When a botany student begins to experiment with orchid pollination, she comes to terms with her own sexuality.
Interview with Writer/Director Sonja O'Hara
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you so much! There can sometimes be a "boys club" sort of vibe in the film industry, academia, and definitely within the world of science. I became intrigued by the idea of writing a science fiction short that not only passed the Bechdel test, but that also contained exclusively female and non-binary characters. All that being said, my film is also a playful exploration of beauty, sexuality and sentient plant life.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
I like to tell dark, provocative, cerebral stories starring bold female leads. If you’re into edgy, visual filmmaking that plays with magical realism, I think you’ll really enjoy my movie.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
"Anatomy of an Orchid" explores the alienation and subsequent awakening of Cassie (played by extraordinary non-binary performer Jes Tom). After an adolescence spent struggling to connect with everyone around her, she develops an intense kinship with her "pet" orchid after learning that the flower's reproductive system contains both male and female parts. Through the use of surrealism (inspired by Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman) I wanted to whimsically examine this burgeoning inter-species friendship.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
Oh, it’s evolved so much! The script actually began with an entirely different central protagonist. I play Dr. Charlotte Naples, this adjunct Botany professor, and in an earlier draft it was more about my character’s obsession with flower sexuality and orchid pollination. But, as I was workshopping the script in my writing group, it became apparent that is was actually Dr. Naple’s wounded student, Cassie, who was the proverbial “orchid” of the title. She was really the heart of the story, so I did a full rewrite from that perspective, and suddenly, everything clicked.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
We’ve just started the festival circuit really, but I can say that the feedback has been incredibly positive. Getting into HollyShorts, which is an Oscar-qualifying fest, has been exciting and I was also recently nominated for “Best Screenplay” for my script at JTIFF alongside Ethan Hawke’s beautiful new film BLAZE. To see your name alongside one of your idols was really cool.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I keep on hoping to get into a really heated debate about plant sentience but sadly that hasn’t happened yet. I’m personally hoping for a WESTWORLD-style future where the plants take over.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I’m enthusiastic about sharing this passion project with other cinephiles! I’m a queer filmmaker and WeAreMovingStories has covered FrameLine, Female Eye, Outfest, and so many other fests I love. I’m just happy to be part of the conversation.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
My co-director and cinematographer Dan McBride and I made this short with an incredible artistic team and I wouldn’t change a thing. Moving forward, I’d love to collaborate with like minded companies that I think are doing brave and inspiring work – the A24’s, Annapurna’s, and HBO’s of the world!
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I would feel really fulfilled if this odd little art piece encouraged anyone out there to reconsider their relationship to plants and animals.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Is human life intrinsically more valuable than other life forms? We sure do a lot of damage...
Would you like to add anything else?
If you end up enjoying my film, I’d love for you to check out my series DOOMSDAY, which is available on Amazon Prime. It follows a matriarchal cult in the Catskills and explores how youthful idealism can evolve into deadly extremism. It’s really dark and haunting and was a finalist for the Sundance Lab and went on to win at The New York Television Festival. You can watch the trailer here.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
My new series ASTRAL was just greenlit by Adaptive Studios (HBO’s “Project Greenlight”) and I’ll be writing and acting in the first six episodes! I also signed with my dream agency, WME, last month and that’s really been game changing. I’ve had a great past year as a filmmaker and actress and that’s definitely not something to ever take for granted.
Interview: August 2018
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, 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
Anatomy of an Orchid
When a botany student begins to experiment with Orchid pollination, she comes to terms with her own sexuality
Length: 8 minutes
Director: Sonja O'Hara & Dan McBride
Producer: Karin Agstam, Vincent Petrosini
Writer: Sonja O'Hara
About the writer/director:
SONJA O'HARA is an award-winning filmmaker and actress who was recently chosen as one of the "Ten Filmmakers To Watch in 2017" by Independent Magazine. Past recipients of this honor have included Barry Jenkins (MOONLIGHT) and Effie T. Brown (DEAR WHITE PEOPLE.) Her work has been nominated for the Streamy Awards for her series Doomsday, available on Amazon Prime.
Key cast: Jes Tom, Sonja O'Hara, Ami Sheth
Looking for: journalists/distributors
Made in association with: Boheme Film
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month?
HollyShorts Film Festival, August 12th at 2:30pm at the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, California.