Interview with director Selin Bonfil

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

Around the age of 12, my friends and I used to play around with a digital camcorder that we had at the house for home videos. With the help of some costumes, toys and my mother’s make-up we would spend entire afternoons in front of the lens. From shooting ridiculous talk shows to small sketches to ninja fight sequences – always improvised on the spot – I realized early on that this visual language was something I could grasp naturally. As I grew older and look back at the things we made over time, I knew that I would always be able to express myself through film.

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

Not necessarily. Film school provides the visual storyteller with the network and the skills in the craft to help them go forward in their passion for filmmaking, but both of those things can be attained outside of an institute as well. The only crucial factor here is self-discipline. I’m very grateful for my time in film school, the amazing and talented people I have met and the necessary skills I have learned, but now I understand that it’s not the school but my personal drive that will be essential for me to become a productive and established filmmaker. Read, write and watch, however you can, whatever you can – with these I know there is never such a thing as too much.

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

I believe that both have their own difficulties. When getting started not only do you have to hold a very strong determination towards where you want to be but also you need to carry an optimistic mindset, protecting yourself from the amount of rejection we all inevitably receive as aspiring artists. I feel like the difficult thing about pushing forward in a career in such a fast-moving industry is not losing your grasp on your own voice, what you want to say and who your audience is.

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

The most important thing I learned was that communication is the key. In my projects prior to this one I really struggled with verbalizing the images in my mind and I often had difficulty inspiring my crew in the direction that I wanted. With practice, that wall between my mind and my words felt thinner. Through all the stages of production for A Place in Between, I was able to reach a level of creative communication with my crew members that I had not experienced before. The reason I call it the key of communication is that through my choice of words and stimulating descriptions I felt I was able to tap into the individual creative spaces of my team, and watched them bring those into their own work, coming up with so much more. This gave the film another level of richness and depth that I would never be able to achieve otherwise.

  • 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?

The two main realities my producer and I had to tackle throughout our entire production were budgeting and scheduling. Managing rehearsals and shooting times for a team of with six actors and thirty crew members within an entire shooting schedule of just 3 days, on a low budget was simply, tough. With my three-woman-power team, Louise (Producer), Ingie (Assistant Director) and Zoe (Cinematographer) we dodged many bullets and managed to get – almost – everything we needed. As we faced unexpected issues with scheduling, such as actors changing pre-planned times during production (!), we were compelled to make compromises on our coverage of the scenes. Having to rush from one scene to another in order to get it all in within the given hours, we ended up missing certain shots we could have shot otherwise. And so, these issues had to be tackled in the editing room, by cutting some scenes out or making do with what we have. Yet, here we are with a cohesive film that perhaps we might not have created without the limitations we had to work around.

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

In the editing process for A Place in Between, we’ve had a couple of scenes and sequences that stood out when the film actually came together. After many versions of trying to incorporate them in and playing around with the placement of scenes, I finally decided to leave about three to four scenes out of the film. For a feature-length project, this wouldn’t have been a big deal but for a short form piece, this meant cutting almost a whole days worth of work (out of 3) from of the film. I don’t believe this could have been avoided beforehand. I learned how much the script actually takes on once the cameras start rolling and therefore should not be too loaded. Now I know I will make sure to keep the script bare bones, stripped to the absolute essentials, in order to have flexibility during production and that we get the coverage the film needs.

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

Almost all of my entire team for this production was made up of close friends and classmates from school. Having people who know me well and understand what I want to say with this project was crucial for my process. Through the entire production, I was lucky to have a team with a truly unique level of communication and camaraderie that I never experienced on any project before. Our days were long and demanding so the energy amongst the team had to be high and positive, which magically remained that way until the very end. I also understood that keeping up a positive attitude, good communication and belief in my project motivated the team to remain engaged. I intend to have the same if not even better energy in my future projects.

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

Audiences want to feel, anything but definitely something. A person walks into a theater or selects a movie mostly with an idea of what they would want to get from it. And yes, it is the filmmaker’s role to think about that. A film feeds on, grows, transforms with, and truly exists with its audience. I believe a filmmaker should not give an audience what they want but definitely something they can respond to, either positively or negatively. A filmmaker that is not only aware of what the audience wants but also knows how to draw and manage the responses from the audience is truly in control of his or her work. But to actually want to have that control or not is up to the filmmaker, as there are many ways the way the audience and the film can interact.

  • 9. 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 have been crucial in the growth of my projects, as they have given me the chance to promote and showcase my work to audiences that I would not have been able to find on my own. I do think they are necessary for filmmakers like myself who are just starting to put work out there and need a helping hand. In addition, festivals a little smaller in size offer selected filmmakers a lot of perks and tools that can be useful in giving the filmmakers a way to project their ideas and processes to people across the world.

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

I believe it’s about finding what you want to say and why you, and not anybody else, should be saying it. Forming a voice is a career-long process that transforms and renews itself as the artist matures and finds new inspiration; I doubt that sticking to the safe side got anyone anywhere. A “classic” cinema style could be a fun canvas to paint on, but it should not something a young artist should aspire to spend too much time on. Experiment and challenge your audience in every chance you get and try to bring out a fresh response, not what they are already used to seeing. Even if I am creating work about the most mundane of topics or the most challenging stories it is my perspective on it is going to be mine and mine only, which is what helps me in adding something new into this visually abundant world of content.