Tag Archives: director

Creating Mum: Director Anne-Marie O’Connor and Actor Kate O’Donnell on Their Award-Winning Short Film

To say that the relationship between a child and parent is fraught with emotions, most of them far from easy to put into words, is putting it lightly. Yet this is the subject of Mum, a short film that captures a visit from a trans woman to her aging mother. Having already won a handful of accolades, it began screening as part of New Irish Shorts 3 at the Galway Film Fleadh just this past Thursday, July 13th.

Mum is the creation of many talented individuals, chief among them being director Anne-Marie O’Connor and actor and star Kate O’Donnell. In addition to being able to review the short film I was also offered an interview with the two of them that allowed me to gain a better understanding of how this particular work came to be.


First off, congratulations to the both of you on the awards that Mum has won so far, at both the London Independent Film Festival and Global Shorts. To springboard off of that into our first question, as it’s screened as part of “New Irish Shorts 3” at the Galway Film Fleadh, what helps to make this an Irish film outside of the talent involved?

O’Connor: The song that is played and sung throughout the short is Black Velvet Band. It was important to me for this to link the film as it was a song that Kate’s mum used to sing to her and a song that my dad used to sing to me as a child. And although geographically it isn’t set in Ireland, the relationship between Kate and her mum feels very Irish to me and in writing this I felt that Linda was second-generation Irish and that Kate was a product of that upbringing.

I noticed in the credits that Mum was created by the two of you, but that it was only written by Anne-Marie. Could you both go into some detail regarding the creative process?

O’Connor: Kate and I are good friends and have been for years, and as she’s a leading trans actor and activist I’ve always wanted to work with her creatively. We often discuss the way that transgender people are portrayed in film and TV (the fascination with the transition, the no-one-will-ever-love-me storyline, sex workers or outsiders) and wanted to make a short that didn’t fall into those familiar tropes, to have a transgender central character in a universal story.

So I met with Kate and I asked her what story she would tell if she could and it simply came from her saying she’d love to go home and paint her mum’s nails; something she used to do when she was younger but is impossible to do because her stepfather makes life difficult (he’s always been difficult, way before Kate transitioned!). And so we built the story around her own story. It was very important for both of us that Kate was acknowledged in the creative process. So that is why it is created by both of us.

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Making Till We Meet Again: Director Bank Tangjaitrong on Filming Your Home Country

tillwemeetagainLast Wednesday I posted my review of Till We Meet Again, an award-winning American-Thai production. The film follows the experiences of a couple traveling through Thailand, paying particularly close attention to how separation and loneliness play a part in their relationship.

Following that is “Making Till We Meet Again“, a series of interviews with the creators. The first of which is an email Q&A with director Bank Tangjaitrong to get insight on how Till We Meet Again came to be. Following sometime after should be interviews with Johan Matton, who both starred in and wrote the film, as well as co-star Emrhys Cooper.


From what I could tell this is actually your second time working with Johan Matton, with the first being your award-winning short film That Girl, That Time, which you wrote and directed. He was the star of both films, but actually penned the script for Till We Meet Again. Can you share anything about your experiences working with him, as well as having him on story duties this time around?

I always look forward to my collaborations with Johan as we’ve worked together so many different times in the past from a director-actor capacity. With Till We Meet Again, Johan was not only the actor but also the writer and producer, and to most directors that would be an immediate red flag since lines would be blurred and there wouldn’t be a sense of hierarchy with too many “voices” on set, but that was not the case here. Collaboration is essential for me and I try to bring in the best people for the job and learn from them and listen to them. Every idea was valid whether it came from an actor, producer, writer, gaffer, etc. But it had to all be funneled through the director and he or she would choose what works what doesn’t and I think Johan understood that. During the shooting process our relationship was always about director and actor first, that was the priority.

I read that you were born and raised in Bangkok, and wanted to know what it was like filming the majority of a feature film in your home country. In particular I noticed that while shots are certainly beautiful, they never feel exoticized. Unlike, say, the way Thailand was portrayed in The Hangover Part II where it’s very clearly depicted as a foreign place.

