Film Interview: ALL OF ME (2017)
Not So Popular's Tash Cordeaux sits down with the brains behind award-winning film ALL OF ME, recently debuted at Cannes. The all female crew give us the low down on how to promote diversity in film through female collaboration.
ALL OF ME is a short film made by an all-female crew committed to equitable practices. The plot follows Viv, a talented musician, faces late stage Leukaemia that threatens the life she’s built in London. Her best hope is a bone marrow transplant from her estranged family, but reconnecting means confronting a difficult past.
NSP: As you know, the film industry is tough for women. It was an excellent surprise then to find out that ALL OF ME is an all female crew production! How did you guys all find each other? How did it all come about?
Jemma Moore (Producer): It began pretty organically - Daphne, our director, Emily our writer and myself as producer. Emily and Daphne have been life-long friends and you can definitely see that in the way they work. The trust that they have for each other and the depth of understanding was honestly admirable. So from there it was a conscious decision to have ALL OF ME crewed entirely by women - that part was a challenge. It was especially difficult when trying to find female crew members on the craft side of filmmaking. I can count on one hand the number of female steady cam operators with enough experience to handle a 6 minute continuous shot together with female grips with an NVQ up to a level 3 in the UK. We found them but it took my detective skills to a whole new level.
NSP: How did your casting process go? Was it a struggle to find the right people to fill the role?
JM: We had eight days of casting with 80 actors coming in to audition and the standard of talent was extremely high. Like all castings you never know who is going to walk through that door and you have to be open to actors changing your mind, so it can be as nerve wracking for you as it is for the actors.
Daphne, Emily and I were there for each day and Chereen (who plays Viv) was our second actor to audition on the first day. Wow - she walked in the room and she was our Viv. Her audition was so incredible she had us calling any audition after that that blew us away a “Chereen moment”.
We needed Viv to not only be honest and have the depth to convey the drama immediately, but she had to believably look like she was suffering from ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia). Chereen had everything we wanted and more for the character and she was incredibly dedicated and hard working. This was a difficult and long shoot that she took completely in her stride.
Chereen was also pregnant throughout the whole shoot and it was inspirational watching her power through tackling the character whilst being pregnant. She was a real professional and turned up to set each day with such warmth and openness, it was a complete pleasure to work with her.
NSP: Gender is a key topic within the film, can you discuss more this from a personal and professional perspective?
JM: Professionally and personally you see clearly there is a lack of diversity on all levels in the industry. Of course I am still very new to the industry, being 24 and having only graduated from my masters a few years ago, therefore I have much more to learn. I do believe on one level a story can and should be told from one person’s point of view and be clear in its narrative choice. Although in 2017 I also believe that it is unnecessarily hard sometimes to be taken seriously or respected as a professional in my craft because of my gender. We need a film culture that is sincere and honest when delivering diversity. In a world that is constantly evolving, our art should fairly reflect that.
Gender equality is still a complicated issue and women on average over the last 20 years have made up only 22.6% of film crews with only 5% in camera and electrical departments. ALL OF ME proves that there are incredible female crew members out there, at all levels and that the work they produce brings strong role models to the table and celebrates them.
NSP: The film starts and ends with a song by the lead character. Were you setting the scene around performance and gender? Is it a stretch to associate that with Judith Butler?
Daphne Schmon (Director): Thinking about Judith Butler certainly isn’t a stretch. Her theories about performance and gender are definitely relevant in terms of gender performance and its similarity to theatre. We wanted to make it clear that our protagonist, Viv, had carefully constructed a world for herself based around her music. So the introduction is very staged and shot to look much more theatrical, in contrast with her life when she goes home. We weren’t explicitly referencing Butler, but she’s a very big influence for the band, ‘A Cinematic Masterpiece’ who wrote the song, and can be seen performing it at the start.
NSP: We see a family coming together in a time of crisis and simultaneously falling apart. How did you find bringing the drama and the everyday together?
DS: The latter half of our film, when Viv confronts her family, certainly presents a dramatic circumstance within an everyday context. We purposefully shot this scene in extended long takes to give it a claustrophobic and documentary feel. The lack of cutting builds tension, especially in moments of silence. As the camera spins around the actors, Viv is pushed to her emotional limit, leading to an explosive final moment. This approach of documentary-style shooting within a highly controlled and dramatic environment was a challenge, but rewarding to finally achieve it in the end.
NSP: The film was shot on a wide anamorphic lens - it has a very cinematic approach. What was the intention behind this?
Diana Olifirova (DOP): Wide shots are particularly hard to construct, and this is why it is one of my favourite challenges on set. It brings me joy working so deliberately on a frame with the director, actors, production designer and a gaffer.
We used Cooke Anamorphic lenses, which were a real player in the style of the film. They brought so much more to the image, something really special and haunting. When there is a single person in shot, wide lenses work so well at emphasising the feeling of loneliness and drama. The film also has a very wide aspect ratio - 266 rather then usual 240 or 235. This format is really challenging for composition but if you get it right, it can be extremely effective. I really enjoyed framing the last scene in and outside the house in Dungeness. It was shot in long shots around the main two characters, Viv and her mum Cath, and we constantly focus on the main character in frame but also see all the surroundings and connect to the next composition.
NSP: Were there any big challenges during filming?
Jemma Moore (Producer): There was one incredibly long and hard day, we had a huge lighting set-up, 30 extras and at the start there were a few technical issues so shooting time was pushed way back. But the crew worked solidly through (as any crew would) and at the end of the day when all departments were wrapped and it was pissing it down with rain what was incredible was that absolutely everyone stayed behind and helped those (in what ever way they could) that were still packing get finished and get home. Lifting massive lighting rigs and heavy cases and boxes we packed a huge lighting lorry and 4 transit vans in the quickest pack down I have ever seen.
The man who came to do the lighting collection just stood with his mouth open shaking his head in disbelief watching these strong women team together and get the job done quickly and professionally. It is ridiculous to even say this because why should it be so unusual to see all these women working together but I honestly have never seen this on a film set before and it was amazing. I’m not sure if I was just knackered from filming but I got a bit emotional and I know a few others did too. There was this energy throughout the whole shoot that had minimal bravado or ego and at the toughest times there was this wonderful sense of team empathy, which powered everyone to solve any problem.
Do you have hopes for producing another film together as a crew?
JM: Absolutely. Of course, we all are freelance and work on many other projects but if we get the opportunity to do this again then definitely. In all projects I produce in the future, I aim to be completely sincere when hiring diversely.
About ALL OF ME
Viv, a talented musician, faces late stage Leukemia that threatens the life she’s built in London. Her best hope is a bone marrow transplant from her estranged family, but reconnecting means confronting a difficult past.
‘ALL of Me’ is a short film made by an all-female crew committed to equitable practices.