Emma Penaz Eisner
Screening Session: BLOCK 3  
3rd Papaya Rocks Film Festival Online
22-28 Feb 2021 | Tickets £5 / £10 Full 7-Day Pass: bit.ly/PRFF-Tickets
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Lairs, layers, liars: In this poetry film, hatred insidiously supplants a couple's love.

Hi Emma thank you for talking to TNC, how are you holding up during these very strange times?

I’m holding up well. Although obviously the pandemic’s been hard, it’s also allowed me more time to work on an upcoming 3-channel video installation project that I’m making through my Jeffrey Ahn, Jr. Fellowship.

Has this time offered you any creative inspiration?

I’ve been having exceptionally vivid dreams over the past months. Since the work I make is surreal in nature, inspiration often comes from dreams, so this has been an especially fertile time for writing and developing ideas for future projects.

Congratulations on having your film selected for the 3rd Papaya Rocks Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of short films?

It’s always exciting for me to show my work alongside other wonderful filmmakers, and this is no exception. To participate in a festival where everyone has a heartfelt dedication to film thrills me, and I’m honoured to be involved in Papaya Rocks.

Can you tell me a little bit about Lairs how did this film come about?

Lairs is an experimental stop-motion animation that visually interprets a poem of the same name which first appeared in Eclectica Magazine, April/May 2019.  Creating a poetry film involves making something new and image-driven from the original written work, an artistic challenge that I enjoy. This particular poem has an invasive, assaultive feeling imbued in it inherently. Reading it, I could readily envision powerful, almost intrusive, imagery that I could create, and accordingly I wanted to work with this poem to explore the tension and dread underpinning the events in the poem’s narrative through a filmic reflection.

What were the biggest challenges you faced bringing your film to life?

Apart from the intrinsic challenges in stop motion animation, this film involved my constructing many complex sets, some miniature and some life-size. Building the dollhouse for the opening scene, with its detailed exterior and interior, involved painstaking work over several months. The life-size set for the sink scene was a considerable carpentry project with technical challenges because of the sink’s heft; with some advice from my former carpentry instructor, I constructed wooden ribs under the visible “countertop” for support. I must say that I welcomed these challenges, because I truly love the full range of hands-on work involved to make in-camera effects.

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

I’m satisfied with the process and outcome in making Lairs. I purposefully designed and planned the film within the budget, time, and resources I had at my disposal.

Describe your film in three words?

Vivid, snappy, and emotive. 

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

I’ve always been an inquisitive, hands-on, and visually oriented person. Starting as early as I can remember, creating art has appealed to me as a mode of exploration. When I was very young, I had a wonderful opportunity to take filmmaking classes from an inspiring teacher. I fell in love with the medium, and that love has persisted and only deepened ever since.

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

Don’t ever compromise the kind of work you want to make; the right opportunities for the kind of filmmaker you are will come to you so long as your films are excellent.

"I hope that viewers of my film will be struck by the images so that, even if they can’t articulate what exactly made this happen..."

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

Yes, of course! In my view, the purpose of film is to seek truth in original ways. 

Pushing film’s boundaries seems to be the best way to fulfil this purpose. Plus, it’s fun!

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

Apart from the wonderful advice I received, I would also say to make films with artistry, technical prowess, and originality in equal measure. That way, your films will be purposeful and impactful. Also, take risks and be bold. It’s better to try something novel and make mistakes than to make a film that’s essentially been done before.

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

I hope that viewers of my film will be struck by the images so that, even if they can’t articulate what exactly made this happen, they will continue to think about the film for a long time into the future. For me, a memorable impact is an artistic success.

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