Interview with director Helmie Still

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

Yes. When I was studying journalism I realized I preferred telling stories through images and film rather then writing them. It’s really amazing that I’m now able to combine the two. I try to translate the poetry words into film.

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

I don’t think it’s essential, but I do think you get into a kind of deeper level thinking about film when you talk and learn with other filmmakers. You get questions from teachers, students that push you to think on a different level and sometimes it makes you realize you have to go a different way with your film idea.

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

Keep going. I always get kind of wild when I start…the ideas just keep flowing in my head and then I start writing and get very excited and enthusiastic and I already see the film evolving inside my head. So the start part is easy and exciting, but then after the idea part you have to start the production process and finding people and trying to realize the film that is created in my head and sometimes it goes in a very nice flow but often it’s a bit of a bumpy road with ups and downs, which I enjoy as well. But you have to stay open for changes that come with the film making process. For the film The posh mums are boxing in the square I was talking to one of the persons who was financially involved and he said I was too ambitious. I looked at him and felt so much fire inside me that at that moment I realized you can never me too ambitious and I would show him.

  • 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 the most important lesson for me was to trust and also make choices on your intuitive feeling rather then overthink. The intuitive feeling part of making a film is maybe also a way to trust your own feelings and thoughts. During the filming process you have to make decisions all the time and the more films I make the better I can trust that feeling, so in stead of overthinking a shot, just go for it and most of the times the first one is the best.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

I started the production process in March 2020, but then the lockdown came and we had to change the dates. But in the end I have to say that Covid also made this film in a way possible. We produced and filmed this film in July 2020 when some of the restrictions during the lockdown where eased up. I found a swimming pool that is used by a school, but the schools were still closed, so we could film there. Also the underwater cameraman couldn’t wait to work again after sitting at home for months. He is a professional cameraman who works for discovery and did lots of underwater shoots. I had one big surprise during the production: the transparent box for the underwater shoot arrived from the truck and the driver put it in front of my door, I looked at it and It was all broken and smashed glass, so no box. And this was the day before the rehearsal! Of course I was overwhelmed by all kinds of emotions, but I stayed as calm as possible and had to trust the box making company that they would fix it and bring a new box on time. The next morning the driver arrived with the box.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

The hardest artistic choice was in the edit when I had to go back to the core message of the poem and film and get rid of beautiful shots in the edit to make place for the calmness you need to watch and listen to the words of the poem. The film serves the poem and not the other way around.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I’m lucky to work with a small team and do a lot myself, I produce – direct and edit myself so I have a small team with whom I feel a strong creative connection. Because the film is about a mum I needed to find a slightly older woman who could swim underwater for a long time and still be aware of facial expressions. Then I thought about synchronized swimmers and was lucky to find an enthusiastic director of Aquabatixs who does lots of underwater shoots and they train young synchronized swimmers. It was strange that I couldn’t give the crew a big hug when the film was a wrap, but instead of a hug I jumped into the water to celebrate!

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

It’s the filmmakers role to create something that comes from your creative mind and something that you think is worth it and makes the audience experience something they couldn’t experience anywhere else. So I don’t know what audiences want. I make and create because I have to, it’s a big part of my life, it’s a part of me… It is me.

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

Film Festivals are a great way of screening your film and bringing your film to an audience. I always send my films to filmfestivals because you want people to experience your film. When you see a film on a big screen with other people you really experience the whole feeling of a film. And filmfestivals are letting you as a filmmaker see new and different things and stimulate the creativity.

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

I believe every filmmaker has his/her own style, thoughts/creativity and that they shouldn’t be boxed in.