14th BFI FUTURE FILM FESTIVAL, 2021

"I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED FILMS BUT AT FIRST HAD NO IDEA HOW TO GET A FOOT IN THE DOOR. I AM LUCKY TO HAVE HAD A SUPPORTIVE TEACHER AT SCHOOL WHO GAVE ME CONFIDENCE IN MY FILMMAKING ABILITY."

Elsa Hunter-Weston
Please Introduce Yourself 
Documentary 
Section: IN THEIR SHOES

Please Introduce Yourself screens as part of the BFI Future Film Festival from 18-21 February, free on BFI Player

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This short experimental documentary puts the viewer in the shoes of train-watching enthusiast Eliza, a bright D/deaf woman who arrives at her first job interview, where she is expected to introduce herself. The viewer experiences the numerous barriers Eliza faces in trying to gain employment. The film is subtitled throughout to create a sense of the world in which Eliza lives and highlight the barriers she faces as a young d/Deaf woman.
 

Hi Eliza, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?

 

It’s been such a difficult year for people and I’m sure for most of us it’s been rotten with worry for loved ones and wondering when we will see them again. But I am very lucky that I am safe and well. I’ve been enjoying noticing the changing of the seasons and being outdoors more with my dog but what I would give to go to the cinema! 

 

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?

 

I have loved my time outside and found it very calming, which I think is never a bad thing for my work. I have been taking a screenwriting course in the evenings alongside my day job which has been really fun and motivating. There are some new projects I have been developing so fingers crossed they will be able to get off the ground this year, covid permitting of course.

 

Congratulations on having Please Introduce Yourself selected for the BFI Future Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of In Their Shoes section?

 

I’m really excited to see all the films at this year’s festival and so pleased that Please Introduce Yourself is a part of it all. When I set out to make this film, I ultimately wanted it to empower the D/deaf community in the arts, while keeping a local focus. The film explores what it’s like to be a young person today and it aims to amplify the adolescent female voice of D/deaf community. I think the In Their Shoes section will be a great way of bringing more identities to the forefront and I’m so pleased that my film will be a part of it.

 

 

Can you tell me a little bit about Please Introduce Yourself, how did this film come about?

 

Please Introduce Yourself is about a young girl, Eliza, who arrives at her first job interview, where she is expected to introduce herself. The film is about identity and looks at some of the barriers facing young people trying to gain employment. Only 65% of working age deaf people are in employment, compared with 79% of the general population. It’s a shocking figure. I wanted to make this film to support local people who didn’t feel represented and to work with as many people from the D/deaf community as I could. I think Eliza (inspired and played by non-actor Lucy Mulholland) is an important character, not only because she’s D/deaf, but because she’s struggling with the same confusion that a lot of young people feel in today’s world. I wanted the 3-screen approach to really play with her creative expression and serve to visualize how Eliza experiences the world around her. 

What where the biggest challenges you faced bringing this film to life?

 

I really enjoyed making the film, and the cast and crew were all amazing to work with. The producer, Caoilfhionn MacEoin-Manus was particularly brilliant and was totally on the same wavelength which made it a lot easier throughout the whole process. I think the biggest problem was probably the time it took to render the footage in the edit because we used 3 screens so had 3 lots of footage in each frame.

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

 

Yes, I would have loved to have made the film sign-interpreted but because of budget and time constraints, we decided that having burnt-in subtitles would still give a sense of Eliza’s world as a young D/deaf woman.

What has been the most valuable lesson you have taken away from making Please Introduce Yourself?

 

The most valuable thing has been finding collaboration to be an absolute joy. I loved working with the actors Lucy and Paula who each brought their own experiences of being D/deaf to the film which helped to shape the piece. I also had an amazing consultant and interpreter called Rebecca Cooney who was so supportive and positive throughout the process. Many coffees were had (remember when we could go out for those?) and I would love to make a film in the same, collaborative way again.

Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

 

I have always loved films but at first had no idea how to get a foot in the door. I am lucky to have had a supportive teacher at school who gave me confidence in my filmmaking ability. If they hadn’t done that, then I would not have applied to the BFI Film Academy. It was a real turning point for me and has since opened up so many new opportunities. Now I work in the industry full-time and absolutely love it.

What has been some of the best advice you’ve been give?

At a master class with Francis Lee, he said ‘Confidence might be the thing that gets you in the room, but your work speaks for itself’.

Should filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?

Of course - push them all the way and create the film you want to see. No other person has the same voice as you so use it. What story do you think needs to be told?

Do you have any tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?

I think make a film you’re excited about or that you feel has something important to say. It has really helped me to find a collaborator who I can be vulnerable with and whose judgment I trust. For me, that is my producer but that’s not to say it couldn’t be the director of photography, an actor or anyone else in your team.

 

What do you hope people will take away from Please Introduce Yourself?

 

I hope people come away from the film with a sense of the world in which Eliza lives - her frustrations at feeling stuck and the barriers she faces as a D/deaf young woman. Ultimately, I want people to get a true glimpse of her identity on her terms. 

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