The most loyal bonds between new friends are those sealed in blood.
Interview with Director Sebastian Bertoli and Producer Jeni Bezuidenhout
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
S: It was the 2nd year in a row that Chris Bennett, Isabelle Bertoli and myself had tackled the 48 Hour Film Project, a competitive filmmaking event where teams spend 48 hours straight writing, shooting and editing films. After a successful first year we decided to add some more exciting creatives to the mix. We were lucky enough to get talented filmmaker/screenwriter Sasha Kane and onboard my fellow partner-in-crime and company co-founder Jeni Bezuidenhout as actor and producer.
Add to this actor Aimee Sanderson who brought with her a gang of really enthusiastic (and mostly first time!) crew who wanted to all collaborate on something super fun and you have the perfect storm for the fun little short that we ended up making. For me, the cherry on top was Stephen Chambers' violent and swaggering music all of which was composed in a period of less than 24 hours!
As to why we made this particular film, I really think it was a combination of tastes and sensibilities of the artists involved at that certain point in time. We all really wanted to make a film with strong female characters and the playful, violent style of the exploitation flicks that Australia and the US was making in the 1970s seemed like a good vehicle for that.
We actually didn't get over the line for the 48 Hour Film Project but after spending several months in post-production we ended up with the fun, irreverent and weird little short that has just had its world premiere at the Bluestocking Film Series in Maine, USA.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
S: It’s super fun and stylish and aimed at audiences who enjoy genre films. It’s part Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and part Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. We love films with complex female characters, where the women aren’t reduced to wives/girlfriends, daughters and mistresses. In our film Becky, Moonbeam and Ophelia take a very direct and violent approach to express their disillusionment with the world in the form of a halfwit motivational speaker. I guess it could be cathartic for some audiences - at the least audiences seem to heartily enjoy sharing the journey of these three rampaging ladies.
J: I think if you feel like something a bit kooky then you will enjoy watching this mashup film we made. This film is very playful in its stylised approach as it tells the story of three women on a journey in which no one knows where they are going. They don’t even know, and there is a freedom in that. To me this piece is almost a snippet in what would be a rollercoaster of a journey for them. I think ultimately if their story would to be continued...the consequences of their actions would soon be on their heels.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
J: I think our film could really start opening up conversations about women in film. Whether that be positive or negative. Our women are definitely not the heros/heroines. They aren’t moral citizens. But they are just human, very flawed and immoral humans. Why? I am always fascinated by how a person has become who they are, in our film we don’t answer that. But I do think it is important to ask those questions in order to start understanding each other better. We also strongly play with the idea of ‘bonds’. How are bonds formed and how far can one go once those strong bonds have been established.
A lot of friendships can become almost like a secret pact and sometimes those things aren’t always the vehicle to positive outcomes. There are so many events of high school suicide pacts and group related violence everywhere in the world. How does one open up a conversation about it without alienating or romanticizing the topic? I think sometimes our film treads the line very closely.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
S: I guess the film we shot wasn’t actually the film that we discovered in the edit. We spent a bunch of time in post trying to get all the elements to where we wanted them. The script was written in less than 6 hours and so there were a couple of holes that we had to shore up. But the film we ended up with once we finished editing and grading it is something that we’re proud of.
J: I am very proud of our rough and flawed exploration film. As young artists we are still finding our voices. The challenge of making a piece in 48 hours forces everyone involved to work from an exhausted and instinctive place, freed from a lot of self consciousness. As a result you get to explore and challenge yourself as an artist and ultimately bring that to the script that is also still very fresh. As an actor at first I was so stuck to make choices, everything was happening so quickly. And that is what everyone had to do. Once you took the first step, things just started to come together. Honestly the process of watching this film develop was more like a continuous question of ‘What is this nonsensical thing we are making?’. It was great!
What type of feedback have you received so far?
J: We have received a mix bag of responses. Some were disappointed that the men were portrayed as ‘disappointing’, or ‘good for nothing’. But honestly with our piece we had no intention to portray men in any way other than what the situation was. Our film organically through improvisation developed our ‘Thomas Cox’ character, which was our motivational speaker who questioned mostly ‘What would the cow do and then I do the opposite’.
To me our male character is one of the funnest, non serious elements of the piece. In saying that, it could have just as easily been a woman. The piece was also made by a lot of talented men, who absolutely loved the choices we made. I think this type of feedback is great, let's get talking about it. Other types of feedback we got was about the violence in the piece. When we decided to make a revenge exploitation flick we knew that the elements within the film was going to be violence.
