (10) struggles to fit in. When things get tough, she takes refuge in her over-active imagination. She is teased constantly at summer ballet class and her mum has had more than enough of her chaos.

She tries to conform – but it is all swimming upstream. Her mum snaps and takes off with a lover.

Marnie is upset but then discovers Nathalie on an estuary bank, a cool English girl, injured in a car crash. She is on the run and Marnie hides her out in her house. She is everything Marnie wants to be – hip, cosmopolitan – and what is more, she totally gets Marnie. She celebrates her oddness and encourages her to be herself. She teaches her how to dance, how to be cool. She helps Marnie to have confidence and make new friends. Life improves tremendously, even her big brother’s crowd start to think she’s ok.

But as Nathalie recovers she becomes increasingly dangerous and drags Marnie into her mischief - desperate to hatch a plan of escape whatever the costs.


like to tell stories that no one would expect to hear - where characters shift into unexpected moods, do inappropriate things or behave irrationally - because in real life nothing is really controlled or rational.

When I think of Marnie and her capacity to deal with feelings of abandonment and love, I wonder if the essence of being human is about being an outsider. Constantly pushing the limits to find a meaning for existence, trying to find what lies beyond family, society, refusing to do things the way they should be done. The film will closely follow Marnie who finds refuge in creating the illusion that she is loved. She creates a world where there is no boundary between reality and fantasy. Elements of magic realism will allow me to push the story emotionally, illustrating the constantly shifting nature of Marnie’s reality.

I will alternate between playful sequences and darker, more poetic moments, playing with elements of film noir that will move the story forward around the enigmatic character of Nathalie, who keeps nudging Marnie into a more dangerous and intriguing world.

I will craft this film using my “magic” tool box of low budget visual effects, animation and hybrid techniques to push the film’s aesthetic into a sensorial experience. Using rich cinematography to elucidate Marnie’s internal turmoil, her drift and her resilience, as well as her relationship to the present.

Every detail: the colours, lighting, composition and sound, will be essential to support the performance of my actors, and deliver a faithful vision of my main character’s experiences and impressions.

budget & financing

Following a fruitful partnership making Crocodile, which won the prix Canal+ at Critics’ Week, we were keen to progress our first feature film together. The script for The Girl from the Estuary was initiated at Le Groupe Ouest script lab. We secured development funding from Creative England to progress the script to a second draft. We plan to have a final draft ready in November 2015. We will apply to the next round of the BFI’s first features production fund in January 2016. The BFI have been championing Gaelle since working with her on the short. We plan to shoot end of summer 2016 and deliver early 2017. The Girl From the Estuary is ambitious visually, and relies on great casting and performances by a young child. With this in mind, we have set the production budget at € 1.800.000 within the frame of a British-French co-production. This is based on shooting on location in Brittany, France over the summer and in studio elsewhere. We anticipate the post-production process, which will include animation and VFX work, could take place in UK or elsewhere dependent on finance. The BFI are actively seeking to invest more in co-productions after recent successes. With a French co-producer on board, we can firm up realistic budgets and formulate the French part of our finance strategy. We have been lucky with such invaluable exposure to the industry through Critics’ Week’s Next Step, and subsequently at CineMart at the start of the year. We hope to attract a good French distributor to act as our partner and we can start to apply for the widest spectrum of CNC and French-language broadcaster funding to complement the mix of funds we can access from the UK and through the market.

distribution & sales

With its theme of outsiders and belonging, with complex and ultimately optimistic conclusions, our film has the potential to reach out and touch independent cinema audiences who are hungry for films that can wow you as well as make you think. Gaelle’s work is rich, beautiful and imaginative. Her story is deeply personal which contributes to its strength and universality. We will have an important cinema-going audience in France and Europe to appeal to. Thanks to Gaelle’s iconic choices of strong unusual female characters, and with her distinctive style, we are confident to attach a popular English actress or singer for the role of Nathalie, and expect to pursue a talent-driven strategy on the international market. Thanks to the critical acclaim of Gaelle’s shorts – most notably at Cannes – and her ongoing relationship with the team at Critics’ Week, we aim to lead an ‘A’ list festival strategy. Based on our current schedule, we will finish the film in time to submit for a Cannes premiere and launch. If the film sees success on its festival circuit this will help us secure good distribution deals and the subsequent theatrical release of the film. We hope to collaborate with a good sales company early on in the process who can help us with sales projections and strategies for determining and reaching our core audience. We are committed to taking an active and collaborative role in this work, to maximise the potential of this film on all platforms.


When life gets tough, Marnie makes things up.
Gaëlle Denis

Scriptwriter, Film Director

Ohna Falby


production notes

original title
La Fille de l'Estuaire

directed by
Gaëlle Denis

in co-production with
La Voie Lactée – France

total production budget
€ 1.800.000

current financial need
€ 1.700.000