Sandra_Stills-6.jpg

Cannes Film Festival
Short Film Corner 2021

Sandra feeds her voyeuristic addiction by constantly buying random items from strangers on online classifieds until a young man forces her to confront her addiction.
 

Hi Sam, thanks for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping during these very strange Covid times? 

Hey thanks for having me. Melbourne in Australia has had so many lockdowns (only allowed to leave the house for work, essential items or exercise in a specified radius) but we're currently enjoying some newfound freedom of being able to go to bars, restaurants and having guests at our house again. It feels good. 

 

Has this time offered you any new creative opportunities?

Covid has actually offered me more creative opportunities than any other time in my life. Mainly the government Covid payment Jobkeeper which basically acted as a Universal Basic Income. It came into effect shortly after Covid hit for sole traders like me. It's ended now but I like to see it as an arts grant that lasted I think a bit over a year! So in that time, I didn't have to worry about making an income from Videography and could just focus on filmmaking. 

 

You had an amazing festival run with your award-winning short film Breathe, did you expect your film would be so well received?

Yes it was great to see that Breathe responded well with festival programmers. My graduating film at film school didn't have much of a festival run so it was nice to know that I could improve as a filmmaker. I made Breathe when our Prime Minister at the time, Tony Abbott didn't believe climate change was real and it's a film about that. 6 years on and our current Prime Minister still thinks that climate change isn't an issue of that greater importance. 

 

Congratulations on having Sandra part of this years Short Film Corner, how does it feel to be able to present your film at a physical film festival?

Thanks, it feels great to be accepted into anything as a filmmaker - it's not an easy game! But as far as being a part of the short film corner it's nice to know that some people can see Sandra physically. It's also great the short film corner is virtual this year - even if Covid didn't exist flying from Australia to Cannes is a hard task without a film in the official selection of Cannes.

Sandra_Stills-1.jpg

"I love collaborating with actors and I want them to push me as much as I push them."

Do nerves still set in ahead of a festival like Cannes?

Yes, I'm excited and nervous to see how Sandra will be received. I mean this is the Cannes Short Corner, not Cannes Official Selection so if Sandra were in the latter the nerves would be ten-fold!

 

You co-wrote Sandra with Kathleen Lee, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?

 

I love the odd and somewhat intimate interaction that happens when you buy stuff from people on online classifieds. I had the idea about a character who was so lonely and isolated that they worked out that they could use something like Facebook Marketplace to gain access to people's homes so that they could 'hang out' with them at that moment. Kathleen then came in and wrote the character of Alan and it turned into more of a weird love story and gave Sandra more of an arc which she desperately needed. I knew from the start that I was going to cast Kathleen as Sandra and that helped crafting Sandra's character in the early stages.

 

When writing a screenplay how close do you like to keep to it when you are shooting, do you allow yourself / your actors much flexibility? 

When shooting I like to rehearse how it's written before we start shooting and if anything isn't feeling right then we change it before shooting and then change again even while shooting if something isn't working. In the scene where Alan comes back to Sandra's house, Kathleen had strong feelings on the day that the way it was written wasn't working and she was right so we changed that scene while shooting. I love collaborating with actors and I want them to push me as much as I push them. It's all about servicing what's best for the film.

 

What was the most challenging scene for you to film?

The scene just mentioned was tough because we were quickly running out of time on the day and the actors had to improvise new lines. That scene in turn changed the ending of the film and I think it's a stronger film because of it. 

 

Looking back is there anything you would do differently on this film?

I would spend more time working on the script before rushing into production and have a bit more time in pre-production. At the time because of actor availability, it felt like we only had a window to shoot it which meant we had to get into production fast but looking back we could have shot later.

Sandra_Stills-3.jpg

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from and how much has your style and approach to your projects changed since your debut? 

I can't pinpoint exactly where but probably from going to the cinema as a child and the thrill of sitting in a dark room and then experiencing this magic dreamlike thing. I still get so excited when the lights go down and the film begins. I think I'm still interested in the same things as when I started filmmaking I've just gotten better because I've continually worked at my craft.

 

Is there any advice would you offer a fellow filmmaker?

This may sound obvious but filmmaking is a craft that you work at and at the start, it seems difficult but just like anything the more you do it the better you get. And the joy of filmmaking lies in the process, not the product. Enjoy the journey!

 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your film?

To think about the empty search for connection and the loneliness of our current time and how modern technologies help but also hinder this. And that deeply disturbed individuals are just as worthy of love and help.