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Interview: Girls On Film Directors Talk Short Films And Lesbians

We love a good lesbian movies but because good lesbian movies are so few and far between, we often turn to short films to find representation of our lives.  Recently, we reviewed the short film collection, Girls On Film, and to follow up on why short films are just as important to us as features, we spoke to a few of the directors about the process.
We put a couple of questions to directors Anna Rodgers (Hold On Tight), Christoph Scheermann (Fresh Air Therapy 2) and Alex Siow (What’s Your Sign?) to find out more about their work:
When they often don’t receive as much attention as they deserve, what would you say is the best reason to make a short film?
Christoph:  Besides training your skills in efficient storytelling for features later the best reason to make a short film is to get your name out there. A short film is the business card for an upcoming feature filmmaker. You can establish yourself in the international festival market and by visiting film festivals do your networking for future projects. Also a short film can be used as a mood to advertise and sell your feature film to potential producers and investors but a short film can also be used to experiment with a topic before you go into making it a feature film.  In my case I used the two short films Fresh Air Therapy 1+2 to experiment with the topic couple’s therapy. Fresh Air Therapy 2 is a genre mix between comedy and ghost story. Some people – mostly those who have already seen a lot of films in their life – really loved that uncommon mix and we received great response from them. After the two shorts we got to know our audience. We know what they like and what they might not like. With this as hinterland we can now go into the process of making a feature film of it.
Alex: It’s for personal achievement. To make a film isn’t easy at all. It takes time, it takes people and most of the time, money too. So when a short is done and it doesn’t get as much recognition, one should still take pride in the work.

holdontightHold On Tight, dir. Anna Rodgers

What are the best and worst things about making a short film?
Anna:  The best thing about making a short film is the freedom of the format. You really get to be creative, free from all of the restrictions of traditional narrative or the commercial pressures of television. The most challenging thing is funding and trying to find television slots for shots. We were very lucky that RTE broadcast it here in Ireland, but these sorts of opportunities are rare.
Christoph:  The thing is you can’t waste time. In my film school Filmarche in Berlin, I once gave a workshop about “Make short films shorter”. The general problem young filmmakers have is that they get lost because they would like to cover so much. They are unable to prioritize and make decisions! The great thing about short films is that you can train making crucial decisions on what you want to tell and how to tell it. I recommend to never making short films longer than 15mins as film festivals probably won’t select your film and you won’t be exhibited your work and you won’t get your message out there.  A short film program at a festival usually consists of 8 to 10 films. If your film is half an hour long, the festival would need to drop 2 or 3 other good films just to play yours. They won’t do that; it would be unfair to the other filmmakers who also deliver great films. That means running time is your biggest challenge by making short films. So you must learn to find a very efficient way of storytelling! Due to the fact that shorts do not follow classic feature film dramaturgy you are allowed to think out of the box to tell your story.
Alex: The best thing about making a short film is being able to tell your story in a way that it could be used to create an awareness, or in this case, just for entertainment. The worst thing about making a short film is that there is so much more to tell but there is only so much time there is if not the short will become a feature!

fresh air therapyFresh Air Therapy 2, dir. Christoph Scheermann

What kind of storylines or characters would you like to see in lesbian films or which ones would you like to see less of?
Alex: I would like to see more characters with disability, more characters of color and gender bending characters. Too often, lesbians are stereotyped and we should move away from that.  Also, lesbian stories told by women and not men.
Christoph: To be honest I am also no fan of labels. What exactly is a lesbian film? I would like to answer the question by encouraging filmmakers and also distributors who pick films – and maybe even audiences – to not look for the stereotype. As a gay person I do not want to see a film with gay characters dealing with typical gay problems while being surrounded by other gay people. This I can have every day in 3D in reality. Those films end up like daily soaps. But hey, we produce for the big screen. I do not pay money to see a copy of my everyday life in the theater. I want to go to the movies to see hope and how people go to the extreme and take their lives in their own hands and change it for the good because this is where we all struggle in life. How to get to the next level? Mostly you can’t when you are not ready to bring sacrifices. I want to get seduced. I want to be confronted with topics that I haven’t thought of before. I want to get inspired! So please everyone: Ask yourself first if you would pay money to watch your own movie and if it is worth to steal 15mins of life time from other people who are supposed to watch your film! If it is a yes, go for it. If it is a “maybe, I think so” please develop the storytelling and think of how to see your theme more compelling until it is a yes!

whatsyoursignWhat’s Your Sign?, dir. Alex Siow

What are some short films that inspired you that you would recommend?
Alex: I really enjoyed watching “She said, she said” by Stuart Blumberg. (Watch it online here)
Christoph: Yes, that’s a pleasure for me! Here is my personal Top 4:  “Franswa Sharl” by Hannah Hilliard which is a very sweet coming-out story that is not like all the others.  “The Armoire” by Jamie Travis.  No one screams in your face that this is a gay film but it describes a very close and intimate relationship between two boys, wrapped as a crime story with smart dramaturgy.   “Fine and Dandy” by Kelly West, just great lesbian short without any cliché about two women dating.    “The Waiting Room” by Mona Ruijs; an experimental short that is very smart in its unusual storytelling.

Girls On Film is available on DVD now.