BFI Future Film Festival 2023
Tipping Point is an experimental dance film exploring the cycles of pointless productivity, our reliance on resources and the need to self-realise.
Hi Marta, congratulations on having Tipping Point part of the Future Film Festival 2023, how does it feel to be part of such an incredible line-up of short films?
It’s a great honor to be programmed amongst such talented people and having my team’s work recognised by the festival. Feels great!
Tipping Point is also nominated for Best Experimental Film, what has it meant to you to get this type and level of recognition for your film?
I was very intimidated about the response the film will get as this is my directorial debut in fiction. It’s amazing to hear that the film is resonating with people, which serves as a great motivation for pursuing further projects. It’s also very exciting to know that a film that was made with almost no budget in our choreographer’s backyard still can perform to the festival’s standards. And finally it feels like I can give back and say thank you to people who believed in me and gave me resources to explore this medium. Namely Viesturs Grazdanovics, founder of 2ANNAS Riga International Short Film Festival, who gave me space and guidance to explore filmmaking free-of-charge, when I was just a confused teenager and Ilona Bikevica the founder of Young Media Sharks whose support allowed me to start finding my voice as a filmmaker.
How important are festivals like the Future Film Festival in creating a platform for short films?
I think these festivals are fundamental for maintaining the short film scene, and thus giving a platform to upcoming filmmakers and their unique perspectives. Short film is a very difficult medium to distribute on your own, it often ends up trapped in the filmmaker’s hard drive and the memories of the cast and crew. For filmmakers who don’t have their own audience and huge budgets it’s almost impossible to distribute a short without these festivals, so they also allow for more diverse storytelling and inclusion of people from different backgrounds, which I think is beneficial to both filmmakers and audience.
Can you tell me how you got involved with Tipping Point, where did the inspiration come from to create such a unique experimental dance short?
I am not trained in dance, but for some reason I have been very drawn towards it for a long time. Before starting university one of my closest friends and great theatre and film director Jana Aizupe invited me to collaborate on a documentary film about Ivo Krievins who is one of the first vogue performers in Latvia. “What is Vogue?” was my first project working with a professional dancer and made me realize that I want to continue on this path. This thought was lingering in my mind for a while. And in the summer of 2021 I stumbled upon a book titled “Dance on Screen” by Sherril Dodds which greatly informed my framework for Tipping Point. Later I reached out to Neila pitching her an idea to make a dance film in which the choreography would benefit from film medium (e.g. multiple perspectives, slow motion). Thankfully she agreed and helped me form a team, Tipping Point was shot within the next month (from there it took a year to call it a finished film).
How vital was the creative collaboration between you and your choreographer Neila Plukse, composer Harlads Arnis and the 3 contemporary dancers - Sintija Skrabe, Rudis Vilsons, Liva Nora Apseniece?
Without this team I couldn’t have made the film. Given that I don’t have much understanding of dance and choreographing, Neila was essential for helping to understand the possibilities of it. I pitched her the narrative and vision that was in my mind, which she turned into the beautiful movement language you can see on the screen. She also worked very closely with our composer Haralds Arnis to make the composition fit the narrative and the demands of dance.
Haralds is a music genius who turned our chaotic ideas into a cohesive piece, by recording, sampling and mixing from his bedroom. He also helped on the set, adjusting the rhythm and layers of the mix to better reflect the narrative. Given that the score changes its rhythm his presence on the set was crucial, not even mentioning his acting skills.
When it came to dancers, we established from the get go that Neila would work more closely with them during the rehearsal process, which meant that I could observe them and devise the best blocking and framing approach. The chemistry and determination they all had helped greatly with this and informed a lot of final decisions made on the set. Everyone gave their heart and soul for this project which made a very special atmosphere throughout the project and I think is at the heart of the success of the film, I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone involved.
"Given the limited budget we only worked with natural light and a couple of flashlights for the interior scenes, which meant that we could only work within a very specific time frame both days."
When working on Tipping Point, how flexible were you able to be once you got into production?
Given the quick turnaround and tight resources of the project we had to adjust to the circumstances very quickly. We had two days for shooting with no option to do pickups as the next morning after the shoot I was leaving the country for a year. This presented a lot of challenges but also some great lessons that I have since used on other shoots.
What were the challenges you faced making Tipping Point?
Due to scheduling problems we lost one of our original cast members, but thankfully we found someone else, who ended up being perfect for the role.
Given that we had no budget other than for petrol and food, we had to reach out to teachers, friends of friends and family members who helped by giving everything from a smoke machine and wardrobe to rehearsal space, equipment and the shooting location itself. We lost our original location two days before shooting which called for a very quick rethinking of the approach for blocking, framing and logistics.
Given the limited budget we only worked with natural light and a couple of flashlights for the interior scenes, which meant that we could only work within a very specific time frame both days.
Looking back, what would you say have been the most valuable lessons you have each taken from making this short?
The main lesson is definitely the importance of finding a team of people who are all passionate about the project and willing to put in their time and energy into it. I was very lucky with the team and the open atmosphere that was created was at the core of this project.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I suppose so. There was a period when I was around seven, where I would religiously watch Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone every day after school for a year (my sister still curses me for that). Not sure can you call it passion, but it definitely impacted my further practice.
Would you consider exploring the themes of Tipping Point as a feature in the future?
Possibly in future I would be interested in collaborating with other writers to make a bigger piece about delusional productivity that has disconnected us from the present experience, but I feel it’s quite a complex theme to tackle alone. If anyone has ideas I would love to discuss.
How much has your approach to your work changed since you started out?
I keep remembering the first time when I was preparing for a music video shoot (assignment to choose any song of my liking and devise a music video for that) I told my film studio teacher Viesturs Grazdanovics that I don’t need a shot list and it’s a very pointless thing to do, as “I will just come up with it as I am shooting” - couldn’t disagree more with that thinking now.
When I just started out I thought that I can do everything on my own, but now I really cherish the collaboration aspect of filmmaking and enjoy the ideas that spark within a team of people.
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films/stories they want to tell?
Definitely, after all we are storytelling animals.
What top 3 tips would you offer a fellow film filmmaker?
Find a team you trust.
Take good care in pre-production.
Keep getting inspired from other’s work, not only in film but other mediums as well.
And finally, what massage do you hope your audiences will take away from Tipping Point?
I would hope that everyone walks out with something different. For some the appreciation of green leaves and golden sun of Latvian autumns, for others the questioning of who controls our resources and the way we spend our time, and for someone else the appreciation for dance and film fusion.