16th ÉCU – The European Independent Film Festival
Gal, a 13-year-old redhead girl runs away from her older sisters towards her favourite relaxing summer spot; the magical refreshing pond nearby her summer house. Shortly after her arrival, a group of ultra-orthodox Hassidic Jews arrive and violently kick her out of her spot.
Hi Shira thank you for talking to The New Current, how are you held up during these very strange times?
Hi! I’m good, real strange time, just entered the second quarantine here in Israel (During the first one I watched 45 films so let’s see how I will do now). Besides that, I am mainly developing my first feature film, and editing some music videos I shot recently.
Has this time offered you both any creative inspiration?
Yes and No. It is stressful to live with uncertainty, but at the same it is so inspiring, and it sharpens the senses. I feel like every day in 2020 is a film by itself. So much is happening every day, it is historical and hysterical, and it for sure has an effect on me.
Congratulations on having Summer Shade selected for this year's BFI London Film Festival, what does it mean to you to have Shuttlecock part of such an amazing lineup of short films?
Thank you! It is my honour, and I was so excited when I got the news, and I still am. It is satisfying to see that my film is touching people from all over the world, even while talking about such a local issue. It’s definitely a pity that this year’s program will only take place online, but I am trying to see it in a positive light. It is great that people will get to watch my film even during this time, and I believe it being online will hopefully expose it to a wider audience – which is definitely something positive that happened because of Covid-19.
Can you tell me a little bit about Summer Shade, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
After living in London for a couple of years during my studies, I knew that I wanted to make my graduation film back home, in my mother tongue, where I grew up, and so I travelled back to Israel in order to start writing. One day while visiting some friends in Jerusalem, we drove to a pond in the city outskirts, Trying to get out of the Israeli summer heat, It was a wonderful experience for spoiled city girls like us - we played games, ate snacks, and dipped in the refreshing water, until a young ultra-orthodox guy suddenly appeared out of nowhere and told us we had to leave, as he wanted to do his ‘Tevilah’ (Judaic ritual immersion). Confused and uncertain, we left, feeling like complete outsiders.
Like a true millennial, I went home and googled what I had experienced, and was quite surprised to discover this was a common occurrence that often resulted in humiliation and even violence. There was already a group of women protesting weekly about it. Becoming more intrigued by the stories I read, I started to write “Summer Shade”.
’Summer Shade’ meant to feel like a mythological story about a girl... in the woods... and what is waiting for her there; Visually stunning, full of mystery and drama, but at the same time, it concealed stories that are true events, and not at all myths. Women's Exclusion from public spheres and gender-based discrimination are day-to-day news in Israel nowadays, and that’s why it was urgent for me to tell this story.
When you are writing a screenplay do you ever draw from you over experiences or people you have met?
It’s definitely a combination. These days I am writing another screenplay drawn from my personal experiences, but it is always combined with my imagination, inspired by books, and by people I meet. My film “The History of Loneliness” is inspired by my family obsession with death and obituaries, and “Artificial Bid” was driven by my grandmother’s move to an elderly house, but my family in both cases is just the inspiration, and the story is very much coming from my imagination.
What is it about tragicomedy that interests you so much as a filmmaker?
I just met my dad for a coffee the other day, and as we talked (we haven’t seen each other in a long while), I started crying (I am a person who cries a lot). A few minutes later, I was laughing so hard. Life to me is like that - tragic, and funny at the same time. The films and books that excites me the most are those that make me laugh so hard as much as they can make me cry, and these are the films which I would like to make.
How important is the collaborative nature of filmmaking for you both?
Collaboration is the key of filmmaking! When making a film, there is always this moment when I know that nothing is going to stop this film from being created- not the weather, not the budget, not even my own fears, it’s as the film has a life of its own, and it’s going to be born, no matter what. This is a crucial moment in filmmaking, and I believe it happens only when the crew works collaboratively.
Do you allow for changes to what has been written or do you prefer to stick to your script as it is?
I am always trying to plan as much as possible, and this is in order to later on be able to improvise. While I have to know everything in advance, I think about every little detail before I come on set, and I know my script by heart, the script is not a bible for me, but a guideline. I think making a film is mostly about being able to adapt and face challenges.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I went to an art school from the age of 6. I was painting, dancing, acting and playing music for years, but wasn’t prominent in any of those departments and felt insecure. When I was 13 I joined the filmmaking department and finally felt at home. I basically knew I wanted to make films, before I even watched films. And I am doing that since. It’s a great combination between my creativity and my management skills and that’s why I enjoy it so much.
Has your style/approach to your films changed much since your debut short?
Definitely, as I started at such a young age, my style definitely developed and changed. I started by making films that were more like an homage to other directors (Almodovar, Wes Anderson or Xavier Dolan used to be my favourites), but nowadays I am creating films that are more me, about whatever I find fascinating and in my own style.
"So…practice as much as you can, make mistakes, find the people you enjoy collaborating with, and enjoy those amazing years."
As a graduate of London Film School do you have any advice or tips that you would offer anyone about to start film school?
Film school is a great lab to experiment in, to make mistakes and to try different things, while being supported by professionals. So…practice as much as you can, make mistakes, find the people you enjoy collaborating with, and enjoy those amazing years.
What would you say has been the most valuable lessons you have taken from making your short films?
Crew is SO important, a good story is even more, and courage is the key.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Summer Shade?
That’s an interesting question! I want people to finish the film reflecting about how young girls are forced to mature in Israel nowadays, and I hope people finish the film feeling bittersweet. Bitter, since they will be exposed to violence and to gender based discrimination that exist in our world. And sweet- because I hope people will feel that with an open and respectful discussion, a solution to the conflict can be found.