Art or love? Can a writer have both?
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Anna Alfieri
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I started working on Borderline as a way of coping with the painful life circumstances I was going through in the Summer of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, which were terrible years for me. I was completely alone in London. My girlfriend had just come back to me to London and after a month permanently left me (for the second time). Before breaking up we had just relocated into a new house with a crazy drug addict landlord that hated both of us. Most of my friends and acquaintances had suddenly vanished. On top of this I was going through major depression after seeing all my efforts to become an actress in London in the last 8 years go out of the window. I had been trying so hard for so long (taking part to every last shitty film one could possibly think of) and nevertheless I was never moving forward.
Sounds familiar enough? I was so completely and totally alone in London and the only close companion I had was my beautiful ginger cat and best friend, Oliver (who is also in my film). It all happened just after Christmas.
I came back to London from my "fantastic" Christmas holiday in Italy, which was spent witnessing my 90 year old grandma die for three days. So not many Christmas lunches and celebrations that year.
When I arrived at my house in London my girlfriend had already left, and replaced me with a new girlfriend within a week, leaving my cat there alone with the crazy landlord, who really hated me and wanted me out of the house within 3 days. So I had 3 days to find a new cheap room for myself and Oliver (and finding a pet friendly place in London is not as easy as one might think). I thought I hit rock bottom. The level of stress, anxiety, depression was crazy and I started turning all my pain into creative power. A series of thoughts, moods, ideas, visions around a loose storyline. it was my way of surviving. The only thing that would prevent me from jumping under a train at that time. I was listening to Pink Floyd all the time and writing things down. On the tube, on the bus, on my way to work, in my room at night. My idea was initially to shoot things freestyle, as I was going through them, without a clear plan, but after having being abandoned by the first D.O.P I hired to do the job (another crazy dark story here that maybe I will tell later) I was forced to write down a clear story structure as I was interrupted in my freestyle creative process.
I was eventually able to find the perfect D.O.P (Ariel Artur) for my film after about 100 interviews and 3 months of search. Agathe Ferre (my co-lead in the film) was already on board as she was the first person I found when the old D.O.P was still on board. The story obviously kept evolving and it became way more complex and than I originally envisioned it, but I guess that is always the case. We ended up shooting in 3 different countries with a budget of 10,000, all the money I had been saving in London over 10 years as a working actress.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Because knowing what I stated above you would be a little bit curious? Jokes aside, this is a film that most people who have gone through a painful breakup or who are artists will be able to empathise with. I could bring up the whole "BPD" thing as well but I like to leave it as a bit of a grey territory here (as I never saw it as what the film is really about) and ask people who suffer from BPD, seeing if they themselves think they are represented in any sort of way.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
Being a film improvised from a 12-page skeleton, once the skeleton was finalised, and the film was shot (40 hours of improvised footage), the film kept evolving until it is what it is now (it is still subject to change).
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Not sure. Friends, family and people attached to it have absolutely loved it. But the outside world not so much so far.... I’ve had 1 festival entry (Cinequest) and 20 rejections so far. It has been very depressing for me after all I have done and gone through for this film. I don't feel like festivals really understood it and appreciated it for what it is. Maybe we live in the wrong climate, the wrong era maybe people nowadays just wanna watch different films and I think it is ultimately down to that.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Very much so. We started out with people telling me after watching it "You are crazy if you don't send it to Berlin..." Not only the film obviously didn't make it in Berlin but it was rejected in multiple LGBT film festivals that, to be honest with you, I would have sworn by.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
There is an incredibly moving story behind this film and that is that. Whether it will be praised or not is a different story. Hard work and suffering doesn't always get rewarded and we must be willing to accept it in life.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Obviously I would love more festivals to include it in their program. I am now in the process of reaching out to buyers and distributors. Hopefully some of them will say "Yes, we want to distribute your film because we believe in it and that it will be successful" but I try to stay grounded these days and to really manage my expectations.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
The main thing has always been and will always be to touch people's hearts, regardless of a mass success which is probably not going to happen as I see this as a niche film. Make them film as if they are living the story themselves. There is a rawness to this film whose purpose is not to filter things, not to give them a clear interpretation, but show them and leave the rest to the audience. No one is condemning or accusing anyone. No one is pointing the finger at anyone else. I believe people who have gone through something similar will be touched. But the film is trying its best to defy stereotypes and it is constantly choosing the "non obvious" way of describing events or recounting things, which means some people will appreciate it, some others won't.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
I think any question regarding Borderline Personality Disorder is likely to do that. As I said before, it is a bit of a grey area in this film and my intention was never to label anything or anyone but to simply show things without judgement. If anything the question that is likely to emerge at the end of the film would be "Is this person suffering from a mental illness? Or is she simply a very sensitive, very complex person?". Another question that is likely to spark a debate will probably be "How far would you go for the sake of your art?". Some people may not agree with the bottom line of this film and some others will love it I think. Any artist or creative will probably get it. But what about all the others?
Would you like to add anything else?
There is so much I could say about this film, including the fact that my cat (Oliver), my best friend and most loyal companion, who was heavily featured in the film and whom I named my production company after, left this world two weeks before the film's premiere and taught me what real loss and what real pain was. It is almost as if with this film I always felt like things could not get any worse, any more painful, and then something happened to show me that in fact there is no limit to how bad things can go. Losing Oliver has been to date the most painful experience of my life – more painful than what pushed me to make this film in the first place; more painful than what it took me to be able to complete it; more painful than being rejected from 20 festivals. It was like loosing my own kid. It is a bit funny as anything I am doing for this film now is in fact my way of honouring Oliver's memory, and right now it is the only thing that makes sense to me. So yeah, I guess the film and the intention behind it has evolved a lot since the very start.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
A lot of things are going on in my life right now and I am definitely having the biggest revelations I have ever had. I am changing perspective and I am revisiting my priorities. And redefining what I thought I needed in order to be happy. I firmly believe everything is happening now is in fact laying the foundation for my next project, which is likely to be way more complex than Borderline... So, good luck to me!
Interview: March 2019
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. 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
Art or love? Can a writer have both?
Director: Anna Alfieri
Producer: Anna Alfieri
Writer: Anna Alfieri
About the writer, director and producer:
ANNA ALFIERI is an Italian actress, director and producer born in Bergamo (Italy) on the 3rd of April 1986. Anna dropped out of university at the age of 19 (against her parents will) and moved to Milan to study Method Acting full time in a small, independent ground breaking school (Teatro Primo Studio), where she trained for two years. After attaining her acting certificate, not really envisioning many working opportunities in Italy, and having being advised to move abroad by some of her teachers, she moved to London (aged 22), where she retrained at Richmond Drama School and attended several specific film-acting focussed courses, whilst juggling between occasional, part time jobs. Anna ended up producing, directing and editing the film (which she completely self financed with the savings gathered in 10 years), initially more as a necessity than as a choice, but soon discovering it was in fact filmmaking in all its aspects and the magic that comes with giving birth to a film from scratch and the full creative control over it that she was truly passionate about, much more than just acting. The project has since become for Anna the most important thing she has ever done in her life and what that has been keeping her going all this time.
Key cast: Anna Alfieri, Agathe Ferre, Alice Frankham, Samanta Tamang, Faye Sewell, Ali Keane, Elsa Greselle
Looking for: sales agents, distributors, journalists, film festival directors, producers, buyers
Funders: Self-funded, Indiegogo
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? Cinequest - March 10, 11, 12, 15