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Barcelona Short Film Festival 2022

Safe Passage (for Sheila)

On the surface, safe Passage (for Sheila) is a look at living alone during the pandemic in a 2.5 minute story about a spider. In a deeper sense, it challenges the femme fatale stereotype. Based on a true story.

Hi Erin, it’s great to be able to talk with you about your Safe Passage (for Sheila). You have had a stunning festival run collecting multiple awards, what has it meant to you to know that your film has been so well received?

Thank you so much, it’s been amazing. Participating in film festivals just opens a whole new creative field for me to explore. Although I’ve been working in video and sound for years now in art world environments, this is my first film festival run. The types of conversations I’m having are new and that’s cool.


What does it mean to you to be able to bring this film to Barcelona Short Film Festival this year?


Such an honour! I wish that I could be there in person this year! I’m excited to have worked with an editor to make closed captions available in both Spanish and English. Thank you so much to BSFF for including my film.


How important a role do festivals like BSFF play in providing a platform for filmmakers and short films?


I value the opportunity to share the work at BSFF and film festivals because it allows more people to see it in context of something much bigger than one screening or only for local audiences. I’ve attended a few festivals and the film changes with the group of films it screens with so that’s been really interesting.


Can you tell me a little bit about how Safe Passage (for Sheila) came about, what was it about your time and experience during the pandemic that proved so inspiring, creatively, for you?


Totally. Well, it’s based on a true story that I experienced living alone during the first month of the pandemic. I had this relationship with a poisonous spider who I called Sheila. I took the “stay home” very seriously and bought groceries for two weeks and hunkered down not going out or talking to anyone except through screens online. It just got weird! Ups and downs you know. But as an artist, I use my emotions and experiences as material. I remember talking to my friend in Minnesota about it at the time, wondering what to do and she said go to the desert. Then, when I told my Dad about the story over a beer later that summer (2020), he thought it was a really great story. I filed the enthusiastic responses away like oh, maybe this could be something. I made the film a year later in 2021.


What was the message you wanted to convey with this film and what was it about the femme fatale stereotype that you wanted to explore?


It’s a tender portrait of a relationship with the self and compassion for a poisonous spider during the pandemic. Metaphorically, it challenges this idea of calling a woman “the black widow” or the “femme fatale” which means that she is sexy and must be out to kill you and therefore, you should hate her and destroy her so that you don’t get hurt. That is certainly not fair to assume that of anyone just because she looks good and isn’t playing a certain role. Maybe she is caring for a spider friend who is not evil either and isn't planning an attack.


"Keep it simple and dont wait for the perfect idea but allow the process to inform how the work will go. Release control and then take it back. Repeat."

When working on a new project what are the first steps you take in your filmmaking process, and what would you say have been the most important lessons you have taken from this whole experience?


Oh wow, good question. The first step is generally being fully present. Like engaging in my experience, body, feelings, climate, surroundings, people, cultures, city, smells, sensations… It's all great material. I also do a lot of research that I enjoy including reading, watching films, listening to music, seeing live performances, going to art exhibitions, traveling, being politically active, talking to lots of different people, taking skill building classes, and I have a day job as an archivist. All these things combine to hone my intuition and critical thinking skills. So by the time the work itself is born, it comes out smoothly like butter and I cry and I know without words when it’s finished.


What does Safe Passage (for Sheila) say about you?


Haha, you tell me!


Where did your passion for art and filmmaking come from?


It’s always been here so I can’t separate it from who I am as a being.

How important is it for you to use the experiences you have gained, and will gain, to broaden creative journey?


It is an integral part of the creative journey! To be an artist is a seeker’s lifestyle and philosophy. And then there’s the hyper-focused work. It’s a lot of rolling up your sleeves and doing the work.


Has your approach to your film and art projects changed much since you started out?


Oh yeah, I mean, it’s constantly growing as I learn more all the time. But also, there’s this core element of it that hasn’t changed at all. Maybe that’s the authenticity aspect that I’m always digging deep to make sure is present in the work.


You are part of the International Union of Mail Artists, how did you get involved in the union?


That’s cool you discovered that. On January 1st, 2020, I created a year long mail art postcard exchange called, “How’s the weather here there?” where I asked people to describe their internal and external landscapes on a postcard and mail it to me in Los Angeles for an exhibition and book. If they included an address, I mailed them one back. Well, 2020 ended up being so much more epic and historic than I even anticipated and I had over 400 people from around the world participate during the pandemic. People shared all kinds of info with me on mail art communities during that time and I can’t believe this, but it was only AFTER the project ended that I learned about IUOMA. I probably would have had twice as many participants had I been a part of that network during the duration of the project. The exhibition got canceled, of-course, due to COVID-19 but I do still plan to create a book on the project when it feels like the right time.


Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer an emerging filmmaker?


Don’t be afraid or let your inner bad voices tell you what to do! Engage with life and love your strangeness. Being an outsider is cool. Keep it simple and don’t wait for the “perfect idea” but allow the process to inform how the work will go. Release control and then take it back. Repeat. Practice patience with your ideas. Allow them to change. Expensive equipment and fancy names don’t make a better film. Learn the skills to make quality work. Invest your time and energy where you want it to go. You’ll learn a lot from hanging out with birds. Stay hydrated.


And finally, what massage do you want your audiences to take from Safe Passage (for Sheila)?


I would like people to be inspired creatively and moved towards compassion for all beings after watching it. Also, being a human experiencing the pandemic was tough so I hope people won’t judge themselves as much for having a rough time by sharing my story.

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