The way we shot Thailand was very important to our story and I wanted to make sure that we weren’t just including famous landmarks and treating the visuals like an ad for the tourism authority. We needed to find that balance between what’s expected of a film shot in Thailand but also a film about the human condition. It’s important that a scene that takes place in the confines of four walls can be equally as intriguing as a scene on a secluded tropical beach.

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Till We Meet Again: A Film Review

tillwemeetagain“If you’re gonna go [. . .] it needs to be now.” 

Those are words that have been said countless times by the young, privileged, and recently travelled. And so they’re repeated to Erik [Johan Matton, who also wrote the screenplay] and Joanna [Linnea Larsdotter] over dinner on a New York City balcony. “Just go” is the advice given, and moments later we cut to the couple beneath the welcoming Thai sun.

The expectations for a story like this one are the same as they would be for an actual getaway to the Southeast Asian country: sexy, inspiring, exhilarating. Director Bank Tanjaintrong’s first feature length film, Till We Meet Again delivers on all of these fronts, but also tempers those feelings with the everyday matters of need and loneliness. Even before Erik and Joanna are separated, with the latter leaving earlier than planned to reconnect with David [Emrhys Cooper], an old friend, those issues lie just beneath the surface.

Likely attributed to the director having grown up there, Thailand is depicted with a comfortable familiarity that lacks the lurid exoticism many Hollywood movies have employed. With that in mind it serves primarily as a backdrop to the relationships playing out onscreen, which are further complicated by the introduction of Miranda [Astrea Campbell-Cobb]. While the setting’s natural and man-made beauty are never obscured there’s a tight focus on the core cast, and one that offers very little screen time for local talent. Continue reading

NEON: A Short Film Review

neon

In a grim and rain-soaked city, what begins as a couple’s phone conversation swiftly becomes a desperate negotiation for their future. NEON plunges us headfirst into a world of quiet desperation as we watch one man’s desperate bid for his own future against powers beyond our comprehension.

Or perhaps even a universe beyond our comprehension.

Director Mark J. Blackman (along with his team) makes spectacular use of special effects to give us a throbbing, vibrant world. Gorgeous panoramas of storm clouds and cityscapes, decrepit warehouses, and lonely streets all serve to make the setting as dynamic and alive as any of the film’s characters. Hell, based on a few of the clues dropped throughout the film, that might even be the case; the sometimes-indifferent, sometimes-capricious backdrop serving as a stand-in for the unnamed antagonists in play. Continue reading

In Ophelia‘s Seat: Anthony Garland Explains the Film’s Name, Length, and Even Its Genre

opheliaposterThis past Friday the short film Ophelia
began screening at the 2016 LA Shorts Fest. The piece touches on fear, expectation, pressure, and ambition through a the first few minutes of a job interview with the title character. I was able to view and review the film for myself not too long ago.

Answering a few questions himself is Anthony Garland, the director. Garland has acted in a number of small film and television roles, and assisted other directors in filming such music videos as Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Sadness”.


garlandWhat did you want to be when you were seven-years-old?

THAT question! … A superhero. Super strength and invulnerability would be preferable but I definitely had to be able to fly. I was obviously past the age where you know that powers don’t exist, but I remember being pretty sure that I’d be the exception. I grew up reading comics before the characters had this cinematic renaissance; that was really my education in storytelling, art direction and frame composition.

What was the strangest question you’ve ever been asked in a job interview?

I’ve actually been relatively safe in interviews and auditions thus far… I feel like I’m the one asking the strange questions a lot of the time, but that’s deliberate! Just the nature of status and hierarchy, we forget that we’re all just individuals, regardless of position, and a job interview is as much for you as it is for the people that might hire you; so questions, however wacky, are a good way to set up a back and forth rather than sitting through an interrogation, which is what most bad interviews feel like.

Do you have any strategies when it comes to interviewing for a job [or auditioning for a role]? [How do you deal with pressure?]

