Former Watford barmaid scores BAFTA nomination for film about a sperm bank mix up

Watford Observer: A still from Island Queen A still from Island Queen

We're all told to “follow our dreams“ but how many of us really go for it?

As a teenager Nat Luurtsema wanted to be a world famous swimmer and made it to county level, but her hopes were dashed when she was told she just wasn’t good enough to make the grade. Did she wallow in self pity?

No. She did try a little self doubt on for size, but thankfully only for a wee while and then she took the plunge to pursue her passion for writing and stand-up.

On Wednesday it paid off when her black comedy Island Queen was nominated for a British Short Film BAFTA.

Not bad for a first attempt at scriptwriting by a girl who grew up in a modest home off Hempstead Road and used to be a barmaid at Watford FC.

“It’s amazing,“ Nat says. “I was sitting there at 7.30am clicking refresh on the website and hoping.

“When it popped up I just started shaking.

“I had a little bit of a hangover anyway so was feeling quite delicate, but I think I woke everyone in the house up with my screaming.

“Everyone dreams of the movies when they’re young, but I never realistically thought this would happen.“ So how is the talented brunette going to prepare for the swanky awards ceremony in London’s Royal Opera House on February 16?

“It’s dress shopping mainly. That’s all I can think about. Getting a really big dress.

“Mum is hankering for my plus one. I said I might like to take a boy or something normal, but she’s adamant.“

In the meantime it’s straight back to work for the Muswell Hill-based 31-year-old who is working on material for the second series of her sketch group Jigsaw’s second series on Radio 4.

And she’s writing her second book, based on growing up in Watford, where she went to Nascot Wood Junior School, before gaining a scholarship to the Royal Masonic School in Rickmansworth, and then going to Oxford to read English Literature.

She moved to London, aged 24, and fell into website design and says: “I liked my job, but it wasn’t really what I wanted to do and for five years every birthday and New Year I would think ’aargh I didn’t do it again’.

“I didn’t talk about it to people. It was a secret desire and it was still a secret when I started doing open mic.“ Her first stand up gig was at a pub near Watford Junction, aged 25, and it quickly snowballed from there. She has performed all over the country and at Edinburgh Festival, and written for Channel 4’s Stand up for the Week.

When her mate Ben Mallaby, who directs Island Queen, asked her to write a short film she thought “why not?“.

Nat also stars in the film, which is about a 30-year-old woman who lives at home with her parents on a small island and decides to have a baby. She later discovers the sperm bank ’donation’ she uses was her brother’s.

The 12-minute short was inspired by a newspaper article about sperm banks in Iceland refusing to accept donations from native people because they could not ensure donors and users would be unrelated.

“I tried to make it funny,“ says Nat. “It’s quite disgusting and gross, but has a heart and I think something resonates about being 30 and feeling like you have not quite grown up yet.“ It was filmed in just four days in Cornwall and draws slightly on her own experience of being 28 and temporarily moving back in with her mum, Gaynor, who works at Holy Rood School, and dad, Gustaaf, who’s from Holland, which she wrote about in her first book Cuckoo in the Nest.

But that is where the comparison ends for Nat, who is too busy working to settle down with a family.

She has just finished writing her first full-length feature film Annie Has Body Issues and it will begin shooting in May with Nat playing the lead and Ben directing again, and hoping to emulate the success of Island Queen.

“It’s been a slog at times,“ says Nat, “But days like this it does feel like it’s all coming together.

“Today is a good day.“

Watch the film at natluurtsema.com

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