September is a visually driven piece that tells its story through imagery and behaviour. It centres around the theme of grief through the eyes of a father still dealing with the unexpected death of his eldest daughter. It's told from the perspective of his youngest daughter through voiceover.
Interview with Directors Tara O’Connell, Karina Banno
Congratulations! Why did you make this film?
Tara O’Connell (TO): I made this film because I needed to tell my story, I had been bottling all my emotions up for some time, it was a release for me to share it with everyone. I also wanted to make a film that was different to the norm, something very visual that would catch the attention of its viewers and I think we achieved that.
Karina Banno (KB): I made this film simply to work with Tara and her amazing story. I was privileged enough to be brought on to a well oiled machine that was really just waiting for an actor’s and director’s touch. The story is rich with themes of grief, loss, strength and family. I identified with the reality of each of these so much it was a film that I HAD to make. Tara was always a Cinematographer that I admired so much and the effortless passion, technique and vulnerability that she brings to her work was so engaging. I feel so lucky to have had the chance to collaborate with her.
Why is the film called September and how is the film autobiographical?
TO: The film is called September mainly because that is the month of my sister’s birthday but also that month triggers a lot of thoughts and feelings about my sister as another year passes without her here. It’s 100% authentic, the voice-over was recorded one morning in my bedroom, it was never meant to be perfect, it was meant to be real. Even though the film is autobiographical I never wanted to market or label it as that. I wanted the audience to be able to relate to it in whichever capacity they can. September is also around the time we were in pre-production. Everything at the time was pointing to that name, it just felt right to call it that.
How did you co-direct September?
TO: Karina sums it up perfectly.
KB: Being an actor, I was able to shed some light on the essential relationship you need to build with your actors before and during shooting. Tara and I were able to discuss optimal ways to audition our actors, which was pretty unorthodox from the normal style that most industry auditions use.
Given the film is deeply personal and heart wrenching, I thought it would be most suitable to reach out and touch our auditioning actors on a level that would translate to how they reacted to the story. We asked each of them to have a think, prior to their audition, about particular moments in their life where they felt loss, fear, etc. Each audition was then turned into more of a discussion. Tara could then connect with each actor having the vulnerability out in the open - real, raw - and identify which felt more like the identity she was representing in the film as her father.
Then when it came to the actual shoot, I was able to gently guide Will Gabriel given the tone he presented in his casting. Understanding an actor’s process allowed me to align an emotional timeline for Will to follow, which proved useful given we shot out of sequence. Just understanding the tone of each moment and its emotional weight, was how I contributed as co-director.
What type of feedback have you received so far about the film?
TO: A few people have expressed how raw it is, especially the voice-over. All the feedback has been really good. It’s not a happy film whatsoever, you might need some tissues by your side if you're going to watch it. I think everyone appreciates it for that, that it can make someone feel to that extent, there’s no holding back or shying away.
When I showed my Dad for the first time he cried, I didn’t expect him to. September has enabled me to express how I’m feeling without having to physically say anything at all.
KB: Firstly, everyone is just in awe of Tara’s cinematography. ‘Beautiful’ is usually used to describe the project, which it is and also the story, Will’s performance, the score, the camera work, the voice over, everything. It was such a humble combination of artists, and I think that shines through in the final film. Very personal and raw. It’s not often you can to truly represent the mind’s emotional journey, and I feel that translates well to audiences.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
TO: No it hasn’t. Grief is universal, everyone will experience it at some stage in their life, some a lot sooner than others but it’s something that’s inevitable, that’s why I think September is so relateable to its audience and why it’s so easy to connect with it on an emotional level.
KB: Not at all. The film means something different to each person who watches it that’s really the beauty in grief. It can be understood worldwide. Even if you took out the exceptional voice over Tara performed, the tone is clear, the visuals are so powerful.
It probably surprised me how rapid the emotions just bounce off the screen in the final edit. You just never know how two shots will work next to one another, but Tara really understood a balance required to evoke feelings in such a way as September does.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this platform?
TO: I would for people to see that when you make a film there are no rules, you can do whatever you want. There doesn’t have to be a certain structure you have to follow, make you own. You don’t have to hold back, being creative and making films is a beautiful thing, healing almost. I’d love for people to be inspired to make content that is different that doesn’t conform to the majority.
KB: I’d love to have more people see this beauty of a film, the work we put into this little baby, the journey it took to get from where it originated, to where it stands now, is really something. I admire people who want to lay all their emotions on the table, and Tara has no fear in expressing her truth to the world.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message and audience?
TO: Film Festival Directors & Journalists.
What type of impact would you like this film to have?
TO: I’d like September to impact the mentality of its viewers and their day to day thoughts and actions. Life is precious, appreciate your surroundings and what you have, do things that make you happy and at peace. It’s so easy to get caught up in life and its intricacies. None of us know how long we’ll be standing for, make it count.
KB: A goal that I’d like to achieve with September is the celebration of girl power Tara, Zanetta, Sharon, myself. We worked hard, and as a solid team, who delivered a strong piece of film. The structures of the industry should acknowledge the power that we have as female artists to demonstrate our abilities. Will and Brodie’s additions just strengthened our teamwork and skills to create a universally powerful film.
Lastly, what’s a key question that will help spark a debate about this issue and film?
TO: What separates grief and depression?
KB: Is there anything worse than the loss of your own child?
Interview: April 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
Director: Tara O’Connell, Karina Banno
Producer: Tara O’Connell
Looking for (ie buyer, distributor, sales agent, producer, medinterest) Media Interest
Funders: Pozible Campaign
Made in association with: Queer Film Collective
Where can I watch it? https://vimeo.com/155909246