Iris Prize 2021
Best British Shorts

Ian Smith
Three Letters
Iris Prize / 5 - 10 October, 2021
irisprize.org

Following the death of his beloved step mother and grandmother, disability and LGBT campaigner Paul Davies attempts to write to the father he feels rejected by to find resolution and peace.

 

Hi Ian congratulations on having Three Letters selected for the Iris Prize 2021, how does it feel to have your film part of such an important LGBTQ Film Festival? 

 

So amazing to be nominated.  Means so, so much to me. The festival is so important to reflecting and changing LGBT+ representation across the world and to be part of this movement means a lot given I am interested in helping change lives for the better.

 

Three Letters is Nominated for the Best British Short 2021, what does it mean for you to get your second consecutive nomination at the festival? 

   

To be nominated 2 years in a row means i must be doing something right! I love to challenge myself as a film maker and seek to make touching, meaningful films so to be recognised for that again is really awesome.

 

How did Three Letters come about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay? 

   

Sometimes film making is a form of personal catharsis. After struggling with my own father's inability to accept my sexuality as 'normal', I began to appreciate the universal nature and longing for acceptance many in the LGBTQ community yearn for. In telling the story of Paul, an LGBT activist and out and proud gay man, it is also my own way of sharing my own longing for a sense of love, care and acceptance with my own father.

What was the most challenging scene for you to film?  

 

I think that the challenging scenes was when I was turning the camera and Paul was clearly distraught and emotional. There is always a dilemma as a documentary filmmaker to care for your ’subject’ but reflect what’s happening in front of you. As a trained therapist it can be useful in these situations. 

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from? 

 

It's in the blood I think! Ive always been invested in tellings tories and reflecting the world around me. I think its a way of meaning making for my own life also.

"I feel there are many narratives not reflected on screen, including the polymerous nature of may LGBT people for example. this isn’t reflected much on screen."

You produce through your own production company Auntie Margaret how much has your approach to your films changed since your debut film? 

 

I have to say I am more more in touch with the storytelling process including the beats of a story and reflecting the motivations and drivers of the protagonist.  Storytelling isn’t easy, at least telling a compelling story isn’t easy and i feel I will always be crafting what is a series of skills to better communicate. So far to go too!

 

What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you’ve taken from making this film? 

 

Keep it simple!

 

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

 

Most definitely.  I feel there are many narratives not reflected on screen, including the polymerous nature of may LGBT people for example. this isn’t reflected much on screen.  I'm also were that fully rounded Trans stories are often not reflected either. 

 

Do you have any tips or advice to offer a first time director or was there something you wish you had known before you started shooting? 

 

Know your story.  What is the motivation of your main character? Make sure it's clear. 

You are not alone.  You have allies. Find your allies.