Veronica, a frumpy video shop assistant, exaggerates on her profile when joining up to the Dream Date website. Soon she is lured into a flirtatious chat with a mysterious subscriber and her fantasy transports the conversation inside a vintage movie playing on the video shop TV.
Interview with Writer/Director Sarah Mallabar
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you! The intention was to make a film that evokes emotion and addresses how women are portrayed in film, television and online. The directorial approach intends to reveal stories within stories, unveiling scenes through a series of stylish vignettes as observed via TV and computer screens, thus merging fantasy with reality. These screens become the portals of wish fulfillment for a strong female protagonist who uses the internet dating site to reinvent herself and escape from her drab, ordinary life as a video shop assistant.
The short film script always was intended to be produced as a director’s calling card, with an ambitious goal to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, which we achieved in 2016 within the Short Film Corner.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Dr Sugarloaf is a romantic black comedy with a ‘James Bond’ style twist. The film opens with a 007-inspired animated title sequence and includes subtle visual references to the famous spy action genre with glamorous settings and the obligatory silver birch Aston Martin DB6.
The narrative twists and turns towards unexpected destinations; darker elements with sinister undertones engage the audience inside each of the characters’ internal processes of self discovery.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Personal conversations with internet dating subscribers without credible profile photos inspired the theme for this film. This story was written as a means to resolve an unfinished conversation, to find out ‘what happens next’ after online date chat with an anonymous subscriber stops abruptly.
Statistics suggest that 80% of internet dating users give false information about age, weight or marital status in order to present more favourably for potential dates. More alarmingly, one in ten dating profiles are completely fabricated, perhaps by people with a variety of undisclosed motives from the subtle, the sublime and the nefarious.
This narrative seeks to identify with the real people behind these apparently ‘fake’, or at least highly exaggerated profiles and gain insight into the vulnerabilities of those hiding behind a virtual mask. The audience is therefore prompted towards universal recognitions of loneliness, fear, anticipation of intimacy, hope, pity and despair.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
The original script drew very closely on the James Bond films; as the screenplay developed the focus shifted towards the key themes and the iconic 007 references became more of a subtle homage through performance and production design.
The“Femme Fatale” character, played by Anna Herzog, was devised during the shoot to highlight the womanising habits of Dr Sugarloaf. Similarly, the Customer/Waiter, played by Dave Selby, became more of a ‘red herring’ with the addition of extra improvisation outside the video shop.
Writing the inner dialogue for the voice over evolved sometime after shooting. It was thought necessary to accentuate Veronica’s low self-esteem through her scathing and negative inner dialogue. This provides an effective counterbalance to the meek and pliable ‘Bond Girl’ persona, as Veronica’s fantasy is infiltrated by the Bond style movie playing on the video shop TV.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The film received extremely positive feedback at Cannes Short Film Corner 2016, from distributors and executive producers, as well as genuine enthusiasm from other filmmakers.
The audience said they became emotionally involved with the characters, enjoying the handy and assured transitions between the scenes as well as the vintage styling of the 1960s Bond sequences.
It is particularly pleasing to hear that audience sympathies were shifted from protagonist to antagonist throughout the story line. This was a very deliberate directorial intention and so rather satisfying to have achieved this specific reaction.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
This particular platform is keen to promote women in film and this production has a great deal of female influence within the key crew roles. The Executive Producer, the Writers, Director, Lead Actress and Editor are all women, so the creative driving force behind this production has come predominantly from the female perspective.
The film deserves a wider audience also to showcase the talents of those cast and crew who are newcomers to the industry. The project offered exciting opportunities to work alongside talented co-collaborators, experienced seasoned professionals and Oscar winners.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We would welcome all feedback from distributors, producers, sales agents, buyers, film festival directors and journalists, please do get in touch!
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
The desired impact is to enthrall, engage and entertain, to delight, inspire and move the audience towards emotional empathy with the characters.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
How do we present ourselves, our identities online and how does this affect others? Who do we think we are really chatting to online?
Would you like to add anything else?
The theme “Deepiaz” written and performed by Jools Scott was an early source of inspiration at the very heart of this story. The film is blessed with and enriched greatly by the fabulous musical collaboration between Jools Scott and Matt Sheeran, (brother to Ed Sheeran) and their various interpretations of this wistful and melancholic theme.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Sarah Mallabar (Writer/Director) is developing a feature film script and continues to produce music promo videos.
Brittany McComas' (Writer) feature film, American Fango, has since world premiered in New York. She continues to write and produce films for the international film market.
Olivia Murray (Lead Actress) performed recently in London at Spotlight UK in ‘Safe Word.’ She is currently shooting a short film called the Boudiccae and thinking about writing her first script.
Jack Waldouck (Actor) is an international model and continues to act in short films. Jack has recently performed in the Camden Fringe theatre production Ethical People.
Oscar Winning Editor Lizzy Graham continues to edit mainstream feature movies and commercials at Marshall Street Editors, London.
Composer Jools Scott has recently scored Departure starring Juliette Stephenson and continues to compose for film and theatre productions.
Interview: September 2016