Tenika Smith will be speaking at:
St Kilda Film Festival Forum
Tuesday 24 May, 6.30pm, St Kilda Town Hall.
Logline: Trouble finds those in dark places.
Director: Tenika Smith
Producer: Michael Ciccone
About the director and producer:
Tenika graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts where her final film, Thanks for the Ride, took out the top undergraduate script award and went on to a number of festivals including, Melbourne International Film Festival, Las Vegas Film Festival and Flickerfest. She currently works in corporate film/advertising while she continues developing creative projects.
Michael is a co-founder of Truce films. One of his recent short films Slingshot won Best Australian Film at Flickerfest and in 2013 he co-produced the short We've All Been There which won the Tropfest film festival. Many of Michael's films, including collaborations with Tenika, have done well on the festival circuit. He is an active producer in advertising while he continues producing creative projects with his partners at Truce.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists):
Alight is reaching the end of its festival run, so we are interested mostly in partnerships that will help broaden the film audience.
Made in association with: Truce Films
Congratulations! Why did you make this film?
Mostly I had a creative itch after directing corporate films for a year after graduating from film school, so I wanted to partake in a creative project that could be made relatively easy (I was about to go travelling for 6 months) - so I wrote a short script, with essentially two characters, that had the ability to be filmed over one night.
Story-wise, the idea had come to me a few months earlier and I wanted to explore the concept of masculinity with a sensitivity that perhaps only a woman could find (or at least that was my justification for making back to back films with male leads!). It was a simple concept, but something I thought strong enough to move an audience if well-crafted.
Why is it called Alight?
The film is called Alight because one of the characters asks for "a light" (a lighter) which acts as the catalyst for an explosive, violent encounter - as if setting something alight. I thought it was cute during the scripting stage, and I'm still hoping that people understand why it's called that! Haha.
What led you to this story?
I find that most of the time my story/film ideas come to me out of the blue, as opposed to me finding them. It usually starts with a visual image or moment of time popping up in my mind, which I then find myself exploring further. For Alight the image of two people fighting and then crying into each other's arms as they hold one another came to me.
From there I had to figure out who those people were, why this happened and what does it mean/what am I trying to say? This film is very much a vignette though - a moment in time between two strangers - so some of those questions only need to be answered in my mind and the actors' minds as opposed to the audience having all of that information.
Is this a personal or universal story for you?
Very much a universal story. Most of my films so far have been universal stories - despite the concept of "write what you know" being something that people often say, we all experience emotions and that can be our common tie to the stories we create and consume.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
I've been quite surprised with how positive the feedback has been from audiences, particularly male dominated audiences. I'm surprised mostly because the film was a small project for us - a one night shoot, something that I potentially rushed making because I was desperate to make a film and was about to leave the country. Unfortunately I haven't been able to attend a number of the screenings it has had, but I've had a lot of wonderful responses about the impact it has had on the room.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
It's surprised me as I mentioned above - because of the scale of the project. However, I still do believe the concept to be powerful, so I can see why it has been able to make an impact.
What are you looking to achieve by having this film more visible on this platform?
For me, films have no purpose without an audience. If you're telling a story, you need people to listen and react to it. It's also a nice pay-off for the team who spend their time and energy working on the film - whether it's a one day shoot or a 4 week shoot.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify the film’s message?
We've been in conversation with a number of organisations who are raising awareness of social violence who are interested in forming partnerships with us to spread the anti-violence message. We have already partnered with Step Back Think, who have promoted the film in order to spread this message, to encourage people to think about their actions and the impact they may have.
Our partnerships with organisations such as Step Back Think provide a great platform for our film to be shared and a dialogue created.
What type of impact would you like this film to have?
I think my desired impact for this film is the same as usual - I want to move an audience. I want to take the opportunity to make them feel something. This film is different in the partnerships that we've formed with organisations such as Step Back Think, so if the viewing of this film can help impact someone's attitude towards violence, then that is absolutely an added bonus.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
I think there's a few questions in relation to social violence - but for me, that all stems from the concept of masculinity, and the way we raise boys with a (often dangerous) notion of what it means to be "a man." That's a big societal question, far bigger than the film, but if Alight can contribute to the conversation, or help spark a conversation, then I'm more than happy with that.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The previous question made me think of the documentary 'The Mask You Live In,' which I saw at the Las Vegas Film Festival a couple of days after Alight screened there. I think it's an important film on the issue of masculinity and felt serendipitous to have seen at the same festival as Alight's first screening.
Here is my website:
What next for you? What films and other work are you developing or directing?
I am currently in post-production on a short film Rum & Raisin, which is similar to Alight in that it was a small (even smaller crew!), one-night shoot, vignette piece. I am also in post-production for a music video with Melbourne artist Evan who I have collaborated with frequently with music composition for my films. I am also developing a short film Beginnings in collaboration with Michael Ciccone (again), and also busy developing two feature screenplays.