Two young Australian film-makers have channelled the swinging 60s in a new short film that is guaranteed to induce feelings of nostalgia and heartbreak in equal measure.
Jessica Barclay Lawton—whose award-winning 2010 debut Morning Star was the high point of a fresh and ambitious career as a director, editor and first AD on music videos and other shorts—and Rosalie Difelice (a violinist who’s cut her teeth assisting on music videos and working on local television shows) co-wrote and directed Pins, a, independent, super 8mm period film about a separated couple whose reunion teaches each of them more than they needed to learn.
Pins will screen this Sunday, May 29, at the the 2011 Dungog Film Festival—the esteemed, non-competitive festival whose sole purpose is to showcase Australian works. Ahead of its premiere, we spoke with Jessica and Rosalie about their influences and collaborative process.
PORTABLE: What inspired you—in terms of films, music, photography and fashion—while creating Pins?
ROSALIE: Big inspirations were Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums) & Vincent Gallo (Buffalo ’66)—the intense sense of style those films have were a real inspiration to us. Music like the Kinks, Elvis, Peter Starstedt and the Seekers were really helpful in putting us into the 60s/70s era. Sibylle Baier, a German folk singer from the 70s, was a big influence in getting the end scene right. Twiggy and Edie Sedgwick were key style references on the look we gave Isabel; the short mini, hair up beehive, petite figure. We had a really particular look we wanted our actors to have, so during the auditions we had to keep that in mind.
How is the process of co-directing a short film different to the music video work you’ve been doing recently?
JESSICA: The assistant directing I’m involved with on music videos and the co-directing of Pins was a very similar process in many ways. Both required collaborating with people with different ideas to pull together something with cohesion. On the other hand, directing one’s own work versus sharing the creative load is really quite a unique process in itself. It’s very easy to visualise something in your own mind of how a scene or an action may unfold and then just want to run with it, however when you have to then translate those ideas to someone else and then hope that they too feel the same way can be somewhat daunting. So I think Rosalie and I are very lucky that we have such a similar thought process and are quite in tune with one another, and having that extra set of eyes and ears can prove to be so rewarding when exploring the story all the different ways of telling that story.
ROSALIE: I truly enjoyed the experience of splitting all of our roles in half. Jess and I studied film together in our first year of university and have been best friends since. This is the first time we have really collaborated and it worked really well. We had an advantage being best friends in some way, because over the years our thought process has become the same. This meant we didn’t have to ask many questions we generally had the same ideas from the get go. I feel like co-writing and co-directing is different to the music video work I’ve been involved in. It was like we were parents and the film was our baby. We both had a big input on how we were going to let this project grow and it was equally as important for both of us to have a good end result.
The film never strays from the 1960s setting created through costumes, sets and props. How difficult was it to shoot a period film in 2011?
JESSICA: The whole aesthetic of the film came very naturally for both of us. From the very beginning we knew this was a film we wanted to shoot on super 8mm and in many ways that dictated the overall aesthetic of our protagonists world. We knew very early on that we wanted the design of the film to be heavily influenced by the 60s era—being a time in film, music and fashion that we both just really dig. However it wasn’t until we scoured our cupboards and dressers, pulled in favours from friends and secured our locations that we realised we actually had a good chance of being able to pull off the look we were hoping to achieve, which also meant we were able to just relax into that world and have a lot of fun with it.
ROSALIE: Like Jess said it came very naturally. We used sets, cars and clothes we generally liked and already had. Isabel was dressed in clothes from my wardrobe, the car she drove belonged to a friend of mine and before we knew it we were in the 60s. Location wise we chose “retro” looking sets to compliment the super 8 film. To give the film a distinct style, not just a story. Props wise we didn’t have to source anything , it was all a collection of things we already had between us. So personally I don’t think it was difficult at all. I’m a firm believer in starting off by making what you know. We were able to make this all happen so smoothly because it was what we already knew.
What are your directorial ambitions post-Pins?
JESSICA: There are lots of avenues I want to explore with my filmmaking in the future, all in line with the ultimate goals of directing features, TV Drama and TVCs. For now i’m really enjoying assistant directing on music videos and am also looking forward to getting much more involved directing them myself, but as for the immediate future I’m currently in pre-production for my next short film You & I, Brigitte, a tangled romance that explores the notion of reality vs. perception. It’s a very ambitious project that I’m incredibly excited to sink my teeth into, but it’s also going to need a lot of support so I’m currently seeking expressions of interest in the project to really help get it off the ground.
ROSALIE: I’m currently writing a feature script which should hopefully be ready in the next year to begin shooting. I would also like to continue working on more music videos, not only directing but also working in the art department. Also, working on Jess’ and my production company OH LADA! pictures.