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TNC Archive 2018
Interview 

Amy-Joyce Hastings
QED
amyjoycehastings.com
Originally Published during Cannes Short Film Corner 2018

A couple dealing with the aftermath of a devastating accident explore what we will and won't sacrifice for the person we love. QED poses the ultimate ethical quandary in a society where the right to die is forbidden by law.

Hi Amy-Joyce thanks for talking to tNC, how's everything going?

Good, thanks.

What does it mean to you to have your award winning short QED part of this years Cannes Short Film Corner?

It’s very exciting, it will be my first time attending Cannes. I am looking forward to meeting new festival programmers and filmmakers.

What did it feel like to win Best Overall Short at this years Santa Fe Film Festival?

It was a wonderful feeling to hear my film's name read out. It is a pretty incredible festival.

Has the responses to your film surprised you?

Yes to be honest. The responses have been very strong. We had a very arduous post production on this film, I got so blinkered zoomed in on the technical aspect of that, so by the time I was watching the film for the first time with a festival audience, it was almost like coming at the story fresh again myself. I’m always surprised at the visible and verbalised shock reactions at one or two moments in the film, and how emotional audiences have been during and afterwards. But I understand too, as it affects me, and it’s certainly not an easy story.

Are there any nerves ahead of a festival screening?

Yes always. I’m an actor too and I find sitting amongst an audience watching a film you have made more nerve-wracking than going out on stage, because you can’t adapt anything in the moment - it’s not a live performance.

Can you tell me a little but about QED, what can we expect?

QED is a dark drama with an underlying human rights subject. It centres on Ali and Jack, a happily married couple whose lives disintegrate over the course of the film’s events. It asks some very difficult questions about euthanasia.

What was the inspiration behind your screenplay?

The lead actor/co-writer Michael brought this story idea to me, inspired by his experience caretaking for a loved one. I thought it was a fascinating story concept with interesting themes and high stakes. The perspective I approached the film from is the horror of being a prisoner in your own body. I felt a lot of resonance with that aspect, I felt powerless to help while my Grandad slowly deteriorated from Parkinson's Disease until his perfectly acute mind was locked in a completely non-functional body. That experience affected me profoundly and made me think deeply about the issues we explore in this story. A major theme within the screenplay was agápē love - the kind prepared to sacrifice itself for a higher purpose - and each of the four principal characters (Ali, Jack, Claudia and Maria) represents a different element of this.

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"For the duration of watching a film, you’re effectively walking a mile in someone else’s shoes."

What have been the biggest challenges you've faced bringing this film to life?

We filmed QED for four days, but before I even got to sit down and watch the footage from the film I got slammed with the news that no sound had been recorded through the boom for the entire shoot. I was in shock for several days, mostly because beyond the ordinary magnitude of ADR and foley for an entire seventeen minute film there are quite a few hugely emotional and physically difficult scenes that I worried it would be impossible to recapture authentically, so I felt the loss of those the most. After an intense and urgent four week picture edit I was finally able to record the ADR with my actors - they happened to all be experienced Voice Over actors so all were able to deliver and recreate their original performances vocally. It took seventeen days total to re-record the entire soundscape for the film, including foley - compared to the original four day shoot.

I then had a two month sound edit before I could even bring it into a sound post house to be mixed. As a result we went significantly over budget and I had to raise extra money for the festival run. It was a very challenging, stressful experience, one I would not care to repeat! All I will say is the final sound mix was one of my favourite days working on this film. Dean Jones at Raygun Sound was incredible and after all the pain I do feel that the recreated sound on this film is better than the original could ever have been.

Looking back is there anything you would do differently on this film?

With the benefit of hindsight, and being very specific to this film, I would ask to hear playback of the sound recordings for myself after we had shot the first scene.

Have you always been interested in filmmaking?

I’ve been acting on film sets since a young age. Acting is still my primary interest but even as a child I was always curious and interested in the technical goings on onset, and I wrote my first script aged ten, so yes that interest was always there, and was bound to emerge sooner or later...

How important is the collaborative process of filmmaking to you?

I love having collaborators who you gel really well with and can make your best work alongside. It’s so much more rewarding than the elements you end up working on alone. This is only my fourth short film behind the lens so I’m still putting ‘my team’ together, but I have already found a few people who are amazing collaborators you want to work with again and again - my composer Joe Conlan for instance is fantastic.

What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you've taken from making this film?

 

I went in to this film mindful of the fact it was by far the largest crew I had had on one of my own projects. I wanted to be able to delegate - but you need to have absolute confidence that everyone on your crew is doing a great job for that. Trust has to be earned and it’s okay to build it gradually over time. So the most valuable lesson I've taken from this experience is about trust - work with people you trust and trust the people you work with. That's my guiding principle going forward.

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What filmmakers inspire you?

There are many, and for different aspects of their work. I am going to mention a couple of inspiring female filmmakers here, because I am conscious of the fact that I’ve answered this question in the past with various male names. As an actress/writer I love what Brit Marling has done. Jodie Foster is another hero of mine. Closer to home, some incredible Irish directors I look up to are Neasa Hardiman and Lisa Mulcahy.

Now you can be reflective do you have any advice you would offer a fellow filmmakers?

Mistakes are hard and costly to repair, so take as much time as you can possibly afford for pre production. Schedule your lightest day for the first day of the shoot, while everyone is finding their rhythm together, and take the time to ensure every department is running smoothly.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?

For the duration of watching a film, you’re effectively walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Particularly with controversial or taboo subjects, it can be helpful to watch a human story rather than debating abstracts. My hope is that QED can open up a conversation about Ireland’s draconian laws on the issue of assisted suicide. But to everything a season... we have some other draconian laws we need to fix first!

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