Sure, and maybe this comes from having a background in acting, but so long as the focus is on something external, like engaging with the person opposite you by asking those questions, or really taking them in, then there’s no space to be self conscious. Continue reading

Ophelia: A Short Film Review

opheliaposterIn a world fraught with fears there are few experiences as anxiety-inducing as job interviews. While a failed date resolves in an extended period of loneliness a botched interview affects your very livelihood. In its first few moments Ophelia opens up with the titular character cautiously entering a derelict hallway, the sounds of her heels punctuating each step towards a room of other applicants.

Given the inherently terrifying nature of the event his piece depicts, director Anthony Garland fittingly chose to shoot the film like a horror movie. There’s a constant air of tension, which succeeds due to it never growing too overbearing. Ophelia‘s most unsettling moments might have been flashier and more overt in other hands, but there’s an admirable amount of restraint that extends from the cut from shot to shot [Garland also edited the film] to the sound direction.

As for the interview itself, the theme appears to grapple with the director’s chosen genre. If job interviews, like horror films, are frightening then how do we address and manage that fear? Continue reading

Bernie and Rebecca and Melissa Kent: On Her Directorial Debut, Its Creation, And More to Come

bernierebeccaposterLast month marked the first screening of Melissa Kent’s directorial debut, Bernie and Rebecca, at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Centred on the first date between the titular characters, the short film is a fascinating look at what so many of us dream about when put into similar situations.

On top of being able to review Bernie and Rebecca for myself, I was also given the opportunity to interview Melissa Kent via email about the process of its creation and her work both past and future.


Like so many things in life, you can only have one directorial debut. With that in mind, what made Bernie and Rebecca the first [of many, I’m sure] story that you wanted to tell?

Bernie and Rebecca is about a couple on a first date who imagine a not-so perfect future life together. It provided an ideal showcase for my skills directing romance, comedy, drama—basically a lifetime of love, laughter and tears—in a short 14 minutes.

Having edited so many feature length films what was it like directing a film that clocks at just shy of 14 minutes?

Actually, the filmmaking process is exactly the same, just with a much abbreviated running time. It was exciting to be making all of the pre-production decisions from casting to design to locations, and then of course being on set directing, which was a 3-day shoot. After that, the film required what they all do: editing, music, color grading, and sound mixing.

What was it like both shooting and editing your own footage? Did you ever find yourself skipping ahead in the process, knowing that certain shots would inevitably be thrown out while you were filming them?

There was only one insert I didn’t love while we were shooting so that got nixed, but everything else got used in one way or another. Being an editor probably helped my shot selection to be very efficient.

Given that so many of your past projects are either dramas or comedies [including a personal favourite of mine, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2] would you say that Bernie and Rebecca falls into a comfortable genre for you? Have you ever considered branching out into any others in the future?

Besides dramas and comedies, I have edited true crime (Captive, An American Crime), science fiction (Supernova) and even a 3D dance movie (Make Your Move). A good story is a good story and as a filmmaker I would not rule out any particular genre. It is more fun to go between genres whenever possible.

A few months ago The Guardian reported that between now and 2018 20th Century Fox and Paramount have no films directed by female directors being released.

Conversely, next year’s Wonder Woman was directed by Patty Jenkins, and Marvel appears to be specifically searching for a female director for their own Captain Marvel the following year.

Do you have any comments about the state of the industry as it stands now in regards to other women in your field?

Much respect to Jenkins and I can’t wait to see Wonder Woman.

Your next project is the upcoming American Pastoral, which both stars and was directed by Ewan McGregor. Is there anything you can tell us about that film, and if you have anything else to watch out for?

The trailer was released a few days ago and can be seen here.

It will be in theaters in October and I hope everyone will check it out!


Bernie and Rebecca is currently screening at the Madrid International Film Festival until July 9th. Watch the trailer at www.bernieandrebecca.com, and learn more about Melissa Kent’s extensive editing career at www.melissakent.com.