18th BFI Future Film Festival, 2024
"I appreciate that BFI is putting the selections up online to stream. I also love how they created a Letterboxd list of all the selections because I think that’s another platform that’s amazing as a film discovery tool."
DREAMS OF HOME
“Dreams of Home” is an experimental coming-of-age film following a boy skateboarding through abstract landscapes and memories in search of a place he encountered in a dream. By re-contextualising photographs and footage shot in his daily life over the years, Justin seeks to construct dreamscapes that oscillate between the real and the surreal.
Hi Justin, thank you for talking to TNC. How does it feel to have Dreams of Home part of this years BFI Future Film Festival?
Thank you for having me! It’s an honor. I’m in great company and can’t wait to meet like-minded filmmakers at the event.
Dreams of Home has already had an amazing festival run so far, what has it meant to you to see your short get this type of recognition?
It’s been incredibly surprising and gratifying. I spent a long time putting the pieces of this project together alongside my composer Jess Faber, and it’s super rewarding watching it connect with people around the world.
How important are festivals like Future Film Festival in creating a platform for short films and emerging filmmakers?
It’s massive. Festivals like Future Film Festival are so important in legitimizing young voices, while also providing opportunities that help develop careers in tangible ways.
What more can be done to offer short films more visibility to audiences outside of the festivals circuit?
I appreciate that BFI is putting the selections up online to stream. I also love how they created a Letterboxd list of all the selections because I think that’s another platform that’s amazing as a film discovery tool. I think what they’re doing this year by having programs in Wales and Nothern Ireland is another amazing way of reaching a larger audience. Things like this are so key in giving short films a broader audience!
Can you tell me how Dreams of Home came about, what inspired your film?
I’m inspired by artists like Jonas Mekas who’ve used film as a diary and less of a structured process with a script, a set, and actors, so I always have a ton of footage that builds up over time, and I’m never sure what to do with it until I mess around in editing. And for a long while, I had also been messing around with rotoscoping, and created a loop of a sillhouetted figure skateboarding that had been sitting around. I experimented by placing this figure in some of these shots, and I realized I could tell a whole visual story of this person skating through my own memories.
What was the most challenging part of making Dreams of Home?
The most challenging part was making this feel cohesive both visually and narratively. Every shot is completely different, and the skateboarding figure acted as the visual bridge that would connect everything on a basic level. And I knew I wanted it to feel dream-like, so I didn’t want the rigidity of a script to influence the way I sequenced and chose shots to fit a certain narrative, so the voiceover actually came at the end of the process when the visuals were completely finished. I spent over a month figuring out how to write a story that made sense, aligned with the visuals, and didn’t feel forced or tacked-on. It was a tricky balance.
Has it been a cathartic exercise for you being able to look back at these photographs and footage you’ve shot from your daily life?
It definitely has. I know exactly where and when I took all of my footage, and to be able to re-contexualize those memories with a new narrative has been an exciting way for myself to explore my past and present self through art.
And in look back at this past what has been the most surprising thing you’ve been able to discovered about yourself?
A lot of this stuff I’ve shot had been taken during a difficult time in my life. So going back in time and seeing all the beauty that I was still trying to capture has let me reconcile with my past self, in a weird way. To be able to look at what I’ve shot and then make it mean something, it helps me make sense of everything.
Did you have any apprehensions about making a film that comes from you own personal experiences?
I think like anybody, I’ve felt afraid of feeling invalidated or judged, especially if what I’m trying to say doesn’t fully land with someone. And that gets exacerbated when it’s about something directly related to my life. This was the most narratively-focused short film I’d ever made so I was uncertain how and if people would connect with it at all.
Now that you can be reflective, what would you say has been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken away from making Dreams of Home?
To keep going. To keep experimenting with new techniques, to keep filming and recording anything that you think is beautiful or worth remembering. That feeling you get when you finally finish a project and say what you needed to say, is so worth it.
What does Dreams of Home say about you as a filmmaker and the stories you want to tell in the future?
I care a lot about honesty in what I make. I’m certain the stories I tell will always change as I get older, but everything I make comes from a very real part of myself and if I can make people feel that when they’re watching, I’ll be happy.
Have you always had a passion for animation?
I’ve always loved animation! I’m terrible at drawing though, so it’s always been an admiration from a distance. I think It’s the most magical form of filmmaking there is.
How much has your approach to your personal films and commissioned projects changed since your debut short?
I feel like I’ve finally understood and embraced my creative process and been able to more confidently utilize it in my work, both commissioned and personal. A lot of my approach has to do with experimentation and I’ve learned to be more comfortable with that as part of my creative process.
"It’s cliche, but it’s really easy to get wrapped up in making something to please a certain audience or demographic, and it can cause your work to suffer."
Do you have a favourite animation and why’s it so special to you?
“It’s Such a Beautiful Day” by Don Hertzfeldt is one of the greatest animated films of all time. It’s this sad, beautiful, and existential movie that can’t really be described or explained. I think it should be a mandatory watch for everybody.
What has been the best advice you’ve been given as you started your filmmaking journey, and is there any advice you would offer any fellow filmmaker?
I think the best advice I’ve ever gotten is to make the kind of art that you need yourself. It’s cliche, but it’s really easy to get wrapped up in making something to please a certain audience or demographic, and it can cause your work to suffer. It’s important to be a little selfish and make sure you’re creating something that you’d genuinely appreciate if you were the audience.
And finally, what message do you want audiences to take away from Dreams of Home?
I hope people who are struggling to find belonging feel seen and know it’s okay.