A young women moves to a new city and finds herself describing vaginas for money, dancing with dogs, washing old men and falling apart. She’s fucked up and demanding answers.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Siobhan Jackson and Mischa Baka
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Siobhan: Well, we had no money and both of us wanted to make a feature so we thought, how can we do that? What is available to us and who might be interested in playing along? We’d made a short film together employing improvised performance and various unusual ways of generating story and really enjoyed it. We had no script and no reputation to trash so we figured we’d just start making and see what happened…allowing ourselves to enjoy the process and give ourselves permission to make a film without having a result in mind. We were lucky that we had some super generous actors that were prepared to play along without the security of a screenplay or pre-determined plot.
Mischa: We thought, let’s make a film with what’s available and see what we can learn about the process. Then while we were making it, we found ourselves talking about people who we find annoying - good looking charismatic people, men who love to over explain how the world works, young girls who have millions of followers on Instagram - people with a type of power that we admire, hate, love, desire or make us feel confused. Something of those conversations are in this film.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Siobhan: I think this film gives an audience access to something unusually raw and satisfyingly odd. Films are so often all smooth and tidy and well managed… I find myself getting tired of that. Nothing tidy and smooth about this film…it’s awkward and I think funny in a dark, emotionally honest kind of way. It’s a coming of age tale without any tidy solutions to offer. If you want to know something about how a 20-year girl, who was never on the cheer leading squad, feels this might just be the movie for you.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Siobhan: For me the film talks directly to all the weird, powerful, alarming and exciting feelings I remember having as a young woman. I figure most of us (boy or girl) experience something similar – a terror, mixed with an endless sense of possibility. Not to mention how the opposite sex behave around you at that age. Is there anything more universal than that? Yet, despite its familiarity, there is always something unbearably shocking about it all.
Mischa: I think we all want to connect with other people and community. We all need love and understanding. I think a capitalist, consumerist world often pretends to offer us these things but actually just takes our money or tries to control us – as a result life can be very confusing. I think this film offers a personal story of how one girl struggles to get past some of the bullshit to find a real human connection and to find a place where she doesn’t have to be perfect.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
Siobhan & Mischa: The script really developed directly onto the screen. We didn’t have anything written down or pre-determined. So, we basically just started playing with our lead actress, Lucy Orr, and fell in love with the personality she was able to bring to the screen. We played out scenarios and situations with her until something started to suggest itself. Ironically, because Lucy was so super lovely, we found ourselves wanting to see if we could break that, destroy it, by putting her in horrible situations. And that’s basically what drove the stories development.
We learned early on that Lucy’s taste in film included all types of challenging and provocative films, so we felt okay about taking her on this troubling journey, not to mention speaking openly to her about our darkest story ideas – the perversity of it all was exciting. But it wasn’t as grim as it might sound. As the film developed so too did our desire to balance out the horrible situations with moments of joy and some more playful stuff. The combination of dark and light elements felt more truthful in the end.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Siobhan: Well, someone dubbed it ‘the cinema of awkwardness’ which we can’t really deny (and probably wouldn’t want to) and everyone seems to fall head over heels for our lead actress, Lucy. Fair enough. She rocks. And their comments about her are testament to audiences desiring to see something other than the standard, one size fits all women on screen.
Mischa: People love our lead actress and we tend to agree. Some moments in the film lose a bit of momentum, but it tends to pay off for people in the final scene.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Siobhan: I was surprised (and delighted) by how funny people have found it. I knew it was odd and had lots of unexpected moments but given there are really no jokes in the film I hadn’t thought about it as being funny.
Mischa: I’ve been surprised by how people describe the film as being about awkwardness. I know the film has awkward moments, but isn’t life this awkward most of the time, or is it just me?
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
Siobhan: I most often think about making films as having a conversation with a whole lot of people I don’t know, about something I care about. The more people we can invite to join that conversation, the richer the conversation becomes. I know we make unusual films and finding audiences for them, in such a crowded world, can be hard, so any chance to share what we do is a welcome one.
