Interview with director Gaile Garnelyte



Gaile Garnelyte was born in Vilnius, Lithuania. During 2009-2013 she studied screenwriting at Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. Since 2013 she has been actively working in the field of screenwriting, writing for different shorts („Experman“, dir. R. Marcinkus (2013), „Jackie“, dir. G. Tamosevicius (2015), „Dear Theresa“ , dir. I. Sakalyte (2014)). She is also writer and co-writer of various TV series and programs and screenwriter, script supervisor for Lithuanian documentary films („The Nest“ dir. R. Matacius (2018), „Fierce Gods“ , dir. V. Oskinis (2019)). She was the story editor for the documentary film „Final Destination“ which was selected for IDFA and won the nomination as the best student film (dir. R. Marcinkus, 2013). Gaile Garnelyte has currently finished directing her first short film The Robot and The Butterfly (2021).

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I remember working as an extra in a big foreign feature film which was shot in Lithuania. I was in 12th grade, just before finishing school. It was a great feeling to see that so many people are working together in order to make that film. I liked the feeling of unity very much and it might be the beginning. I finished screenwriting at Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre and for ten years it felt right to tell the stories in a form of screenwriting. However, at some point, I‘ve missed being in charge of the final result. So I started to direct my first short documentary film as an experiment in my life. This experiment is still continuing and I seem to like it.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I think it is not essential and many filmmakers manage to do it without film school. But I think it is easier to get into industry after finishing film school – you get connections and your future team there. Also, the tasks are small so you can test working with different people without big commitments. Also you get to do many tasks with deadlines which is a great training for the future. I think each destiny of filmmaker is different and for some film schools might be a crucial part of their journey while for others everything begins after finishing school or with no school at all.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

I think for me it is harder to get started. Keep going when you already began the project and have your team involved is not that hard – you simply can‘t quit. I‘m more a long distance runner so once I start the project for real and have the team involved, I never quit. It was hard to start making my first documentary film as I didn‘t manage to find a producer for quite a long time. So I‘m very happy that I didn‘t stop and kept going before I found one.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

I think that making my first film as a director was a one big lesson – I have learned so many new things and qualities. It was great to understand that whenever I had problem with creative desicions it worked for me talking to different people about possible solutions. Even though different people had different ideas, I somehow managed to connect them in my head and in the end I was happy with the results.

  • How do you find or generate ideas for documentaries or is it a different process for every project?

I think ideas can come in different ways. When I was working on my first documentary film as a director, I first had the general idea that I wanted to make a film and only then did a specific character come along. It was a friend from my school days and I realized I wanted to tell her story and it would be interesting for a short film. The idea for my new project, a full-length documentary, was proposed by the camera man of the film and very soon it became my own.

  • Can you describe your approach to writing treatments?

Documentary is difficult for writing both treatments and screenplays because screenwriting in documentary basically happens only when the all material is shot, during the editing. Then both processes – scriptwriting and editing – merge into one and the story of the film is being created. However, I think that writing the treatment helps the director a lot because, at the time of writing the treatment, she or he has to define the future vision of the film and the possible ways of telling the story. So I look to the treatment as a plan that helps in the beginning of filmmakingwhich is a part of creating a vision, but as the shooting begins, you need to be flexible and know that the plan can change.

  • Do you ever use the camera yourself?

No, I have almost no knowledge of using the camera and I am happy to work with a cameraman who does his job very professionally. I don’t have the goal of learning to film myself – I think it’s important to have at least a minimum of knowledge, but also to be really professional in one field and not a little bit professional in all the fields. Since my background is screenwriting I want to continue to deepen this knowledge and put it into practice when making films.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

Yes, I think it is very important that the film is understood by the audience. Making a film is a long and collective process, so I always show it to other people before finishing to see if the idea of the film is clear not only for me but for others too. However, I think it’s important to follow your inner intuition and not only rely on other opinions. If the creator likes the film, very often the audience will like it too.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

I think film festivals are almost the only one platform for a short film distribution because they usually aren’t included in the repertoires of the cinemas. Without them, the movie would just fall asleep in the hard disk, so I think it’s necessary to try to show it in the film festivals as many times as possible.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I don’t think the style of making the film is important – the most important that the idea is told, and the form can be chosen by the author. It is often the case that the idea of ​​the film suggests the form itself – some ideas ask for a classic narrative style, others want a more experimental form.