Cannes Film Festival
Short Film Corner 2021
In a Bushwick fast food parking lot, at the intersection between popped collar hipsters and blue collar grandma's, two feral, genius, hacker children hustle a writer and her friend's identity.
Hi Savannah, thanks for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping during these
Thanks for asking. Artists are always in a sort of quarantine! I really just worked all year non stop. I found myself leaning into my workaholic nature with a new unadulterated drive in the studio— partly because I had very few interruptions, and partly because it was a place to feel some sense of control. I conceived of The Tumbler in the dead of winter while the pandemic still felt very close. I love to work collaboratively, and generating the idea of making this film felt like the only framework I could gin up in my own mind in order to actually have a legitimate enough of an excuse to work this way.
Has this time been offering you any new creative opportunities or inspiration?
It absolutely has— this last year, I found myself imbibing of certain pieces of art or pieces of storytelling as if they were a very nourishing meal that gave my body everything it needed. I was so grateful to listen to a Stevie Wonder album on repeat or watch the movie the Age of Innocence over and over— I’ve always loved repetition but this year especially, I found it essential.
Congratulations on having The Tumbler part of this year's Short Film Corner, how does it feel to be able to present your short film at Cannes?
It feels incredible. Obviously, in making a film, all you want to do is share it with an audience.
This is your directorial debut are there any nerves or apprehensions about sharing this with audiences?
Not really— As an artist, we train ourselves for critique in that, there is nothing more humiliating than having the hubris to make art in the first place, but as Martha Graham extolls, “ It is not your business to determine how good it is.” I am excited especially about the short film as a new form to work with.
How much has your background as an artist, writer and producer helped you to take the helm of your debut film?
It has helped immensely. Being a producer gives you that sense of agency and chutzpah that you need to make an independent film. Being a writer is actually most often enough about being an editor of your own work, as well as being rigorous and patient around craft – being open to honesty in all of the ways it can mysteriously show up. In film production every little detail seems to catch up to you, and as an artist, one is always engaging in creative problem solving from different angles— I think all of this sort of work beforehand has helped me to set the final outcome of the project free from any rigid expectations of what it should be, therefore allowing it to be whatever it is.
What has been the experience for you making The Tumbler, and what was the hardest part of making The Tumbler?
I had never technically directed a narrative film before and being green is simply put, an embarrassing process— for example, I didn’t actually know that I was supposed to say “action” or “cut” the first few times we started our scenes- I thought that must be a cliché that you only see in the movies! Certain professionals that I worked on this project were incredible in the way that they trusted my directing while modelling flow and process throughout. Lots of learning on the hoof and I’m very grateful to those individuals.
I made the Tumbler on a major birthday— I stayed up all night catering the thing, and obviously as the day of arrived — directing, doing props, the list goes on, and one of the hardest parts on set was being a task master about time and daylight while still being present with all of the set members- basically, I hate rushing or letting details slip away.
"Being a writer is actually most often enough about being an editor of your own work, as well as being rigorous and patient around craft – being open to honesty in all of the ways it can mysteriously show up."
Looking back is there anything you would do differently on this film?
I would have loved to slow down the process a bit more, perhaps taking one more day, especially for the scenes with my younger stars. There was no way to not race against that winter light when one only has two days of shooting.
How different was your approach to writing The Tumbler compared to your previous film J.T LeRoy?
Night and day, really. The Tumbler was complete fiction, and came together on a whim— I was thinking about John Le Carré novels, the choreography of spy stories as far as the way that they choreograph agenda, persona, the tangle of intimacy between strangers out in the world, on the street. Writing the script of JT Leroy with my creative partner, the director Justin Kelly, felt like some sort of meditation on mediation. In adapting my memoir, which had been written from memory, into a script about a chapter in my life that was so long ago that I honestly barely remembered it – thank god I had written it down! — we traced those memory-lines, and formed the JT Leroy saga into a script that honoured the facts but still worked independently from them as a film.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
It comes from loving to work with people and the impulse to want to transfer a feeling from one body to another.
Do you have any advice or tips you would offer any emerging writer/director who is thinking of making their own short?
Put it together in whatever way is possible— but DO have a committed sound and props person on set— the devil is in the details!
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from The Tumbler?
As we live more online we live more inside of a myth that life should be frictionless…I hope that people take away a feeling of levity around living in the world IRL – as complicated as it is to tangle with strangers, it is a life worth living!!!