Trey navigates the pressures of young masculinity in his community. He meets mentors along the way but his mental clarity is in danger of being drowned out by the claustrophobic buzz of the block…Tin Luck is a blend of documentary and fiction, written and performed by the local community.
Hi Beatrix thank you for talking to TNC, how are you held up during these very strange times?
Well I invested in some plants like everyone did since the plant stores were empty. Then I spent a lot of time squishing aphids. At the beginning of lockdown I was living with two girl mates and we tried to lighten the claustrophobic situation as best we could. We gave the different parts of the house dodgy world names like Fridgeéstan, Kitchentina, Greenlanden, Coloombia…United Sofas. We came up with numerous sketches, some of which we filmed on our phones. ‘Wise t’”owl”’ was a personal favourite. I’d steam my face with a towel over my head and my friend would ask Wise Towel questions on the meaning of life. I think basically my coping mechanism is just to get silly and throw out energy in whatever direction it wants to take.
We also had wonderful neighbours and a community that were there dropping things off when we were self isolating. Everyone felt very respectful of each other’s lives and that was a sweet silver lining to the obvious despair for lives lost, damaged mental health and something I feel particularly strongly about, the rise of domestic abuse against women. But I was very lucky to live with people who give so much to support others - Sarah Khan who co-founded Baesianz, a platform supporting Asian artists, and Florence Woolley who works tirelessly on community projects and consistently contributes to Sisters Uncut.
Has this time offered you any creative inspiration?
Absolutely. It’s given me time to curate my world. I’ve figured out what to edit into and out of my life and what really speaks to me versus what others want from me. Through reading a lot, watching a movie almost every day and studying various philosophies either by book or the endless realm of YouTube, I’ve come to build my own understanding and foundation in the sense that everything I create now has a solid base of references and personal connection with me. I’m very protective of that centred feeling I’ve worked towards. I think once you figure out your values through research, self-analysis or whatever other means, every question you’re asked becomes easy. It either fits into the little poem in your head, or it doesn’t.
Congratulations on Tin Luck being selected at this year's Raindance Film Festival, what does being nominated for Best UK Short mean to you?
Without sounding cheesy, the immediate feeling I got was a super relief. Super relieved and happy that I could send great news to the community who got involved, and also to my producers who worked so hard alongside me for so many months (Katie Smith, Punderson Gardens, Martha Bailey). It feels really good that all the cast who believed in me enough to represent them, their community and their talent, are going to get the acknowledgement that they deserve. And I guess it restored my faith that community led, collaborative films can be the way to go. Fingers crossed, and muscles pumped.
Can you tell me a little bit about Tin Luck, how did this film come about?
Sure. So Tin Luck was the product of me winning One Stop Film’s competition. The premise was to make an all-in-one ie. no cuts, film using a 40 ft technocrane and 35mm film. I watched some of my favourite films that use crane shots, like Robert Altman’s Player and Mikhail Kalatozov’s Soy Cuba and they’re both directors that offer a slice of life. Altman in particular influences my work because he likes to work with lots of extras and cast and plays on coincidences and celestial paths, and the audience member isn’t quite sure of the importance of the character but you quickly learn it doesn’t really matter because they offer up a context of the environment but also an understanding of how quickly interchangeable life can be. One meeting here, one meeting there, and suddenly the course of your life changes.
"Every person I meet, every incident I observe, is catalogued in my mind, for future reference."
But that can also be very confusing, it can mean many interruptions to your personal path. As a woman, a Londoner, and a history of growing up with a very mentally unwell parent, I guess I’ve felt like that a lot in my life, drowned out by other people’s voices, egos, needs and desires of you, searching for someone to prioritise you and help you unlock you - which is essentially the love story in Tin Luck. It’s funny because Sam (who plays Trey) said to me ‘you’re Trey man!’ And at the time I was like ‘no wayyyy I built this character on stuff you and the others told me’, but I guess in hindsight you always find the things you can relate to the most interesting. So I guess it’s me and the community in one big convoluted voice.
Where did the inspiration come from to use the local community in this film and did this offer up any creative challenges for you as a director?
