Fatherless and motherless, Jessy–May is mother and father to her autistic younger sister, SKY. Their unsettling home stinks of a socially cleansed world, dystopia hangs in the air. The full extent of their menacing environment compounds when SKY is followed home and attacked by a gang. Jessy - May, gives in to a wave of revenge and takes matters into her own hands.
Hi Ani, thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for British Shorts 2019?
Hey TNC! I sure am, I love British Shorts.
Do you ever get any nerves ahead of a festival screening?
Yes, more excitement than nerves.
How does it feel to be at the festival with The Earth Belongs To No One?
It feels great I want to do the running man.
Tell me a little bit about The Earth Belongs To No One how did this film come about?
I wrote a short story with my sister, Bila Black who I collaborate with. Then I took the story to script and, co-wrote with another screenwriter.
What was the inspiration behind this film?
What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing The Earth Belongs To No One to life?
Hmm, I'm going to try to make this short... I think if I made the same film toah it would have been an entirely different experience and probably received differently. The film was made before MeToo blew up virally as a hashtag, and before the Times Up Movement existed. Before the movement of people speaking up and out about rape publicly and socially. It feels like It was so long ago, though it wasn’t. During my experience of making The Earth Belongs To No One, I learnt that making a film on social issues like rape can be a trigger for people during the process. And, that they may not have the tools or life skills to say they need support or indeed neee to to step away from the project.
My number one job as a writer/director is to guide my actors through the drama of the script and into safety at the end of a shooting day, prep for the next until we wrap. Of course it's also important for me as a filmmaker to be active about all other aspects of helming a film, but during production/shooting my focus is to get through the script and get the best performances... and protect that special director-actor relationship, otherwise there is nothing to shoot. I was mindful of working with young actresses on these themes. I also ended up producing on this film as well, which is a blessing.
"...but my approach to the work remains the same as it did from my first short."
As a filmmaker how important is the collaborative process for you?
Very important. A collaborator with the same frequency as you will enhance the project. I think alchemy is more important than merit. Good vibes only has always been my mantra.
How much has your approach to your work changed since your debut short film?
I've grown as a person and inevitably its informed my work as a filmmaker. Which is a good thing, I hope! I've changed and developed how I navigate for sure, but my approach to the work remains the same as it did from my first short. If you really have a love for the work, it will always be the same formula – respect & self-respect –commitment –and, hard work.
Do you have any advice or tips for a fellow filmmaker?
Steve wonder says its best – Higher Ground.
What are you currently working on?
I'm attached to a really exciting project but I can't say anything about it ...just yet... respecting the signed paperwork! Sorry!
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your film?
Whatever people take away from the film is between them and their experience of the film. And I respect that.
Has the reaction you've gotten for The Earth Belongs To No One surprised you?
Very much so, people have had strong reactions to it, but they are certainly having stronger reactions to it now given the Zeitgeist. It's great because the film keeps on travelling and in a way its still being discovered which is really cool.
You have an amazing cast, how did you go about getting your Jessica & Alana involved?
Thank you. It was a great process working with my actresses/actors.
Bila Black did a phenomenal job casting my talent. She attached all the talent, I sent her the briefs and she got on with it, it was very easy.
Jessica Barden's agent details were sent to me directly from the a brilliant Casting Director, Lissy Holm. Jessica Barden auditioned for the role and I was keen to see her again. We improvised a scene together, the chemistry was great. For Alana, again we auditioned a few actresses and some great talent. I was looking for an actress who could go there... without relying on dialogue. Alana was the right fit for the project as well, and I think she had just turned 17 years old the week we shot the film.
Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?
What is it about filmmaking that interests you so much?
Telling human stories.