Toronto International Film Festival 2020
Point and Line to Plane
Devastated after the death of a friend, a young woman attempts to extract meaning from this intense loss as she discovers signs in her daily life and through encounters with the art of Hilma af Klint and Wassily Kandinsky.
Hi Sofia thank you for talking to TNC, how are you held up during these very strange times?
I am moving through it. I am in Paris tucked away at a friend's home trying to focus on new projects but I am finding it hard to get work done. I’ve learned that this is a phenomenon that a lot of people have been experiencing during the pandemic.
Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?
Despite my poor lack of concentration I would say that it definitely has. During quarantine I managed to hop into a collaboration with New York based filmmaker Dan Sallitt. We decided to work on a video-essay together based on an article he wrote titled The Hardest Working Cat in Showbiz which was published in Filmmaker Magazine. The article detailed the biography of a Hollywood cat named Orangey whose most famous appearance was “Cat” in Blake Edwards “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I am a big fan of Dan’s work and writing and felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him in this capacity.
In addition, I participated in FIDMarseille’s Lab which was all online this year. I am developing a new feature film with actor Deragh Campbell. We’ve been working on the script during quarantine and preparing the project as best as we can to move into pre-production next year. It was very exciting because we were awarded the Kodak and Silverway prize at the Lab and so we have a bunch of film to shoot on for the project. I’m quite flattered to have this kind of momentum and recognition from the get go. It feels like a good omen for the film.
You are an alumni of Berlinale Talents and TIFF Talent Accelerator, how important a role did these programmes play in the development of your filmmaking career?
Both labs were instrumental in providing me with access to various different organizations, film festivals and foundations who have helped further shape and encourage my career. Being a part of an alumni from such incredible institutions has continued to help me feel supported as I make efforts to expand my body of work and practice. Most importantly, I made a lot of friends who have continued to be an important part of my life and creative process.
Congratulations on having Point and Line to Plane as part of TIFF Short Cuts, how does it feel to have your film a part of such an amazing lineup of short films?
I am extraordinarily honoured to be a part of this year's selection, especially during this difficult time which has impacted all of us so deeply. A lot of film festivals have understandably had to slim down their programming and so I feel as though the landscape has drastically changed due to measures needed to be taken due to COVID-19. It’s a very auspicious moment for me because the short film was intended to be Andréa Picard’s Wavelengths program and was labelled as such in TIFF’s ShortCuts section. I have been a longtime admirer of Picard’s programming but unfortunately, this year the Wavelengths section had to be cut from the festival which is quite devastating. However, the silver lining is that the film that has been highlighted in the program as one of her (would be) selects. In addition I am grateful to Jason Anderson and Lisa Haller who have also enthusiastically given the film a home in the Short Cuts programme. I screened my short film Veslemøy’s Song with them in 2018 and am glad I have the opportunity to share my work in Canada on such a prestigious platform.
"It’s important for me to articulate topics that are dear to my heart..."
Can you tell me a little bit about Point and Line to Plane, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
The film was not actually based on a screenplay. It was based on a letter I wrote to my grandmother months after the passing of my dear friend and collaborator Giacomo Grisanzio which was eventually adapted into a letter. He was my best friend coming out of film school and the first producer of my first short films. He died very suddenly in October 2018. The story really begins in New York City though, two weeks before his death. I was passing through and wanted to go to the Guggenheim to see their Hilma af Klint exhibition. I made my way to the museum and it turned out I mixed up the dates and they were still installing her work. I had come all the way to New York though, and I thought it would be a shame if I didn’t go inside. I used to work for an art documentation company and actually loved watching people install art, so I bought a ticket anyways. I didn’t know af Klint well but I could tell something important was happening and started filming on my phone. It felt like there was a narrative coming together, so I started documenting what was happening around me. I remember calling a friend of mine afterward and her saying to me “I don’t know what this is but I think it’s important to pursue it,” and she told me to keep shooting, you don’t know what will happen. Then I noticed the show was going to go up the next day and I decided to go back and see it and filmed that too because I had a feeling that it was urgent to capture. The exhibition ended up being the most successful they had ever had. A few weeks later, my friend Giacomo passed away and I started stringing coincidences together, for example, I discovered that he died on Hilma af Klint’s birthday which is October 26th and it all took off from there.
Are you a flexible director and allow for changes or do you prefer to stick to what has been written?
Point and Line to Plane is very much a “Process Film” which is a term used by Canadian filmmaker Phi Hoffman. This way of working means that you shoot with an idea or theme in mind and throughout the course of production you bend, accommodate and melt your film together with the variables that you have on hand. It’s very free form and improvisational. If obstacles come my way throughout the process of making my work, I incorporate these happenings into the narrative structure or visual aesthetic of the piece itself. For example, when I was shooting in St. Petersburg the pressure plate of my bolex camera unlatched itself. Instead of looking at this as a big disaster I found a way to add this into the film and make it that much more unique.
What was the most challenging part of making this film for you?
Well, that’s easy. Making a film about grieving the loss of two close friends of mine was quite a sensitive topic to navigate. I had to check in with myself a lot throughout the process and keep myself grounded. It’s important for me to articulate topics that are dear to my heart in my filmmaking practice but it’s also important to take care of my mental health as well sometimes certain things can be taken too far.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
Growing up I was always fascinated with my father’s JVC camcorder. I would make home movies, edit tape to tape with our VCR and even make stop motion animation videos. The thrill and curiosity to experiment with moving images was something I was naturally fascinated with from an early age.
"Use the humble resources you have around you to the best of your ability and the results will always be interesting."
How much has your style and the approach to your films changed since your debut?
My first feature film Never Eat Alone was shot on a Canon HV20 camcorder so that film had a real intimate home movie feel. My subsequent short films were shot on a DSLR which also had a different look and mood as well. I suppose my style really changed when I learned how to shoot on a bolex camera. I shot my second feature film on 16mm and in combination with the portability of the bolex I was able to maintain the intimacy I created in my first feature film while honing an aesthetic which was more vibrant, had a stronger texture and more depth. These are qualities that come with shooting on a living, breathing format.
Is there any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Be simple. You don’t need a massive crew or budget to make a film. Use the humble resources you have around you to the best of your ability and the results will always be interesting.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Point and Line to Plane?
That the grieving process is universal. It can feel quite lonely and isolating when you’re cocooned in it but I do hope that people who have been through this similar passage might find a little relief in what the film has to offer.