The reasons for the killings in the piece are completely unknown, so when the audience watches it, it is always interesting to see what they themselves put onto the characters as to ‘why’ and their ‘motive’. Which once again brings up the questions of ‘What would make a person do this?’. The film's energy is very fun, almost like we are floating through the experience. Is this how it feels when one does act out against humanity? If so, oh god. How does one stop someone? Human behaviour is so interesting and I hope that in the future we can create a film that delves even deeper into this.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
J: I am originally from South Africa, so I come from a place where things like this could easily be a reality. I myself cannot watch films that are too violent visually and I do question when I do watch those type of films why, what is the point? But I do believe that we live in a world that is so desensitised that we find it hard to watch the news when bad things happen, but we could easily watch the exact same acts in a movie and not flinch. That to me is scary.
So the feedback does challenge me personally, because as a creator the type of work I want to connect with the world with isn’t violent or playing with stereotypes. But it is always asking questions of the audience and giving them the awareness that they do and can take personal responsibility for their actions. If every person did that, I’d like to think the world would be a more harmonious place.
S: We’d just love to get as many eyeballs on this as we can! It’s definitely not the last film that we’re going to make (we’ve shot two since) and so it’s about getting people excited about what we’re up to next.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
S: It would be amazing to get sales agents, buyers and distributors on board. We would like to explore our options with VOD.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
J: I think sometimes it’s great to have stories that don’t have to be taken too seriously, complex female leads that don’t always have to be serious or just a vehicle for story progression in a male protagonist's world. I do hope that the film can allow people to have a bit of fun watching it, but also start opening questions to some of the serious implications our actions have on this world. Whether or not you do get caught in the act of a small or big lie, it all has a cause and effect. Another thing I do want to raise awareness of is the pack mentality that it is so easy to fall into. How easy is it to lose your own sense of morality when you become a part of a larger one with a different standard.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
J: Do you stand up for what you believe in and be singled out. Or do you blend in and become faceless?
S: I'd like to explore the idea that there is a place for complex female leads in an odd little film like ours. It's not a comedy, but it certainly doesn't take itself very seriously at all. And so far, we've had a really positive response from audiences.
Would you like to add anything else?
S: Keep an eye on our Facebook pages for more from from us! For our company “Panopticon Collective”, and also for “Underground Media”, the company founded by Chris Bennett (who shot and edited our film).
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
S: I’m currently studying my Masters of Film and Television at the VCA, which is a blast. I wrote and directed goldfish, my first short at the VCA, in May and am shooting my next film, Dig, in just under four weeks. Currently in the midst of pre-production balancing a mix of location scouting, casting and assembling a crew.
J: I’m currently re-drafting my recent play ‘Thula Thula’ which focuses on three characters and the effects apartheid has had on them before and 10 years after apartheid in South Africa. This piece will get its first developmental reading later this year through Theatre451. As well as being in the midst of pre-production for a couple of short films I’ll be starting in. Also getting really excited for ‘Cat Sick Blues’ a indie horror feature that smashed out its festival run and now has a dvd release later this year.
Chris Bennett has just finished post-production on a short he directed which he’s getting ready to submit to Sundance.
Sasha Kane is working on several films at the moment, making fashion films for various labels, while working as a photographer and editor as well.
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
The Happiest Day Of My Life
The most loyal bonds between new friends are those sealed in blood.
Director: Sebastian Bertoli
Producer: Sebastian Bertoli, Jeni Bezuidenhout and Chris Bennett
Writer: Sasha Kane
About the writer, director and producer: (25 words each)
Sasha Kane is known for her dark yet whimsical works. Coming from a background as an embedded photojournalist, she is now a full-time screenwriter and filmmaker.
Sebastian Bertoli is an actor by trade and has directed for the last three years. Currently undertaking his Masters of Film & TV at VCA, he is passionate about creating original Australian content.
Jeni Bezuidenhout is an actor, writer and co-founder of Panopticon Collective.
She appeared in the award-winning horror feature ‘Cat Sick Blues’ (2015), currently assaulting audiences in festivals worldwide.
Key cast: Jeni Bezuidenhout, Aimee Sanderson, Isabelle Bertoli
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Sales Agents, Buyers, Distributors, Film Festival Directors
Made in association with: Underground Media and Panopticon Collective
Release date: 16 July 2016