Hannah Schierbeek
An Alternative Method

An Alternative Method screens as part of the BFI Future Film Festival from 18-21 February, free on BFI Player

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On her walk home from work, Ann, a youth ballet teacher, is followed by a man. She recounts what happened to her neighbour, Sara, who shares a personal remedy for the anxiety Ann is experiencing. The following day at work, Ann still cannot get the man out of her head, and she becomes increasingly desperate to rid herself of the feeling. An Alternative Method deftly represents the experience of anxiety.

Hi Hannah thank you for talking to TNC, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?

Thank you very much for the interview! I am doing well, all things considered.  

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?

Yes, definitely. Loss of non-creative work has allowed me to focus on my creative work more fully than ever before. Having a lot of time to reflect and spend alone has also fostered more creativity.  

Congratulations on having An Alternative Method selected for the BFI Future Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of We Are Not Our Trauma section?

Thank you! I think the title of the program, ‘We Are Not Our Trauma’, is very fitting for this film. ‘An Alternative Method’ is a character study of a woman’s internal world after experiencing a traumatic event. I believe the sentiment of this program is true, that trauma does not define us, and this is a freeing realization.    

Can you tell me a little bit about An Alternative Method, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?

The initial idea behind ‘An Alternative Method’ was based on a personal event, but ultimately, I wanted to capture a feeling. My goal was to highlight ambiguous situations that are difficult, I think particularly for those who exist in the world as women, to express. I wanted the audience to feel the main character’s fear that leads her to a sort of desperate solution just to get rid of the feeling. 

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

The biggest challenge I faced was having the confidence in myself to make it. It’s my directing debut and a personal story that I often doubted in the process. I feel extremely grateful to the team, cast and crew, who invested their time and energy into bringing this story to life.

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

It would have been nice to get a bit of funding for it. I self-financed this film on a shoestring budget, which was limiting in some regard. But I think there are advantages to not having budget as well, especially as a first-time filmmaker. 

What has been the most valuable lesson you have taken away from making An Alternative Method?

Recognizing that I don’t have sole possession of stories or ideas, but that they belong to everyone and can be made better with a team. 

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

I was initially interested in photography and bought my first camera in high school. Then I discovered it had a video function. I made some films by covering the lens with plastic wrap and drawing or putting Vaseline on it. I feel fortunate to have accidentally exposed myself to experimental style before learning the more fundamental structure of filmmaking.

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

There is this quote from Jonas Makas’ film ‘As I Was Moving Ahead I Occasionally Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty’: “Keep looking for things in places where there is nothing.” This has helped me a lot while on set and while editing, as well as in my everyday life.

"It’s hard to practice directing on a regular basis, because you need to be in production in order to do so."

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

Of course. I think that’s what keeps the medium alive. It’s really refreshing as a filmmaker to discover something that feels new, and I think we’re getting more of that in recent years because more people are getting a voice and access to filmmaking than ever before. 

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

Try to cultivate a daily creative practice. This has helped me a lot, especially during the pandemic. It’s hard to practice directing on a regular basis, because you need to be in production in order to do so. While waiting for the next production, I read, write, research, and plan for my next projects. I also read fiction and watch movies for inspiration.   

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from An Alternative Method?

I think I would be happy with any takeaway. I get excited when people have different interpretations, and it’s an honor if someone takes the time to watch it and think about it.

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