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Cannes
Short Film Corner 2022 
 
Interview

Erik Sharpnack
The Collector
May 21, 2022

Set in an alternate world, where memories can only be fully experienced through special devices, Christoph blends his own memory with a newly found device and a strangers lost memory.

Hello Erik, it’s great to get to talk with you, how have you been keeping after everything that’s been happening?

It’s such a strange time we are living in but I’ve been able to adapt with the ebb and flow of the last couple years. I was in a good headspace leading into the pandemic so that helped a lot with how I dealt with everything. It wasn’t the easiest of things, but I’m doing well and excited for the future.

Have you been able to remain positive and creative at least?

Even though I feel like a pessimist at times, I had to believe that things would get better. And not focusing on a grim future and staying focused on changing what I had control of, is what helped me stay both positive and creative. I think it’s a multitude of things, but my creativity is the strongest it’s been in a long time and actually having the time to focus on it has been hugely beneficial to my well being.

What does it mean for you to be in the Cannes Short Film Corner with The Collector and what do you hope to take away from this experience?

The fact that I have a completed film that I feel worthy of even being in the mix of all the great films that show up in the Short Film Corner catalog each year, means a lot to me. And I hope to take away insight from being immersed in the experience of Cannes, in hopes of being an official selection in the future.

How vital are platforms like Cannes SFC in championing and supporting the short film format?

Any short format is a unique storytelling medium, and they often get overlooked, with short films in particular getting overlooked by most of the mainstream community. The lack of exposure to short films leads to them being pushed aside or blended with internet videos, and they typically don’t get the best light of day. So platforms like the Cannes Short Film Corner and the many online sites that support short films are crucial for short film-makers. It gives them somewhere to showcase their work and help spread not only their film-making abilities, but the short film medium in general.

Can you tell me how The Collector came about, what was it about memories that inspired your screenplay?

Perception plays a big role in your memories, and looking back at some of my past memories, I wondered how many of them are actually true. Memories are an individual experience, and the question I started asking myself was “what if they could be shared?” Everything spiralled into thinking of memories as a tangible object, and that object being the only way to experience any memories you might have. And the thought of “saving” memories in different formats – paper, photo, audio – all play into everyone perceiving memories for themselves in their own ways.

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How close did you like to keep to your screenplay once you started shooting, did you give yourself much flexibility?

I gave myself lots of flexibility, maybe even too much. Because I was in the unique position of being the writer, director, producer, and editor of this film, I was the sole decision maker through each of the three writing steps. And knowing what needs to happen in each step and being the one to ultimately decide, I was able to change full scenes during the writing, production, and editing process. We changed an entire scene in the middle of filming, and because of that flexibility it has become one of my favourite scenes in the film. The Collector wouldn’t be the same without the Swedish subtitles read on screen from the fictional film heard playing in the background; that idea occurred on the day of and finished in post production, all thanks to being open to change.

What was the experience like working with Megan Brooks and Nick Bastoky in creating your production design?

The Collector is only my second short film I have directed, and I didn’t have the opportunity to work with any production designers on my first. So being able to bring on more creative minds for The Collector was challenging and liberating at the same time. The production of The Collector was broken up into two sections, filmed about 3 months apart, so the reason I have two different production designers/art directors is for the huge time gap. Both Megan and Nick brought so much of themselves to The Collector and helped give me the time to focus on other things making the whole experience a dream. I am very thankful for the two of them and The Collector’s aesthetic is what it is because of their creative minds.

How important is this collaborative nature of filmmaking on a project like this?

What I love about filmmaking is the collaboration process. I try to present this to my crew from the very beginning so that we can work together on building and growing from the start. I believe feeding creativity grows creativity so I try to leave every possibility open.

What would you say have been the biggest challenge you faced bringing The Collector to life?

Though we faced numerous challenges as a crew, the biggest one to me was finding the location for both Christoph and the Old Man. After searching for weeks, my DP, Tom Dyer, and I fell in love with one location. However, it wasn’t available until October, and I was trying to shoot the entire script in a span of four consecutive days in August. I could not find anything even comparable to the location. So I split the days apart, ultimately creating more work, more cost, and prolonging post production, all because I fell in love with a location. The extra work was all worth it in the end.

Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

I fell in love with filmmaking as a teen, right when I started editing. But I would say my passion hit another level more recently. When I started watching Bergman, Tarkovsky, and Kieślowski, my mind opened to another level of film-making and I haven’t looked back.

What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you have take from this experience?

Surrounding yourself with passionate people will lead to great outcomes. There was a moment when we clicked as a crew and it’s only because everyone was doing their part. Collaboration stems all the way down to the production assistants. Surround yourself with a good crew and you will create good work.

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"The Collector is about addiction and even though some can fight addictions, others struggle with it everyday."

Is there any advice or tips you can now offer anyone thinking about making their first short film?

Jump. It takes a team, so jump off the cliff and share your ideas with people. Bring people together and make something great.

Are there any other themes or film genre’s you are looking forward to exploring with future films?

I’m fascinated with reincarnation and have been playing with ideas around that area. Family would be another theme. A dream of mine is to make an Ozu family drama – his style gives me such comfort and I wish to bottle it up and blend it with mine.

And finally, what would you like audiences to take away from The Collector?

The Collector is about addiction and even though some can fight addictions, others struggle with it everyday. Perception on this theme will vary from person to person, and that’s part of what makes filmmaking special – everyone will perceive subject matter differently based on their own personal experiences.