Something You Said Last Night
Sept 9, 2022
An aspiring twenty-something writer hesitantly accompanies her equally reluctant younger sister on vacation with their deliriously happy parents, in Luis De Filippis’ resonant, cliché-free debut feature.
Hi Luis, it is amazing to talk with you again, how have you been keeping?
I’m good, I’m good. It’s been a wild three or four years since we last spoke but I’m glad to be back at a film festival… in person.
The last time we spoke was during your short film FOR NONNA ANNA festival run. Did you imagine your film would touch audiences so much and pick up multiple awards?
I mean, I think you dream for it, and hope for it, the awards, the film getting positive attention, all of it. But it’s surprising when it happens. I think filmmaking is so challenging that sometimes it’s enough of a victory just to have a completed work to present to an audience. But, For Nonna Anna did have a great festival run and I still receive emails about how it touched people so that makes me happy and thankful.
Will there be any nerves ahead of the World Premiere of your debut feature film?
Right now, no. I think I’m too busy to be nervous or really thinking about the fact that the World Premiere is just around the corner. Ask me the day of, and I’m sure I’ll have a different answer.
Can you tell me how Something You Said Last Night came about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
To me Something You Said Last Night takes its cue in tone, and style from For Nonna Anna. I see the two films living in the same world of story. Like the short, the feature deals with the dynamics of family and the bond found in intergenerational relationships. I think the film is a mosaic of both my own experiences, and of those around me, same goes for the characters. It also came from a time in my life where I was trying to balance this being an adult, while still being my parents’ child.
When you wrote Something You Said Last Night did you have an idea of who you wanted to play Ren & Siena?
For "Renata" I went into casting very open. I knew that the actor would end up informing the character in a lot of ways. What I was looking for, however, was someone who understood the power of silence, someone who understood that "Ren’s" quietness didn’t equate to her being submissive or meek; in choosing not to speak she’s actually saying quite a lot. Carmen bought that from the first time she read, and without any acting experience too!
"Siena" was the most challenging role to cast. We needed someone who could be both likeable and bratty, silly and poised. Paige brings that to the character, and from the minute her and Carmen were beside each other I believed they were sisters. Paige is a star and I’m so excited to see her amazing career unfold.
What was the experience for you working with Carmen Madonia and Paige Evans on this Film?
I couldn’t ask for better collaborators. They were always patient, and ready to work. They also supported each other in such a beautiful way. Like in the film, Carmen almost took on an older sister role and grew to be quite protective of Paige- I think that shows in their performance. This led to them being able to be extremely vulnerable both in the dramatic sense and the silly sense. In a way it’s almost harder to be silly on set but they did it, and never flinched when we put them in unflattering costumes, or hair and makeup. Basically they always approached everything with a “yes, and” attitude.
Iconic (my words) Canadian actress Ramona Milano also features in Something You Said Last Night as Mona, how did you go about casting Ramona in this role?
Iconic is correct. I wish I had a better story but her agent basically sent in a tape and after the first 30 seconds I knew we had found our "Mona". She possesses both the charm and abrasiveness that makes "Mona" such a dynamic character. She also leans into "Mona's" more hysterical moments without making her the butt of the joke, or a tired cliche.
Ramona Milano instills an undeniable power in "Mona" that I think a lot of men actually find quite intimidating. It’s also the first time in her career that she’s played a character that has her name!
Something You Said Last Night doesn’t follow the usual trans narratives, was it a conscience decision you made to move away from convention and tell a wholly unique trans story?
Yes and no. I just wanted to tell a story that I would be interested in watching and that just so happened to be a story about a trans woman where her transness wasn’t at the centre of the narrative. I think there’s such a lack of content where we see trans women has intrinsic and accepted members of their family’s. "Ren" is a sister, a daughter, a granddaughter first and a trans woman second.
Once you started shooting did you you allow yourself and your cast much flexibility with your screenplay or did you prefer to stick to what was written?
I’ve always believed that a script is simply a guide and that there are multiple ways to get to the destination. So yes, you could say we went off roading a bit. To me that’s where you find the magic. It’s the times that we leaned into the moment that I personally like the best. The main cast, Carmen, Ramona, Paige, and Joey, came up with a whole family history so it became very easy for them to riff on the spot and utilise characters and experiences that weren’t on the page.
You are also the founder of The Trans Film Mentorship Programme, how did this initiative come about?
Something You Said Last Night is not, and can not be a story that addresses every trans experience but I wanted to ensure that other people would get the chance to tell their stories through me telling my own. Right from when I wrote the script I knew that mentorship was a must. Jessica Adams, the lead producer on Something You Said Last, was on board from the very beginning and never tried to discourage the idea, even when it added a lot more work to our plates. I had been through my own mixed experiences with on set mentorship and always felt like there was a lack of safer spaces for trans people to explore film as a career. I say "safer" because I don't think you can ever truly make any place 100% safe, but we can always try to make it a bit better and sometimes that’s enough.
How important a role does The Trans Film Mentorship Programme play in providing valuable opportunities for trans filmmakers to explore their filmmaking style and stories they want to tell?
I like to think that mentorship is always important. For me the proof of how important these opportunities are lay in the mentees and what they’re doing now. Some of them came into this mentorship with no film experience and yet, a year out they are booked, working, and even taking part in union training programs. Mentorship offers options that you didn’t think were available to you.
"To try and let go of preconceived notions about what a scene should be for example and rather, try to lean into the moment more."
What have been the biggest changes to your filmmaking approach since your debut short Film?
I’m trying to trust the process more. When you make the jump from being on set for 3 or 4 days for a short and then 19 days for a feature there’s a huge learning curve that you have to contend with. From pre-production to even festival submissions the lesson that I’ve taken away is to “trust the process” and not be so resistant. To try and let go of preconceived notions about what a scene should be for example and rather, try to lean into the moment more. I think this is a skill that I’m constantly trying to improve upon because if there’s one constant with filmmaking it’s that nothing ever goes the way you intend.
Who are some of the up-and-coming trans filmmakers we should look out for?
I think TIFF is the festival to watch right now if you’re looking for up-and-coming trans talent. Aitch Alberto is premiering her debut feature Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, along with Vera Drew who also has a film in Midnight Madness, The People’s Joker. There’s also Scaring Women at Night a short film written by Ace Clamber.
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given?
To do what you want as long as you don’t force your will or your way on anybody else. That wasn’t said to me personally but every-time I listen to Jackie Shane’s record it stays with me. It’s basically the golden rule.
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer someone wanting to get into filmmaking?
Yes, if you’re thinking of starting and are very early on in your exploration of filmmaking keep it simple. Think about all the locations or spaces you have access to and write a script based on that. Even try to keep it in one location. The smaller you keep your films the bigger they will feel in the end because you won’t be stretching yourself and your budget thin. You’d be amazed with how much you can do with so little.
And finally, what message do you hope your audiences will take away from Something You Said Last Night?
Something You Said last Night is ultimately a universal story and I hope audiences walk away feeling like they just went on vacation with this family. I want people to reflect on their own relationships and remember that for better or for worse, families are there to love, support, embarrass, and annoy.