Mischa: I’m hoping to achieve more exposure for the film so that lots of amazing people want to collaborate and work with us to make more films and represent a variety of experiences on screen.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Siobhan: We’d love to talk to anyone interested in making and promoting cinema that thinks a bit outside the industry box. This film was an invisible little project, humming along under its own steam. That suited our purposes but it’s unsustainable, and ultimately a bit lonely. We’d love to make the next one in a more visible space, sharing our conversations with a more diverse team of people and perhaps with a few more dollars. We’re only good at some bits of the film making caper…we’re ready to fall in love with collaborators that have all the skills we don’t. Which are plenty.
Mischa: We would love a great producer who wants to make our next film with us.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
Siobhan: I said to Mischa at the very beginning of making this film, that if I wanted to make another film after finishing this one then I’d consider it a success. Well, I definitely want to make another film and now I’m hoping it delights audiences enough that they would like us to make another one too. Fingers crossed.
Mischa: I was once at a tram stop where a group of young children were dancing proactively to a pop song with their mother nearby. A middle-aged woman, looking on, felt compelled to call them all sluts and yell at their mother for being a whore. I understood why the woman might be outraged, but I also understand how our culture encourages children in this way. I hope that a film like ours might promote more interesting ways to approach such situations, perhaps with more care, compassion or creativity. Seeing those children feel ashamed for their dance felt more disconcerting than the dance itself.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Siobhan: Humans are so smart and so dumb. I love that about them. This film is a study of that conundrum. Something of a celebration of the daft, joy of it all.
Mischa: As we commodify human connection with social media, porn and technology how do we maintain a space where people can still be messy, fragile and imperfect humans, without being judged?
Would you like to add anything else?
Siobhan: Often when I write or make something, or even just drive down the road, I look back and have no real memory of how it happened. I have odd memory gaps all over the place. I used to think that was a terrible shame and that I was missing out on something important.
Now, rather than worry about it, I love it, because when I look behind me I have this trail of debris - bits and pieces of stuff that are familiar but still mysterious. This film is certainly one of those things….how did it get here? It’s like the distant relative you sit next to at Christmas, familiar, but weird and unsettling. I’m happy with that. May there be endless bits of debris scattered throughout my life and career.
Mischa: I was thinking yesterday, while having my head massaged by one of those wire head massage things, there is so much pleasure inside our bodies just waiting to come out. So much pleasure just hidden beneath the surface that sometimes we completely forget exists. I would say, try and remind yourself, or others, of that innate pleasure every so often. It might be physical, it might be something nice you say, it might be a walk in the park.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Siobhan: Mischa and I are hoping to shoot a ghost film using a similar, experimental collaborative method later this year. Anyone interested in getting involved??
Mischa: I’m making a series of dance films that celebrate running around and moving in nature. Anyone is welcome to contact me and star in one. Also, I’m looking for a producer for a new feature film screen play.
Interview: April 2018
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTIAQ+, scifi, horror, world cinema. 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
You can say vagina
How does a girl turn ordinary into extraordinary?
Length: 71 minutes
Director: Siobhan Jackson and Mischa Baka
Producer: Siobhan Jackson and Mischa Baka
Writer: Siobhan Jackson and Mischa Baka
About the writer, director and producer:
Siobhan is a screenwriter and director lecturing at the Victorian College of the Arts. She recently completed her first feature film, You Can Say Vagina.
Mischa is a screenwriter and director interested in a naturalistic approach to writing and directing film dialogue. He has a special interest in dance films.
Key cast: Lucy Orr, Tom McCathie, Jesse Richards, Josh Price, Liza Dennis.
Looking for: producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists.
Social media handles: www.youcansayvagina.com
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? : For Film’s Sake (FFS) Sydney, Sunday April 15. 2018. https://www.forfilmssake.org/you-can-say-vagina-aus