“I THINK it’s kind of a small miracle whenever anybody gets a film made,” Hope Dickson Leach admits. “It’s just really, really hard right now.”

We are seven weeks into the lockdown when we speak and Dickson Leach is at home with her husband and two young sons and a growing sense of frustration. If the pandemic hadn’t happened she should have been making a documentary about motherhood right now and prepping for a summer shoot in the US with proper movie stars – Jack O’Connell and Lily Collins – on a new film called The Cradle, the follow-up to her much acclaimed debut The Levelling.

Now there is no documentary and very possibly no prospect of shooting that follow-up movie. Where does that leave her? She’s trying to work that out.

When I phone, Dickson Leach is working on scripts, home-schooling her kids and recovering from an illness that sent her to bed for more than a month. “When I heard about Covid toe I thought, ‘Oh, I had this weird toe …’ So, I think I probably had it, but I haven’t had a test.”

The reason we are speaking is because of the one thing she has managed to shoot in the last year, a short film, Strong is Better than Angry, which is part of a new anthology film The Uncertain Kingdom, coming out on Monday, a two-part compilation of 20 short films that are a mix of drama and documentary and which together, as the title suggests, form a state-of-the-nation survey.

Read More: Hope Dickson Leach on The Levelling

Whatever the title might say, there is a fair deal of righteous fury in Dickson Leach’s short film. But there is also compassion. Set in a kickboxing class, it asks the women of all ages who have agreed to take part what makes them angry. It culminates with a scene in which a familiar face (in dummy form) is assaulted.

Was the film cathartic, Hope? Were you looking to punch someone in the face yourself? “I was actually. That’s where it came from. I was taking a lot of body combat classes and it was just doing so much good for my mental health. Twice a week I was going and punching imaginary faces of the people who were causing me frustration.”

Who might that be? The usual suspects, it seems. Members of the Westminster cabinet, Nigel Farage, Katie Hopkins.

There is a lot of anger around, Dickson says. “We shot it last June. It was eight months before that when I came up with the idea. It was a response to #MeToo as well as everything else. I think #MeToo had opened up the floodgates of anger for a lot of women. A lot of women were suddenly allowed to be publicly vocally angry.

“That was extraordinary and kind of devastating. Personally, I felt really sad about how angry everyone was and how we never had anywhere to put this anger.

“And then the political landscape of the world snowballed into some kind of bin fire and that was what made me think this has to be about something broader than my experience.”

There was, she says, a script, but the women she met for the film were so articulate and so open that their words took over.

“They were amazing, these women. It was a group of women who all listened to each other. That was one of the things that was important to me. What makes me angriest is not being listened to, not being heard. It was satisfying to hear other women say that as well.”

About that act of violence in the film. It has a shock value to it. “I stick very firmly to the idea that we are punching up rather than punching down,” Dickson Leach argues. “But I also think there is something quite intentional about it being shocking, because sanitising woman’s anger is wrong. I think women have violent fantasies as much as men and we rarely see that because we are rarely allowed to see women being violent and okay with their violence. So, yeah, it is shocking, but that’s fine. It should be shocking. I hope it’s funny as well.”

There’s an inevitable temptation to see Dickson Leach’s own story through a filter of righteous anger. Now in her forties, she has devoted her life to cinema. It has not always loved her back. After studying film in New York and working on Todd Solondz’s film Palindromes, she struggled for years to get her first film made.

It was worth the wait. The Levelling was a small-scale but hugely impressive calling card about grief and farming in the flooded fields of Somerset. Mark Kermode was just one of the critics bowled over by the film, giving it a five-star review.

And yet, here we are, three years later and there is still no sign of a follow-up. All this time for so little return. I have to ask, Hope, is it worth it?

“I don’t know. I mean, I’ve honestly spent much of the last year thinking, ‘Is there something else I can do that is more rewarding?’

“Because I think with so much of the work I do, there isn’t an end result. It’s a script, it’s a set of mood boards, it’s a pitch, it’s a proposal, it’s a treatment, and so on. But until you make a film, is this worth anything?

“The thing is, I’ve got some projects that I really love, and I still believe in cinema and if I can find a way to not feel so damaged by the process, then … That’s what I’m working on right now. How can I actually be part of this industry and not feel damaged and trampled over and destroyed by every step?

“So, we’ll see. If I make a film in the next year that’s good, and if I don’t then I think I might be me done, genuinely.”

Part of the issue Dickson Leach has faced has been that she started a family and that in itself proved another roadblock in the process. It’s why she was instrumental a few years ago in helping set up Raising Films, a campaign to help the industry address the structural issues that inhibit parents – women particularly – from making movies.

And now that we are in the middle of a pandemic, with production shut down, maybe this is the time to address some of those concerns.

“We’ve been banging a drum for five years, saying that the creative industries rely on women stuck at home; nobody is helping out with all this caring labour that needs to be done, whether it’s for children or people who are unwell or have additional needs. This is suddenly bang in the middle of everybody’s sight line. They can see this now because everyone has kids at home.

“This is a structural problem with the way our society is set up. Everybody pretends that no one has to look after the kids and so we’ve launched a campaign entitled ‘Raising Our Futures’, which is all about inviting people to submit ideas of what would we like the film industry to look like. How can we get this to work better? What real tangible things can we do? What would a good film industry mean?”

She thinks, with the forced break caused by coronavirus, it’s a conversation that the industry is finally, tentatively, beginning to have. “I was talking to the camera branch of Bectu [the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union] the other day. These are people who work solidly and are on set 14 hours a day. And they are all sitting around saying, ‘We want to have a better industry. We want to have a more diverse industry.’

“It does feel like there’s an opportunity to have some kind of Copernican shift rather than an incremental tweak.”

The question is if any changes happen, will she be able to take advantage of them? Dickson Leach has three TV projects in development, but she doesn’t know if they will ever get any further. She’s also started writing a novel. “But it’s not the same, she laments. “It’s not the same. I like pictures.”

Still, she carries on with life and work, dealing with the joys and frustrations of both. What makes you happy, Hope?

“God, that is a hard question isn’t it? I’m gardening. I’ve got a little garden. I do love getting my hands in the dirt. I’m exercising. I’m getting incredibly strong. I’ve moved on from punching to lifting weights, so that’s interesting. I’ve decided my forties are about becoming really, really strong and I might become quite terrifying to look at, but I don’t care. It makes me feel good.”

Strong is better than angry, after all.

The Uncertain Kingdom will be available from June 1 on BFI Player programmed in two feature-length volumes, which will also be available on iTunes, GooglePlay, Amazon and Curzon Home Cinema