Well I found the location first and thought wow. Then there was this mysterious door into a Community centre which I buzzed and was let right in. Straight away I met Valerie who’s the kinda matriarch of the Cheerleading gang and from that moment onwards, with dozens of visits to the Centre, it was all ‘oh well you gotta meet so and so..’ I was just really struck by all the gems I got to meet, pretty instantaneously it was obvious that I could build a film with them. Then I went round delivering about 300 letters through the doors asking who wanted to be involved in front of or behind the camera and we were away.
Yes it 100% gave me challenges. But also life experiences, so I wouldn’t change it.
What inspired you to blend documentary and fiction?
Well, meeting everyone I guess. I felt I didn’t really have a choice, it was so obvious that all of these people were incredibly interesting so why not build it on their crossed experiences and find that little overlapping slice, like in a Venn diagram and just translate that into a story that fits everyone’s reality into the jigsaw?
Working with the community might take a lot more prep time, but the conversations that you have with everyone along the way (and I mean hours of conversations with 20+ people on a weekly basis for months) - it’s worth it because of the sustained relationships / bridges you build and the new understandings you gain of everyone’s very different lives. That’s a true source of inspiration, and it made the film organic and ever changing.
How important is the collaborative process in filmmaking to you?
I don’t even really know how it could be any other way. It’s such an enriching process. And believe me, I’m very opinionated about what I like and don’t like, but you can’t be opinionated about other people’s stories, so that stuff is really just pushing you to be more intelligent about the world. I enjoy thoughtless movies like everyone does, on the right night that’s just what you want. But thinking about film as a means to make some kind of change is so much more interesting. Trying to blend different personalities in the pre-shoot days is so much more of a challenge as a Director (and one that I enjoy) than having a simple story arc you devise and stick to. For example, I’m collaborating on a script at the moment and I knew I needed another voice as it broaches issues of gender identities, so I was introduced to a non-binary writer called Jamie Bauermeister and we’re having the best time talking about how we feel about stuff for hours, usually digressing into some kind of Buddhist chat, getting intrigued by the way our ideas on the world reflect or contrast. Without collaborations, I’d have all the pressure on my own shoulders, and as a creative I find that kind of pressure to be the most stifling source of ego infused pain. But yeah, most importantly, to work with other people in an equal way, you find your tribe and build some kind of harmony. What’s better than that? It’s like love without the heartbreak.
"...but I want to be me and tell my stories how I want to tell them."
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I guess it came as a resistance to me studying Fine Art at UAL and left feeling pretty blah. Like so what if my installation photograph is hanging on a wall? I didn’t like how my imagination didn’t fit into their idea of what the art process is. It just didn’t work for me personally, my imagination is fast and not necessarily coherently linear. So I needed to work in something that had more of an energetic process. I fell into music videos, realised I was pretty good at it and just kept going. But it took a long time for me to really believe in me. So finding myself and my direction in film goes hand in hand. It took a bloody long time for me to say ‘I’m a Director.’
Should filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?
Um, it’s not necessarily about ‘pushing,’ I think it’s about really attaching yourself, feeling the film out, getting to the truth, not rushing it or being blinded by budgets.
With a 100 years of film history, I feel like there’s only three avenues we haven’t explored to their full just yet; films where a real true poetic justice is formed between filmmaker and story, films with a female gaze and films that look to minority groups, which should be made in collaboration with them.
As Creative Director of Girls In Film do you have any tips or advice you would offer emerging female filmmakers?
Watch/read a lot, and make a journal of all the things that sing true to you. Find your value system. Ask yourself tricky questions about what you truly want to represent and don’t let the people around you influence you. When something’s really true to you, that comes across really powerfully and makes the work very individual, which is what we all search for - originality.
If in doubt - collaborate! For me that’s what the female gaze is about, we do it in our collaborative way, and that’s killing the patriarchy one ego at a time.
Oh and if you find yourself at a table of crowing men who aren’t listening to you, aren’t asking you questions, and definitely aren’t supporting you, just leave the room. You ain’t gonna change their minds, and you definitely ain’t gonna get inspired.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Tin Luck?
I want it to show the healing power of the community.