This year’s Bridging the Gap is well underway, with our four commissioned filmmakers currently in production with their selected films which will each respond to this year’s theme, WOMEN. We are delighted that, aptly, this year is the first year we have an all female cohort of participants.
Natalia is a freelance video editor and motion graphics designer with a big passion for documentary filmmaking. Originally from Greece, she has spent the last ten years studying and working in Italy and England and has recently made Scotland her new home. Lindsay is a visual artist, filmmaker and underwater camera woman. Wilma is a self shooting filmmaker with several shoestring budget features to her credit and who has recently turned to documentary. And Lucie is a lens-based artist living in Dundee. Her practice is somewhat confessional, working predominantly in video and photography to express recurring themes of domestic relationships, gender and the unspoken.
We caught up with each of them as they enter this exciting, if challenging, part of the process, to hear a little more about their idea and its development.
Can you tell us briefly about your film?
Natalia: My film is a documentary about Leah, a Greek, deaf, stand-up comedian who performs in sign language here in Scotland.
The film follows her as she fights to perform for mainstream audiences, to raise awareness about deaf culture to the general public, as she usually performs for either audiences who are deaf or interested in sign language or LGBT audiences in queer events, as she's lesbian herself.
Lindsay: ‘April’ is an observational documentary short and a coming of age film. It follows a teenage girl with a sensory processing disorder on part of her journey towards her sixteenth birthday, giving us an insight into her life and her world.
Wilma: ‘The Review’ is about 13 year old Darren, who plays professional youth football and the lead up to the once a year Review Night where he will find out whether he will remain signed or be released from the club. We follow the build up to this important event through the eyes of his mum, Yvonne, as she supports him in pursuing his passion.
Lucie: Our film is an intimate insight into the relationship between myself and my trans-parent now that she has made the decision to transition.
How does your idea for your film speak to this year’s theme of WOMEN? And how does it resonate with your personal experience?
Natalia: Leah is a woman, and she's a special woman because she's a minority to the third power: she's deaf, she's lesbian, and she's foreign. But most importantly, she's a strong, positive, funny, amazing woman, whom I've always admired.
I have known Leah all my life because I'm hard of hearing myself and we had the same audiologist back home in Athens when we were children - when we met I was 5 and she was 15. Having faced difficulties myself as a hard of hearing girl at school in the nineties, I can imagine that Leah has had a much tougher fight as a deaf teenager in search of her sexual identity in the eighties in Greece, a country where many forms of discrimination are very sadly still prevalent today.
Lindsay: The film follows the relationship between a mother and daughter, so has the theme ‘women’ innately at its heart. The theme was a happy coincidence- a ‘meant to be moment’ as it coincides with April coming up to her sixteenth birthday, taking her first steps into womanhood.
As a mother of two teenagers myself, much of what Sami (April’s mum) is experiencing, I'm experiencing in parallel. This is what makes the film interesting for me, the fact that April is just a normal teenager in many respects. The complexity of making the film is in understanding how she communicates, and her overwhelming need to experience the world in a different way. What I'm learning is: don’t get caught in the surface observation, as like any teenager, she will surprise those that get too comfy! Through the film I am building a relationship with April each time I'm with her. She now shares moments with me that I feel extremely privileged to have, even just sidling up to me and sharing a lean on the kitchen bunker makes me feel part of her life. I feel very lucky.
Wilma: As well as following Darren’s journey, the film also examines the impact of ‘The Review Night’ on the rest of the family, in particular his mum who gives up a lot of time to ensure that Darren has the right kit and is at training and games on time. The Review Night is a tense and nerve racking time for her too, as she waits to find out what the outcome will be.
As a mum myself, I know how much you want the best for your child; ultimately you just want them to be happy. There is always that question if you're doing the right thing for them. It’s a worry to think of your child being worried or upset. You want your child to succeed in life.
Darren loves football. His Mum and Dad and younger siblings realise the amazing opportunity that he has in playing for a professional football club. But in the professional game it is about having the ability and the right attitude so if Darren wants to make it, he has to work hard at it. His Mum knows that she has to be emotionally there for him.
Lucie: Although my parent came out to me as trans when I was 16, it has only been recently that she told me she identifies as female and has started living as her authentic self full time. We’re now going through a sort of renewal process in our relationship, as we learn to understand each other as women and redefine what the term ‘Mother' means to us.
Half way through the adventure, what are the challenges you’ve faced? Any happy accidents, obstacles overcome or exciting moments you've experienced so far as a filmmaker?
Natalia: The first challenge I faced during the pre-production of this film is turning a portrait into a story. When I first applied to Bridging the Gap all I had in mind is bringing Leah on the big screen, simply because I thought she's an interesting, powerful and unique character who will inspire people. Our intensive training helped me see beyond the character of the film and realise that I needed a structure, a story for the documentary. Finding it hasn't been easy, but it has brought me closer to Leah, as my search for a story drove me to explore Leah's feelings and ambitions.
Another challenge was, as in the case of many productions, time. I was working full time during the production of the film but more importantly Leah and her partner Heidi, who had an important part in the film, were also both working full time. We had some challenging moments but we had a lot of creative and fun moments too, where the four of us - Leah, Heidi, my DOP Raffaele (who is also my partner) and I created a special bond and had a great time making the film.
Finding my voice as a director has been the greatest challenge for me. I'm a video editor, so I'm used to work alongside a director with their own voice, making sure that I'm doing my job in supporting that existing voice in the final stage of production. Creating this voice for myself is something I haven't really done before and it's something I find myself struggling to identify throughout the production, even after I thought I had established a final version of the treatment and a storyboard. They say you make each film three times though - when you write it, when you shoot it and when you edit it. I'm confident a stronger version of my voice is waiting for me in the editing room!
