Sundance Film Festival 2021
Melody C Roscher
Amidst a racially tense Southern wedding, a biracial bride has the chance to confront her estranged Black father after accidentally hiring his wedding band to perform.
Hi Melody thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?
I feel pretty lucky - my family and friends are all healthy.
Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?
I’d say it’s helped define my creative inspiration. I’ve had to spend a lot of time with myself, and what I’ve chosen to include in my daily life. It’s made me more aware of my choices, and more aware of my creative output as well. But at the same time I keep wanting to write short films about my dog because I stare at him all day, and I don’t think that’s a good thing.
Congratulations on having White Wedding selected in the Shorts U.S Fiction section at Sundance 2021, what does it mean to be part of such an amazing line up fo short films?
It’s incredible. It’s a really cool feeling to have the film be curated alongside such strong work. I couldn’t ask for a better premiere.
As this is your World Premiere does that add any extra pressure on you and your team?
Absolutely. It’s meant to be seen, and this is the first ‘test’ for whether the film succeeds as something that communicates the ideas and feelings that I intended.
How White Wedding come about and what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
Writing-wise it’s a confluence of some very real fears - about my biological father, about being expected to perform a certain way because of my race, and about having a big wedding - which is something I’ll never do. I initially wrote this as a place to stack these fears on top of each other, to see how a fictional character would handle all of it, because I felt confused about how to handle these individual elements in my own personal life. But after I finished the script, the story felt like it was following me around. So I spent more time writing, and reworked it to narratively stand on its own.
"There’s no more dangerous place to spend time than in an echo chamber."
How flexible are you with your script, do you prefer to stick to what was planed or do you allow yourself to go in surprising or new directions?
I’m very open to character adjustments as I work through the script with actors in prep. Sometimes people discover little nuggets that are subconscious writing imprints, and it’s fun to pull those out and stare at them. Sometimes it leads to script improvement. But by the time we film I have the whole edit laid out in my mind, and I don’t want to make adjustments unless it’s to solve a production issue that’s otherwise unsolvable.
What was the biggest challenge you faced making this film?
Going through post production during the pandemic was super challenging. I love post production, and sitting with your editor or sound designer or coloUrist in the same room is invaluable; you’re certain you’re perceiving everything the exact same way. For this film I wasn’t able to hear the final sound mix in the same room as the designer, and so on. Luckily I had super experienced post production talent on this film, so they were expert communicators and I trusted them.
Should filmmakers push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?
Absolutely not. Just kidding. Of course they should! Making yourself really uncomfortable/ messing with your own boundaries, is a great way to unleash new pockets of creative thinking. Artists have to keep surprising themselves.
How important is the collaborative nature of filmmaking to you?
If filmmaking wasn’t collaborative, I wouldn’t do it. There’d be no point. There’s no more dangerous place to spend time than in an echo chamber.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Yes, since I can remember.
Has your approach to your films changed much since you started out?
My first scripts were obfuscating the actual stories I was too afraid to tell. At this point I’m telling myself that I’m no longer allowed to abstract feelings in scripts. Emotion has to be as close to the raw truth as I can access. I don’t know if that will be good advice for my writing and filmmaking in the long run, but it’s where I am now.
What can you tell me about your directorial feature debut Bird in Hand?
It follows a woman leading up to her wedding who is supposed to meet her biological father for the first time, but finds herself caught in destructive relationships with everyone around her. It’s a film about cycles - both real and self-imposed.
What is the best piece of advice you would offer an emerging filmmaker?
Be skeptical. Don’t accept what anyone says is ‘the truth’ or ‘the way’ … or any hard and fast rules. In fact, disobey rules as often as possible, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone. Get used to the feeling that arises in that moment because there will always be something in between you and your goal that makes you feel like you’re doing everything wrong. If you listen, you’ll stop.
And finally, what do you hope audiences will take away from White Wedding?
I guess selfishly, I want people to take away the feeling that they didn’t want to leave the world of the film. That they were invested in the characters, and wished they could see more. That’s a hard thing to accomplish in a short film. I’d be thrilled if people took that away with them.