A teenage girl whose body image is impacted by a prominent heart surgery scar reveals how subtle messages communicated to her, from a brief word by a family member or a serendipitous encounter with a stranger, have the potential to greatly influence her confidence and sense of self-worth.
Hi Paul thank you for talking to TNC, how are you held up during these very strange times?
I’m doing ok. I know it’s a bit of a cliche for freelancers to say their routine since Covid hasn’t changed all that much but it’s sort of true. I’m used to working at home and setting my own schedule which is what I’m still doing. But I don’t buy into this productivity theory that just because people have more time now ‘there’s no excuse not to create work.’ It’s not as simple as that - a lot of people are struggling mentally and emotionally.
Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?
I’m not sure I’d call it inspiration but to witness a truly global event like this can certainly send your mind off in different directions.
Congratulations on having Zipper selected for this year's Raindance Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of short films?
Thanks! In some ways it’s quite intimidating as I’m relatively new to filmmaking but the fact it was selected gives me some confidence that at least a small element of my film must have resonated with people and that’s great!
This will be your World Premiere of your debut short film, does this add any additional pressure on you?
I don’t think so. Perhaps because this year the festival has gone digital there’s not as much pressure to ‘get out there’.
Can you tell me a little bit about Zipper, how did this film come about?
A good friend of mine works as a designer in the film industry in Belfast and I had some experience with creative writing and was starting to focus more on screenwriting so we thought we’d get together to try to make a short film. We didn’t have anything specific in mind but once I spotted the Raindance competition that was the perfect starting point and a tangible goal to aim for.
What inspired your screenplay?
It’s a combination of lived experience, having had heart surgery myself as a child, and also listening to other peoples experiences. As an artist I often examine the issue of personal identity and I think it’s fascinating how we create a narrative to define ourselves and how that narrative can be impacted by what would appear to someone on the outside to be a completely innocuous incident or event.
"Every person I meet, every incident I observe, is catalogued in my mind, for future reference."
Are there any themes or stories you are looking forward to tackling with future films?
I’d like to get a laugh! I’m a big believer in the idiom, ‘many a true thing is said in jest.’ So whatever theme I tackle I’d like to try to approach it with comedy and maybe reveal a truth through that. Though, conversely, I also like the simple binary of comedy - no matter how complex your message may be it’s either funny or not funny!
Looking back is there anything you would have done differently?
Location, location, location. Getting the right location was one of the biggest challenges and was only confirmed at the very last minute so for my next film I’ll try to get a head-start on that.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I’m a big fan of Jerry Seinfeld and I heard him speaking recently about the sheer joy of making the decision to ‘go to the movies’. He was joking that the best part of a movie is the build-up to it - that excitement. I don’t take it literally but I get his point. Even if I head off to another country on holidays I always just want to go see a movie while I’m there. So that’s a round-a-bout way of saying I’m not sure where the passion comes from but films and filmmaking has always just drawn me in and excited me.
What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you have taken from making your debut short film?
I guess it would have something to do with being honest with people and through that you’ll find they’re totally generous with their time and experience. If you explain what you’re trying to achieve and admit there’s areas where you’re a novice the response can be amazingly helpful. Or maybe I was just lucky to get a great group of people to work with!
"...but I want to be me and tell my stories how I want to tell them."
Should filmmakers continue to push their boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?
I think so. I saw an interview with Ken Loach recently and he talked about how choosing a film should be like choosing a book from the library - an infinite selection of styles, genres and themes.
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
I suppose more for those considering getting involved in filmmaking but don’t know how to take the first step I would say find a concrete goal to aim for. A goal that has a deadline which for better or worse at the end of you will have created something and gained a huge amount of experience that you could never achieve through theory alone.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Zipper?
I suppose, in relation to children specifically, just a little reminder of how susceptible kids are to taking messages conveyed around them and converting that into a narrative about themselves. Oh, and those scars can be bad-ass!