Friendships, like fireworks, can fizzle or fly.
Interview with Writer/Director: Sarah Jayne & Ivan Malekin
Congratulations! Why are you making your film?
For Ivan and I New Year's Eve is always hyped as the party to end all parties – drinking, fireworks, hedonism and adventure – but after a series of disappointing New Year's we decided we’d rather do what we love instead on the night: make a film. We are also hardly party enthusiasts these days so this idea instantly made perfect sense. Filmmaking is a gruelling and drawn out process, but with Friends, Foes & Fireworks we wanted to strip the process back completely and work with a bare minimum crew, but most importantly with actors that have a sense of adventure and ability to think on their feet.
It has been a busy year for Nexus Production Group, producing various films back to back, touring with our awareness project Daughter and travelling to the Cannes Film Festival with a couple of shorts, plus running our own festival, Made In Melbourne. Each project has been an invaluable experience and an adventure, but each had a long pre-production, a large crew and an extensive casting process, not to mention a decent budget, requiring fundraisers and grants and crowdfunding to make them possible. So with Friends, Foes & Fireworks we just wanted to go back to basics and see what happens. No egos, no budget, no expectations as such, just the essence of why we got into filmmaking in the first place – fun with friends.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
The audience should watch this film because it is a character driven piece that reflects real life, the situations we find ourselves in and conversations we get pulled into while socialising with friends. Sometimes these situations force us to look at ourselves and our actions, sometimes the subject discussed is awkward, sometimes the conversation is fun and enjoyable and sometimes we hurt others with our words. As the film is all improv in style and acting, with only key plot points to keep the scenes on track, even us as directors don't know where the conversation will go. In editing it is going to be a lot of cutting to find the best and most interesting discussions and reactions. The film and its characters are also relatable, each with their own individual hopes, dreams and desires, realisations and disappointments, humanity.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
The personal and universal themes in this film are definitely friendship or the value of friendship, personal growth and the need to belong. These are the core themes to which the film and the characters situations revolve around. The place each character finds themselves in at the end of the film relates back to these themes one way or another.
I understand that you are following the example of the Mumblecore movement. How has this affected the development of the script?
The Mumblecore movement has very much inspired us to make a film like this. We have seen the style used for other indie feature films and we love the simplicity of the process - a small crew, conversation between characters driving the story and the improv aspect of acting. The raw shooting style which allows for low budget is perfect for this type of film and there never was a script, just outlines of what each person brings up next in dot point format. Each actor had to elaborate from the character breakdowns they were initially given and bring life to the character. The trick is that the acting is totally improv so, just like real life, you never know what your friend will say next and this makes your reaction real. It is the same with this feature and it took our actors a bit of character development to develop the human side to their character, first in the one on one talks with Ivan and I and then in private meetings between the actors. Just like real friends.
After the actors had their one on ones, Ivan and I met with them again and they knew their character better, their relationship with the other characters, even their history as friends was defined, so things did change a little from the original way we wrote the character background. But all for the better. The actors also asked for special meetings where they went back in time to a situation that caused tension between the group so on the shoot they can relate back to that birthday dinner that turned sour or that acting class they enjoyed. We always wanted that – to let the actors create the character from one short paragraph back story we gave each of them. We all have to be on our toes constantly and we have to trust the actors to know their characters and simply react – there is an authenticity to it and it is very exciting.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
People like the page on Facebook and then ask how many days the shoot will be and their response when we say, “all on one night on NYE ” is as you would expect – shock but also amusement as it is quite a challenge. The feedback has been positive though, people we have talked to seem interested in what we are doing and are waiting to see how we go pulling it off.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
We expected people to be shocked that we are shooting over one night, it was to be expected so the feedback was not surprising. It is a whole feature film, shot in one night and not just any night – NYE – the craziest night of the year so we understand that people may think we are a bit crazy, but Ivan and I are always looking for a challenge in film and to grow with each project, otherwise you are just going through the motions.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
Exposure more than anything at this stage. We want and need a solid following on all three of our social media accounts as we lead into this massive undertaking. We would also love an audience when the film is complete, the two go hand in hand, especially with feature films. With all the hard work, like any filmmaker we would like people to take notice and want to view the film and have that anticipation build up towards the premiere screening.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We would like any sort of interest from various different organisations and businesses. We are looking at applying for a select few international festivals so film festival directors from larger international festivals and well known festivals are a must. We would also like journalists to get in touch, we are happy to do interviews should they arise and of course we would not say no to distributors and buyers.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
We hope that the reception is positive despite the drama and story being directed mostly by the character driven content, which could be seen as heavy by people who are not familiar with Mumblecore films. The film deals with real life problems women face which are usually taboo in a lot of films, but we are not worried about censoring chatter about such topics. We have written dot points for our actors about subjects that divide people, like motherhood, the importance of image in the acting scene and same sex relationships, which cause much debate on social media.
We like that we are bringing real conversations and real people to the screens without worrying how that is going to offend someone. Our characters are not one dimensional, so we hope that aspect alone leaves a lasting impression and the audience thinking about the characters and the storyline long after the credits roll. We can't always control the way our NYE turns out when we spend it with other people, even friends.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What is your new year's resolution and what personal changes do you need to make to become a better version of yourself next year?
Would you like to add anything else?
Thanks so much for giving me the chance to share information about our feature film on your website. On the night we will be posting live videos on our Facebook and Instagram accounts so that will be the best way to follow this adventure and see what this feature film is truly about.
We also have a website page you can check out– www.friendsfoesfireworks.com
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Ivan is currently producing a feature film called Choir Girl, which is a gritty and provocative black and white film telling the story of a lonely photographer who becomes obsessed with an under-aged prostitute. She becomes his muse, and the photographs are a way out of the desperate life they are both trapped in, but the question of morality comes up and the viewer has to make up their own mind as to if he is using her or helping her.
Myself, I look forward to some free time to finish off my two short stories plus work on my short film and awareness project Daughter, which had a huge 2016 full of many achievements. The film is currently on the FANFORCE website waiting for people to become hosts who curate screenings at local cinemas, so I am hunting for ambassadors and people who are keen to spread the word.
Interview: December 2016
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Friends, Foes & Fireworks
Friendships, like fireworks, can fizzle or fly.
Length: Feature Film length - TBA
Director: Sarah Jayne & Ivan Malekin
Producer: Nexus Production Group
Writer: Sarah Jayne & Ivan Malekin
About the writer, director and producer:
Ivan Malekin is an award-winning director and editor and the Founder and Director of the Made In Melbourne Film Festival. His 2012 feature film, Dace Decklan: Private Eye, is insane and is available exclusively on Monster Box TV courtesy of Monster Pictures.
Sarah Jayne is a writer and sometimes art director and set dresser for indie film and television. Since 2013 she's been writing and directing her own work, her latest film Daughter is an educational piece on gendered violence, available to purchase via ATOM VIC.
Key cast: Asleen Mauthoor, Jess Riley, Whitney Duff, Lara Deam, Genya Mik, Dan Hill
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Film Festival Directors, Journalists, VOD distributors, sales agents and distributors.
Funders: Self funded
Made in association with: Nexus Production Group
Where will it be screened? Various VOD platforms, hopefully some major festivals, and independent cinemas.