Chanya Button on the Origin Story of Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando”

Today FF2 spotlights director Chanya Button! In celebration of the fifth anniversary of the release of her film Vita & Virginia, we’re taking you on a tour of her career from Harry Potter to Burn Burn Burn.

Chanya Button was born in London on December 25, 1986. She grew up roaming film sets alongside her father Roy Button, the former UK executive VP and managing director of Warner Bros. Though infatuated with the film industry, Chanya found herself interested in writing and theater as well. At eighteen, she honed her skills in the Young Writers’ Programme at the Royal Court theater on London’s West End. 

Chanya began her directing career while studying literature at Oxford.

While studying literature at Oxford, Chanya began her directing career, working as an assistant director at the Tricycle Theater and even Shakespeare’s Globe. After graduation, Chanya worked for both Warner Bros. and the UK Film Council Film Fund. At Warner Bros., she served as an assistant director for such blockbusters as 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, The Edge of Tomorrow, and multiple films in the Harry Potter franchise.

In 2010, Chanya went back to school at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to receive her master’s in Theater Directing. The following year, she began to direct short films written by Siân Robins-Grace, the writer of Sex Education. Siân is not the only impressive woman artist Chanya worked with at this time; Charlie Covell, writer of The End of the F***ing World, starred in Chanya’s short film Fire.

Chanya’s debut feature-length film, Burn Burn Burn, premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in October of 2015. The story follows two women on a road trip tasked with scattering the ashes of a dead friend. A staggering success, the dark comedy was nominated for seven awards internationally and won the Grand Prix at the Odesa International Film Festival. 

Vita & Virginia explores the affair between writers Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf.

Chanya’s sophomore feature, Vita & Virginia, finds the director entering the world of period biopics. The 2018 film explores the affair between writers Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf. Speaking to FF2 contributor Lesley Coffin about Vita & Virginia, Chanya revealed her own admiration for Virginia Woolf drove the work. “I loved the novel Orlando,” Chanya said. “So the opportunity to learn about Vita and Virginia’s relationship really excited me. The fact that this was the relationship which inspired such a remarkable book. That really motivated me.”

The film, tasked with capturing the essence of two artistic giants, delivers a look into a love story so strong that it inspired Virginia’s masterpiece, Orlando. Chanya does not only forefront the women or their artistic talents, but rather the community and environment which surrounds them and allows them to thrive. 

Recently, Chanya has continued to direct period pieces such as World on Fire and The Spanish Princess, both television historical dramas. Just last year, Chanya directed an episode of Doctor Who which is set to air this November. 

Though Chanya’s future endeavors have not yet been announced, she is still only in the beginning of her career. However, already having collaborated with and spotlighted so many incredible women artists in her own work, we are sure any upcoming projects will shine with passion and camaraderie. The only thing which excites us more than what she has accomplished is what she is yet to do.

© Reese Alexander (8/23/23) FF2 Media


Read Lesley Coffin’s article on Vita & Virginia here.

Read Katusha Jin’s review of Vita & Virginia here.

Visit Chanya Button’s Wikipedia page here.


Featured & Body Photo: Courtesy of Mongrel Media EPK. All Rights Reserved.

Tags: Burn Burn Burn, Chanya Button, Harry Potter, orlando, Sex Education, Sherlock Holmes, Siân Robins-Grace, The Edge of Tomorrow, The End of the F***ing World, The Spanish Princess, Virginia Woolf, Vita & Virginia, Vita Sackville-West, World on Fire

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Reese Alexander is currently a student at Barnard College, where she studies English literature, creative writing, and French. Reese enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction, and her work has been published in multiple campus publications, including Quarto, Echoes, The Barnard Bulletin, and The Columbia Federalist. Reese is most passionate about medieval literature, as she believes it illustrates the contributions of women artists throughout the centuries.
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