Aug 30, 2022
In this comedic coming-of-age story by South Africa’s Sandulela Asanda, an adorkable 16-year-old and her loyal BFF rely on each other as they navigate the mechanics of self-pleasure and decide for themselves what it means to be a woman.
Hi Sandulela, thank you for talking with The New Current, how have you been keeping?
I’ve been keeping busy, which seems to be my usual mode - admittedly, this is self-inflicted.
Congratulations on having Mirror Mirror selected in the Short Cuts Programme at TIFF 2022, what has it meant to you to have your film at one of Canada’s most prestigious film festivals?
Thank you! It’s really exciting and gratifying to have the film be recognised and play in this forum. I had a list of festivals that I wanted the film to screen at and TIFF was at the top!
With this being a World Premiere does this add any extra pressure on you or are you able to take it all in your stride?
I’ve spent so much time wanting this project out in the world, that I’m just basking at the moment. I want to be present and just enjoy it.
How important are film festivals like TIFF in providing a platform for filmmakers to showcase their shorts?
Super important! It’s an opportunity to introduce yourself and your voice to the international film community without all the pressure that comes with screening a feature. Especially, in my case where Mirror Mirror is a small piece of a larger world. It's also a great chance to meet other filmmakers and built connections.
Can you tell me a little bit about how Mirror Mirror came about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
Mirror Mirror was originally conceptualised to be a proof of concept for my first feature film, Black Burns Fast, a queer coming-of-age story. I wanted to focus on Luthando and her experience of trying to figure out her sexuality. Luthando is a complete nerd, and I wanted the tone and the world to reflect that. I’m a huge fan of Michaela Cole’s Chewing Gum and how irreverent it is around sex and life. I wanted to do a similar approach for this film. But, the more I dug around her character, I realised that she was also grappling with her feeling and thoughts about herself and towards sex and her mother. Something that I have grappled with in some way and wanted to do in a way that was accessible and light, but also reflects the very real feelings that Luthando has, even for a teenager. As a result, I had to go back to the script for my feature and make changes based on what I’d learned from making the short.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced making this film, was there any one scene that was particularly hard to film?
We shot during a pretty strict part of lockdown, so we had a lot of limitations location-wise and with the size of the crew. Limitations can also be opportunities, so I decided to have a majority of the film shot on a cellphone and via webcam. This had its challenges rehearsal-wise, having to get the actors used to performing on this tiny screen and for myself and the DOP, Pierre de Villiers, letting go of what we knew about traditional filmmaking and adapting to this format that we were shooting in.
In making a coming-of-age film do you ever draw inspiration from your own life or experiences?
Definitely! But more so on an emotional level than actual experiences. I generally want to make the kind of films that I felt I needed growing up. Doing a coming-of-age film meant that I could tap into the feelings that I had at that time and feed them into the story and the characters.
As a director do you allow yourself and your cast much flexibility with the screenplay once you start shooting or do you prefer to stick to what has been written?
I like to do a lot of rehearsal and workshopping with the cast before we shoot so that we can collaborate in adapting the screenplay to how they engage with the characters. If I don’t have time to rehearse, I still do like to collaborate with the cast around the screenplay. I look out for how they engage with the lines and if it seems like they aren’t comfortable, I work with them to find a way to make it work. This comes from a trust that they know their characters well enough to be able to do that.
What would you say has been the most interesting thing you have discovered about yourself and the films you want to make after making Mirror Mirror?
Wow, great question. I think that I’ve learnt that there is no way that I can’t put something personal into my work. There’s this unspoken thing about not making your work personal, but it's how I find the heart and comedy of the story - which was a discovery for me because I don’t consider myself a funny person.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I’ve always had a passion for film, and I started off wanting to be a film actress when I was a child. I always watched videos and whatever movie was on television at the time. It was either that, or I was reading. It’s always stuck with me and after doing a degree in Law and Economics, I felt the need to focus on this creative yearning that I had inside and screenwriting was the easiest way to do that. I wanted to direct because I started to feel like I was the only one who could visualise the stories I wanted to tell. Then, everything just snowballed from there and a few years later I feel like I’m doing what I was always meant to do.
How much has your background in Law and Economics helped you in how you approach your filmmaking?
Good question. Right off the bat, I’d say that it has helped my approach to research and crafting narratives. Practically, it has also made me good at reading contracts and budgets.
"It’s easy to get overwhelmed by details, questions, thinking about the edit, the world etc."
You’re also currently working on your debut feature film Black Burns Fast, is there anything you can tell me about this?
Yes! As I said previously, Mirror Mirror started as the proof of concept for Black Burns Fast. It’s an expansion of Luthando’s world where we follow her coming out and self-love journey. Just like Mirror Mirror, it's just as bright, irreverent and real. We are introduced to more characters who are also, in their way, trying to fight for their joy and pleasure. I’ve finished the script and we’re actively financing it at the moment. We’re hoping to go into production next year!
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given?
Be present! I know it sounds really simple, but it’s really difficult to do for me, especially when I’m on set. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by details, questions, thinking about the edit, the world etc. But being present grounds me to do my best in the here and now and not have any regrets later on.
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer someone wanting to get into filmmaking?
I would say, be brave and be yourself. The more personal the story, the more you have invested and pushing you forwards.
And finally, what message do you hope your audiences will take away from Mirror Mirror?
I want whoever watches the film to leave knowing that although it takes work and bravery to come into yourself, it is always worth it. F*** the noise and do what feels right.