BAFTA 2022 
Best British Short Film
Interview

Sam H. Freeman
& Ng Choon Ping 

FEMME

When Jordan gets into the car of a flirtatious drug-dealer, his night takes a dangerous turn.

 

Hey Sam & Ping, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?

 

Surprisingly (and gratefully) good!  We’ve been kept busy with the film.

 

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration or opportunities?

 

We have a pretty exciting announcement lined up – so watch this space!

 

Congratulations on your BAFTA Nomination, what does it mean to you both to get this nomination?

 

It has been really exciting, slightly surreal, and of course a real boost to confidence that we’re doing the right thing!

 

Femme won Best British Short at BIFA, did you imagine you would get this type of recognition for your film?

 

Not at all – this is the first film either of us has made.  We were just happy to get the opportunity to do our thing.

 

How did you both meet and what has the experience been like writing and directing Femme, will you continue to work together in the future?

 

We’ve been friends a long time, and we're housemates for a few years.  We’ve been talking about working together, but our careers (screenwriter and theatre director) didn’t have a natural convergence point until we finally sat down and decided to make this film together.  Writing and directing together has been a blast – it’s really useful to have intellectual and emotional support in each other.  We’re definitely continuing to work together.

 

Can you tell me how Femme came about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?

 

We love watching films together, and we love crime thrillers.  We were watching the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time and Uncut Gems when the idea for our film came. The predominantly hyper-masculine genre almost always excludes the queer voice, and we thought – putting a queer protagonist at the heart of the story would be the perfect twist on the genre.  We were further inspired by the idea of “heterophobia” - the nervousness, even fear, that queer people often feel in exclusively hetero spaces. That felt to us like the perfect starting point for a thriller.

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"We’re also more knowledgeable now about the different roles in the filmmaking process, and the next time we would be able to engage with them more efficiently and effectively."

Whilst working on Femme how close where you able to keep to your screenplay once you started filming, did you allow yourself or your actors much flexibility?

 

We were keen for the actors to improvise a lot of dialogue, to keep the film feeling authentic and spontaneous.  However, story beat for story beat, the film is pretty much how we visualised it in the screenplay.

 

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced bringing Femme to life and looking back is there anything you would have done differently on your short?

 

The day before the shoot, our DOP and the entire camera and lighting team were exposed to COVID, so we’ve had to find a new DOP and crew the evening before.  It was terrifying, but that was how we found our brilliant DOP James Rhodes.  We met everyday a few hours before shooting started to squeeze in the prep we had done with the previous DOP.

 

That being our first filmmaking experience, everything in the process was new to us.  With a little more knowledge now, we’ll be more confident in making quick decisions in tight situations.  We’re also more knowledgeable now about the different roles in the filmmaking process, and the next time we would be able to engage with them more efficiently and effectively.

 

Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

 

It has been such tremendous fun, we wish we’d come to it sooner!

 

Should LGBTQ+ filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the stories they want to tell?

 

Of course – not just push boundaries, but leap right over them to land rudely in the heart of the mainstream.

 

For anyone out there thinking about getting into filmmaking do you have any tips or advice you would offer them? 

 

Always start from a story that works, and that works on film.

 

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

 

There's a feeling sometimes - too often - that there's some sort of unwritten quota for queer stories.  Actors go, "I've done a gay role, I shouldn't do another".  Producers are reluctant to green-light one if there's been another already recently.  There's also an expectation that queer stories fit a certain mould: either a bittersweet drama about coming out, or a hard-hitting drama about victimhood.  Perhaps all [insert minority identity] stories get this.  We wanted to make a queer film that is unapologetically genre; we want to take up space in the mainstream; we want to counter-colonise the medium.  Queer stories are not confined to indie drama; they are also crime thrillers, neo-noirs, space operas, franchise blockbusters.