We announced SLEEPO in a 2015 blog post three years ago.
We teased SLEEPO's release in 2017 and then went silent. But now, for real, we are announcing SLEEPO's premiere at the Silver Scream Festival 2018 in downtown Santa Rosa on February 16th.
The premiere is today, in other words: three years and three months since I had the thought, "You know, I should direct something."
How It Started
In December 2014, I had a realization: I had been helping Flat Quack Films since its inception and yet I had no major role in any production.
This is at no fault to the production studio. Stefan intends Flat Quack Films to be a collective. When he finds local talent, he offers to produce. We support other Sonoma County directors under the Flat-Quack name. If I wanted to direct, I had to say so. Flat Quack Films and its community would back me. I have actors, equipment, and crew at hand.
I just do it. Right?
The Process of First-Time Directing
The process began with a script.
I saw a local film play at the Windsor Film Festival. I liked it. I said I wanted that guy to be my writer. Stefan set up an introduction. Then he was my writer.
We met up at Peet's Coffee several times and shopped the script. This was the fun part. I made everything in the script extreme. I described wanting juxtaposition between blissful happiness and bleak despair. I wanted the characters to be over-the-top and for them to clash aggressively.
As I described what I wanted to the writer, I got actors stuck in my head. I called them over for a read through and cast them right away.
Stefan and I would discuss the setting for hours. He curated a list of movies for me to watch. We hit the thrift stores and bought set decorations and costumes. This was over the span of several months. The story marinated and I revised the script.
The production day approached. I took time off work to do it. Actors schedules were hard to align. We had one day to get all of one of the actor's scenes.
When we started production, I saw I had no idea what I was doing.
I saw immediately that directing requires a specific disposition:
You need to be confident, aggressive, opinionated, and specific. This does not mean you need to be cruel, but you sure don't need to be nice. That explains why disagreeable directors are common. And it would very likely explain why there are fewer female directors.
"I don't know. What do you think?" is a phrase my crew would rather not hear. They look to me for security -- direction, obviously, similar to the way dogs are better adjusted to a firm, consistent, and assertive owner. My first days of the shoot, actors and crew presented dozens of questions that required an immediate answer. The challenges were microscopic yet significant. I knew each of them would amalgamate and create the film itself. Many of the questions I had never considered. A simple question -- "How does this shot look?" -- felt impossible to answer.
My vision was shoddy. The vision of the film blurred as the first day went on. I felt overwhelmed and useless.
Reflections as a Female Director
At Flat Quack Films, I am the first female director. Female directors are more in the public eye than in 2015. A quick browse of FilmFreeway showed dozens of female film festivals, and I wasn't searching for them. I understand this push to encourage women voices. But even though I directed my own film motivated by my own desire to triumph my insecurities, I am cynical about the movement.
This is, in part, because SLEEPO is not the type of film a female festival wants to see.
I was required to take several feminist literature classes in my literature Master's program (which I was taking during the production of SLEEPO). There, I learned the concept of the "female author." Some feminist thought proposes that if I create artwork that seems traditionally masculine, then I am a woman masquerading as a man -- brainwashed, presumably -- and therefore my thoughts are not actually mine. This subgroup segregation is common among already-segregated groups. While we aim to encourage more female directors, we also expect to see more feminine films as well, encouraging strong female characters or even a positive female message. Making propaganda sounds regressive when my goal is simply to make a film Miranda would make -- not anything assumed of me.
Triumph and Personal Growth
All subsequent days of directing was not as bad as the first. I watched the footage and reflected between production days. Production spanned across several months, since we only had our main actor one day a week for a narrow slot of time. My work life and school life were taking on similar themes. I was training myself to become more assertive and less agreeable: I see how instrumental it is to success.
The difference from the beginning to now is drastic. My personality has evolved. While I wasn't a director at day one, I became a director by the end, which is why I am proud to be showing SLEEPO tonight.