Toronto International Film Festival 2018
When a kind gesture leads to a potential threat, a young woman commuting on public transit is trapped in fear, in Shelly Lauman's poignant and timely portrayal of unsettling everyday realities.
Hey Shelly, thanks for talking to TNC, how is everything going?
Thank you, everything is going very well. It's so great to be in Toronto for the festival. I've never been here before. Everyone has told me TIFF is very much a filmmakers festival, and it's totally true. Really great, vibes happening here.
This is going to be your International Premiere, are there any nerves ahead of the screening?
Yes of course. Good nerves though. It will BIRDIE's 2nd public screening, so perhaps it will be less nerve-racking this time around.. Perhaps not though haha
What does it mean to be screening Birdie at TIFF?
It's an honor really. It's such an important industry event, but also such an important audience event. I found out yesterday that TIFF is attended by something like 500,000 people every year. As I said, the energy and the buzz that comes with that is wonderful. There are very exciting things happening for me personally in terms of next career steps, as a direct result of having a film screen here. So that's very exciting to be inside of.
Tell me a little bit about Birdie, how did the film come about?
Birdie was a story that came to me while I was living in LA. After film school, I wanted to return to Australia to make work and this was the only script I had in my head at the time. I was fortunate enough to receive funding from the Australian Director's Guild. They administer funding from the former Metro Screen funding body in Australia, in the form of a production fellowship. BIRDIE wouldn't have happened without it actually.
What was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
It's based on a personal life experience. It is, I think, unfortunately, a story based on most women's life experience.
What was the most challenging part of making this film been?
The shooting of it, most definitely. I wrote a film that was written in a time with the movement of a train, and I didn't have control over the train. We had the permission to shoot but no ability to interrupt operations in any way. It was incredibly difficult logistically. But I had an extraordinary cast and cinematographer and crew, so we go there. It hurt a bit, but we got there.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Yes. I came to directing via acting. And most of my acting career was on the stage. So I came to it in a roundabout way. But I have been watching movies, since as long as I can remember. My parents told me I was quoting movies from the time I could speak so...
"I think it that first short I was writing out a performance for myself in a way."
How much has your approach to filmmaking changed since your debut film?
Ooo, not sure. I think my self-awareness is being refined, and therefore my process and understanding of the art form itself are constantly being refined. My first film was made so that I could act in it actually. I enjoyed the directing FAR more than the acting though. I think it that first short I was writing out a performance for myself in a way. And now I am writing for other actresses I want to work with.
How would you describe Birdie in three words?
Short. Tense. Uncomfortable.
Do you have any advice or tips for any fellow filmmaker?
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
I hope it sparks some good conversation. It is such a gendered experience and I hope that the film evokes enough emotion in all it's audience members that a deeper shared understanding can be had. Understanding and awareness. But yeh, hopefully, it gets people talking.