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37th BFI Flare 2023

Maybe Someday


March 19 & 21 Tickets

March 15, 2023

Caught in the painful process of separating from her wife, non-binary photographer Jay embarks on a trip to reconnect with the past and find a fresh start.

Hi Michelle thank you for talking with The New Current, what does it mean to you to have Maybe Someday, in the HEARTS at the 37th BFI Flare?

Thanks for talking to me as well! I'm really honoured to have our UK premiere at BFI Flare. I've heard such great things about the festival, and haven't had the opportunity to screen there with my prior films. I'm also really looking forward to coming to the festival to do a Q&A for both of our screenings.

You’ve had an amazing run already with Maybe Someday, winning multiple awards at the Long Beach Film Festival (2022) including the Audience Awards for Narrative Feature, did you imagine your feature would get such an incredible response?

Thanks - it's been very rewarding screening the film for audiences and seeing how people respond. I think as filmmakers, most of us are hopelessly optimistic and we always have high hopes that each film gets a great response. There are always surprises though, and one big surprise for me was how funny people think the movie is, and how deeply people seem to resonate with the story.

How essential is it for LGBTQ+ filmmakers to continue to push the boundaries of the stories and themes they want to explore in their films?

I think it's really important to cover new ground with a story if possible, to shine a light on something that isn't being discussed or represented enough. There is a lot more mainstream LGBTQ+ content than ever, but most of it is lacking what independent film can do best - showcasing stories and themes that are marginalized or overlooked. Our community is more than just the slice of experiences that mainstream content is portraying.

What was the first LGBTQ+ film you saw that really left an impact? Mine was Beautiful Thing, still is, a beautiful British film!

I haven't seen a Beautiful Thing - I'll have to check that out! It's hard to say about a film that's really had impact. When I was newly out in the 90s, there was a lot of bad lesbian cinema and the films I did like were problematic in other ways, like Chasing Amy or Kissing Jessica Stein. I think part of my motivation to become a filmmaker was to create characters and stories I wanted to see that I felt were lacking. As much as I enjoy lesbian films, stories about genderqueer characters are more near and dear to my heart, and there isn't as much representation along those lines.

Can you tell me how Maybe Someday came about, what inspired your screenplay?

Originally I wanted to write a story about a friendship between a gay man and a lesbian, as it's something that isn't portrayed very often in-depth on-screen, and many of my closest friends are gay men. As such, the first draft of the script focused mostly on Jay's friendship with Tommy in the aftermath of Jay's separation from her wife. In subsequent drafts the story was fleshed out to spend more time with the other characters so that as a whole, the film focuses on three different primary relationships and the cycles they each go through. Beyond that though, I was inspired to tell a story about being stuck in the grief of heartbreak, as it's also something I haven't seen portrayed often in-depth on-screen but is a very relatable experience.

"I've acted in several of my projects so I have a certain comfort level with shifting focus back and forth from director mind to actor mind, although this film was more challenging because of the role and the tone of the story."

Does a screenplay like this draw from you own life and experiences?

Yes, the screenplay was inspired by my own divorce and cross-country move many years ago, so there's definitely an emotional truth to it. However while the characters and relationships are loosely based on people I've known, it's been heavily fictionalized into something that can become a coherent and hopefully entertaining film.

Had you always envisioned yourself playing “Jay” and what are the biggest challenges you face directing yourself?

I thought I might play Jay but didn't know for sure as I was writing the script. I wanted the story to find its full potential without being limited by whatever I might bring or not bring as an actor, so I waited to write it first. I've acted in several of my projects so I have a certain comfort level with shifting focus back and forth from director mind to actor mind, although this film was more challenging because of the role and the tone of the story. I had a lot more emotional and dramatic scenes than in my prior films, so it was overall more demanding. But that's what excited me about the project in the first place - taking on a new challenge with it, and hopefully getting better in the process.

Was there any one scene that was especially tricky to film?

There was a particularly emotional scene for my character that I was nervous about shooting. It's part of the climax of the film so I don't want to give away too many specifics for people who haven't seen it yet, but it helped that I went in knowing that it would be challenging so that I could plan to give myself what I needed to pull it off. We cleared most of the crew out of the room, I put on a song that reminded me of a family member who passed away, I had the crew that was left in the room get in place for the shot so that I could signal to them when I was ready to roll, and we shot it in one take. I didn't actually know if I would be successful in making it happen, but giving myself that time and space I needed as an actor really helped.

Did you allow yourself and the cast some flexibility with your screenplay or do you like to stick to what you have written?

Yes, I like to allow the cast to have some flexibility with it. Overall that tends to help a performance, for an actor to feel like the words are their own. For one scene in particular, when Young Jay and Young Jess get high, I had them improvise to help them get into that headspace before the scene started, but it was so good I ended up cutting most of what I wrote and used what they did instead. I love discovering ways that the film can become better through all parts of the process. However, there are some specific lines that are important to me to have performed exactly as written because even a slight change can alter the impact of something, so it really depends.

Where did you passion for independent filmmaking come from?

I think my passion for independent film naturally evolved over many years. I started acting in school when I was eight, shot and edited my first video montage for a school project when I was twelve, and I continued both of those creative endeavors over many years until I eventually learned enough skills to be able to take on an independent feature film. I have a passion for learning, challenging myself, and expressing thoughts and ideas through an art form that I think is one of the most powerful in the world.

Michelle Ehlen with DP Wenting Fisher.jpeg

How much has your writing, performing and directing styles evolved since you made your debut Butch Jamie?

We shot Butch Jamie in 2006, and I've had the privilege to be able to write/direct/act in three other features and some smaller projects between that and Maybe Someday, so it's definitely evolved over the years even though it's hard to pinpoint the specifics. I learn so much with each project and I like to think each film I do is a little better than the prior one. There's also a comfort level and confidence that you gain after each one so that you're more willing to take risks.

Do you have any advice or tips you would offer emerging filmmakers, any filmmaking traps they should avoid?

I think the psychology behind sustaining yourself as a filmmaker is something that's vitally important but rarely discussed. Here are some things I'd suggest to keep in mind - you don't have to wait for permission, pacing yourself and not burning out are the most important things to focus on and are the most overlooked, you will have to redefine what success looks like for you, you have to fall in love with the process and not the promise of an outcome, and don't worry about whether or not you're inherently good enough - practice and persistence is everything.

And finally, what message do you hope you audiences will take away from Maybe Someday?

I hope the audience sees how sometimes we prolong our own grief. That we need to be active participants in our healing process, and that moving on can be difficult and scary but refusing to do so delays the inevitable. The one thing I wish I would have learned many years ago - to let go sooner, and more gracefully.

Jay on rock.jpg
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