BFI Future Film Festival 2023
A experimental documentary about using real testimonies from women about their experiences in night clubs. Visualised through an interpretive dance piece.
Hi Alex, it’s great to to talk with you again, how has everything been going?
I’m great thanks, thanks for having me again on your website. I think the work you do to showcase independent arts is amazing.
Your documentary feature Female, Fifty and Fighting: Bam Bam gained multiple nominations at FILMHAUS: Berlin Film + New Media Competition 2021, what did it mean to you (and your mum) to see your documentary get such a remarkable reaction?
The whole journey of that documentary was crazy, getting the feedback from that festival was great, we also had a series of screenings in UK cinema’s and it was great seeing people watch it, hearing people laugh, cry and gasp. In the age of premiering everything online being in a cinema, watching something you made reminds you why you make films. That’s also why the Future Film Festival is so great. For my mum, I think she found the whole thing incredibly overwhelming, it was sort of an out of body experience but as a family the whole thing has been crazy and I think for my parents not being in film industry it was cool to see how it all works and go behind the scenes of it.
Although, talking of premiering things online, the feature will be available to watch on Vimeo On Demand from the 9th Feb!
Congratulations on having Still, part of the Future Film Festival 2023, how does it feel to be part of such an incredible line-up of short films?
The Future Film Festival has been such a huge part of my career development, I went to my first one when I was 17, the first film I ever made premiered there in 2016 and this year is the last year I am eligible, so it feels like the end of an era! I have attended every year I could and the standard of film’s has just gotten better and better, so I feel very grateful to be selected amongst so many brilliant films.
How important are festivals like Future Film Festival in creating a platform for short films?
The Future Film Festival, amongst other festivals, are so important because they give young filmmakers a platform to show what they have made but also engage with other like minded filmmakers. The film industry is an evolving landscape, so I always loved hearing from my peers about their journey’s and share stories of what it is like trying to be a filmmaker now, it inspires you to keep going.
"The film is very much an opinion piece and I even used my voice from the interviews a couple of times in the documentary."
Can you tell me how Still came about, where did the inspiration for your experimental documentary come from?
“Still” was inspired by a particularly bad night out in a club my friends and I had, it opened my mind to how much you put up with, staring, unwanted touch, not taking no for an answer and even drugging. Also, whilst speaking to other peers after about what had happened and how things like it are a regular occurrence, many of my male friends truthfully didn’t realise this behaviour was happening or didn’t believe it. From that I wanted to make a film that showed why women loved clubbing but also what small and larger behaviours we have to put up with.
I didn’t want the visuals to be aggressive, realistic and graphic, I wanted to find ways of showing the touching without there being touching. We played with lighting a lot, the hand grabbing was a light that a dancer had to interact with. The crowd in the club played a big part as well, we had them freeze and circle our character to match the real testimonies I had recorded with women. I wanted the visuals to mimic exactly how the women said they felt on a night out. It really pushed me to think of ways of making the dance and visuals feel other worldly whilst still feeling grounded in some reality, to help with this, I also incorporated archive from nights out.
Are you able to be flexible with you film/subjects when working on a short documentary like Still?
I tried to be as conversational as possible when interviewing those involved, so we just had chats really, lots of back and fourth, me sharing my experience and them sharing theirs. We also recorded everything over zoom, so people could be in a safe place to talk, it meant sound quality wasn’t always great but I tried to mix it like it was coming out of club speakers with a lot bass, so it felt it had a story reason (which wasn’t exactly planned if I’m honest haha)
In regards to the dance elements, I picked elements from the interviews that I wanted to show visually, there was a lot of figuring out the dance on the day but our dancer, Olivia van Niekerk, was great to work with. We had a playlist that we put on for different vibes and there was a lot of trail and error when it came to the lighting/grabbing sequence but I was really pleased with how it all turned out.
Due to the subject matter in your film Still where you able to draw from your own experiences and understanding?
This project was definitely drawn from a lot of experiences I had, it’s not something very known of me but I love going to clubs and dancing till 4am but I stopped for a long time because I was bored of spending the whole night getting harassed. The film is very much an opinion piece and I even used my voice from the interviews a couple of times in the documentary. I find any doc I make I need to have a strong connection too and making this film cemented that more.
Looking back, what would you say have been the most valuable lessons you’ve taken from this experience?
The most valuable lesson I learnt is not to be discouraged from making something, I made the treatment for this film back in 2021 and tried sending it to lots of funding schemes and was turned down by all of them. I started to think maybe the idea isn’t strong enough so just didn’t make it for ages. Then a series of things happened and I felt it was important to make it, so I pulled in some favours and just made it as best as I could. So the lesson I learned is not to let rejection be a failure but just a stepping stone (deep haha).
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films/stories they want to tell?
Definitely, I think when we truly become an industry where we only do remakes, sequels and prequels (which feels closer and closer each year) we should all just quit and start again haha. The world needs more stories and I think filmmakers should be given the support to tell them.
How much has your filmmaking approach evolved since you started out?
In some ways it’s very similar, I like to find engaging and cinematic visuals to present real stories. I am drawn to stories about “underdogs” or the “everyday person” and I like to present the every day lives or occurrences of the subjects in my films but through a new lens.
I believe my mindset to the production has dramatically changed. I used to think the aim was to get lots of crew from big movies and have hierarchy and structure like a Warners or Disney movie. For me, it’s really important that the set is a fun, safe place. The past 3 years I have been shooting Behind the Scenes/ EPK and it shown me the importance of education, so even though my shorts are small and I don’t claim to now everything I try and bring a trainee or student on to every project I do. So having a fun, safe and happy set is equally as important to me as making a good film. I do believe when there is proper planning and pre-production done by the HOD’s that it is possible for anyone to do.
What top 3 tips would you offer a fellow filmmakers?
1. If you have friends that want to go on this journey with you, hold on to them tight, having a good group of people who want to make films together is incredible hard to find and I feel very lucky to have had people to go on this journey with.
2. Don’t get bogged down in kit, don’t waist money on getting an Alexa Mini or something, put your money in front of the camera, with good planning, testing and the capabilities of modern camera’s you can make anything look good now
3.Story, story is always the most important, anything you do should be facilitating the story.
And finally, what massage do you hope your audiences will take away from Still?
I hope it changes their posempmion of clubbing, raving, those kind of atmospheres. That everyone will be kinder to each other on a night out and then we can all have fun.