In a neighbourhood rife with racial tension, a local girl falls for a recent immigrant who is the victim of prejudice and shame.
Interview with Writer/Director Toby Fell-Holden
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Balcony draws from a lot of places over a long period, I grew up on an estate a bit like the one depicted in the film, and I’m of mixed ethnic heritage so witnessed or experienced some of the racial tension in Balcony. Another short film by David Michod called ‘Crossbow’ was a big inspiration - that short was told entirely through voice over as a neighbour speculates about the reasons behind a tragedy next door but leaves us questioning our impression of the narrator. I always found it compelling and that informed the structure of Balcony and the way perspective could be explored.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Given how effective demagoguery tactics have been to make enemies of the other in recent political battles, be it the xenophobic sentiment partly responsible for the BREXIT or the rise of Donald Trump - now seems a good time to watch a film that challenges the viewer’s expectations and questions the extent to which we as an audience may be complicit in racial prejudice.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I think the suffering of Tina within her family and Dana’s encounters with racism are personal experiences that have much wider implications. Tina’s struggles tarnish the way she views the world, projecting darkness where there is light, which illuminates the driving force of the community’s collective hatred, and underpins the way racism grows into something volatile and dangerous at a societal level.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
The early drafts were more voice-over driven and it took a while to figure out that this was a story about perception and the way our own experiences can obscure us from seeing the truth. To swiftly build the friendship between the leads and maintain plausible ambiguities throughout scenes took some finessing while writing. The production was fairly close to what was scripted.
In the edit there was a little reordering of scenes to keep the pace flowing and further play into miscommunications. It also took some experimenting to find the right balance of information during the montage, such that the viewer had to work to fill in the blanks, but wasn’t so bombarded with information that they couldn’t have a visceral and emotional experience.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Generally it’s been very positive and well received across a wide range of communities.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
It’s a provocative film so it’s definitely ruffled some feathers and pushed me to think about creative responsibilities in storytelling, but I think the issues raised are important and I’ve been exploring them throughout past films. The creative obligation is to stay true to yourself and what you need to express, how a film’s received is out of your hands.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
The more people can hear about the film and seek it out the the better - it’s been embraced through many diverse communities and venues, from pride celebrations to youth groups. There seems to be an appetite for the film’s message across a wide range of minority groups - I hope that will continue.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We’ve been quite fortunate with festivals and OUAT media are our distributor. It would be great to talk further with journalists - the film’s about very current tensions and while a 17 minute short can’t address all the angles of a very complex issue, unpacking the film more through conversation would certainly help increase awareness around the film’s content.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I’d love for more young people to see the film and for it to get out to schools. I think many teenagers are affected by the issues in BALCONY in their own lives, so if the film can start more conversations amongst young people who are at a formative moment in terms of their sense of identity and attitude towards minority groups that would be a positive thing.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What position do viewers take towards Tina at the end of the film?
Would you like to add anything else?
The film was a huge undertaking, a labour of love that required many favors and the support of many friends. Balcony’s beholden to the good will and passion of many people who believed in the project. We’re also grateful for the support from Film London’s London Calling Plus scheme aimed at supporting BAME filmmakers - Balcony wouldn’t exist without them. And to Western Edge Pictures for coming on board as our exec producers.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
The producers and I are now working on a feature that explores some of the issues raised in Balcony though it’s in a different context. We’re excited about that project!
Interview: July 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
Length: 17 mins
Director: Toby Fell-Holden
Producer: Tom Kimberley, Ali Mansuri
Writer: Toby Fell-Holden
About the writer, director and producer:
Writer/Dir: TOBY holds a Columbia Film MFA and BA from Oxford University. BALCONY won a Crystal Bear at Berlinale and is long-listed for the 2017 Oscars.
Producers: TOM studied producing at the Media Business School in Spain, and works at Umedia International within International Film Sales.
ALI holds an MFA in Producing and Directing at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and is head of production at Split the Sun.
Key cast: Charlotte Beaumont, Genevieve Dunne
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): buyers, film festival directors, journalists.
Funders: Film London
Made in association with: Western Edge Pictures and Clipside Films
Release date: October 15th 2015
When and where will it screen in the next month?
* Giffoni Film Festival, Italy
In Competition, Gryphon Award Nomination
24 July, Citadel of Cinema, Giffoni Valle Piana | Tickets
* Traverse City Film Festival (Michigan Premiere)
'Best of Fests' Programme
30 July. 12.00PM, Old Town Playhouse |Tickets
* Melbourne International Film Festival
Official Competition, Oscar Qualifying Best Narrative Short
31 July, 11.00AM, Kino Cinema 2 |Tickets
4 August, 18.45, Hoyts Melbourne Central Cinema |Tickets
* Alpinale Film Festival (Austria Premiere)
Official Competition, Golden Unicorn Nomination
9 - 13 August. Screening Dates/Tickets TBC
* Flicker's Rhode Island Film Festival (New England Premiere)
Official Competition, Oscar Qualifying Grand Prize Best Narrative Short
9 - 14 August. Screening Dates/Tickets TBC