Lindsay: The main challenge of the film is the uncontrolled nature of it, combined with filming on my own due to the sensitive nature of building a unique relationship with April. The film does not lend itself to having a team around, so the process of me being Director, DOP and Sound Recordist at once is a massive challenge and very tiring. What I'm grateful for is the support outwith the family unit of Sami and April, such as my producer, SDI, and of course an editor.
Although we know what the film is about, finding the story through visual means is another challenge. I cannot ask April to repeat scenes or have scripts that she can follow, she is dictating how we film by what she does. If I need to repeat a scene, I need to go back on a different day so that I can run through her daily routine with her! This project also had many ethical concerns thrown up at the start, such as how do I deal with a person who cannot express in words how she feels? I've approached this by drawing on my background experience with organisations such as Art in Hospital, and my support work with people with learning disabilities. I have got to know April and I have set myself some boundaries. I do not film April when she clearly doesn't want to be filmed, I do not follow her if she walks out of the frame, I now always turn around the LCD so she can see what I'm filming (at her request), and I share the footage with her when she wants to see it. Although I feel strange filming her sometimes, I also think that people not seeing this film, and not getting an insight into April’s world, would be a loss towards a necessary understanding somehow.
Wilma: For several years, I've been writing, developing, shooting, editing, directing and producing almost everything by myself, so I've really enjoyed working with a producer and an editor. To have that support from creative people who are equally as passionate about the film has just been great.
My biggest challenge, I would say was at the development stage because there was so much about Yvonne and Darren and the rest of the family to fit into a 10 minute format. In particular, I was concerned that there could be a perception that Yvonne’s two younger children appeared left out, which is most definitely not the case. However focusing on Darren as the main character and his involvement in pro youth football, helped pin down what I wanted to convey. There is such a beautiful scene between his little sister and his mum, where his little sister too expresses her care for him on the Review Night. It's a really moving moment.
Lucie: I decided soon into the project that I wanted to work with a full female crew (that has incidentally also turned out to be majority LGBT!), so the main challenge for us so far has been finding an available female sound recordist! Thankfully we finally found one a couple of weeks ago, so now we’re ready to go! We’re all really excited about starting the shoot for 9 days straight - it’s going to be super intense!
What drives you? And what do you want it to ‘do’ to the audience?
Natalia: My admiration for Leah is what drives me to make this film. I am making this documentary because I feel that Leah is the perfect character to challenge the stereotype of disability as a miserable condition. Deaf culture is a particularly fascinating and proud culture - and Leah herself says that she wouldn't change being deaf because it's part of who she is. I really want this film to give the audience food for thought and challenge people's perception of disability. I feel that, despite the fact that there is a lot of work being done to educate people to be more sensitive regarding these issues across Europe, disability is generally still a huge taboo. I also want the audience to get a taste of deaf culture the way I did through Leah, because it's really a culture in its literal sense, it's like exploring a different country with its own traditions and I find this incredibly fascinating!
Lindsay: I feel it would be a loss for people to not see part of April’s life and some of the ups and downs of living with a sensory processing disorder. April however has had a very long and tough journey, but now at the brink of moving into adulthood, she is very happy and positive. I want people to feel like they have shared part of this positive journey with her; if they come away feeling emotional, then I will have done my job.
Wilma: One of the simple aspects of the film, is that it is about an ordinary family. A lot happens in their busy lives; school, work, clubs etc. Using Darren’s involvement in pro youth football shows the commitment the whole family has to put in. It’s not just a club for fun, he is involved in a professional setting and being prepared for a potential professional career. I don’t think many people realise what it takes years beforehand - the hard work, the commitment and passion required at such a young age.
In a personal way it reflects my own journey starting as a teenager making my first film at 13. In the background we see the parents and the sacrifices they make. I want to show that aspect. There is tension in the build up to the Review Night and I want the audience to feel that - to be in Darren and his mum’s boots that night. There is a lot of humour in the film too surrounding this ordinary family. I ultimately want people to watch the film and say, ‘that was a good film’. Being commissioned for Bridging the Gap has allowed me, hopefully, to make that film. It's been an amazing opportunity.
Lucie: Well this is only going to happen once, and it’s an important moment for both of us, so in a way I want to document it for that reason. However it's also acting as a catalyst to bring up issues and conversations that we might perhaps not otherwise have the confidence or incentive to talk to each other about. This is an opportunity for us to slow down and take a moment to look into our parent-child relationship and collaborate to make something really honest and genuine, that I feel will be beautiful.
I think this is a relatable and universal moment for many families, heteronormative or not, when a child reaches a certain age that naturally causes your relationship to change in order to communicate and understand each other as people.
All four films will premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival in June, and we wish all of the filmmakers the best of luck for the next stages of the process in the meantime. It’s been fascinating to talk to them at this juncture and get an insight into how the projects are evolving.
While Natalia, Lindsay, Wilma and Lucie are busy working away on their WOMEN films, we felt it would be an interesting time to reflect on the four Bridging the Gap films of 2012 - the theme of that year being... MEN.
From tomorrow we will be sharing one of the shorts each day.
Tomorrow we will be releasing ‘Pouters’ by Paul Fegan, on Wednesday ‘Takeaway’ by You-Xue Lin, on Thursday ‘Polaris’ by Chico Pereira and on Friday ‘In Search of the Wallaby’ by Alasdair Bayne & Andrew O’Connor.
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