When did your interest in filmmaking start and what were you doing before you became a filmmaker?
I had always imagined music videos for songs I enjoyed growing up, but the possibility of making them seemed very remote. I was always acutely aware of how many people and how much money went into film. I had no connection to the industry. I was writing, mostly quite visual poetry.
What made you want to apply for Sharp Shorts?
It seemed like a no-brainer- while I never expected to be accepted as I thought I didn’t have enough credentials or experience, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from industry professionals and maybe even make my vision into a reality.
Tell us a bit about your Sharp Shorts-supported film.
Milkgum is about an escort called Sel who, while becoming jaded with her work, becomes aware of an unearthly, Oedipal presence interfering with her reality. It’s in parts inspired by my own former life as an escort, as I feel a lot of films depicting the sex industry very obviously have never had anyone with experience involved in their production.
What did you learn through taking part in Sharp Shorts? How was your experience working with the Short Circuit team?
I learnt… 90% of everything I know now! I learnt how to break down a story properly, as I’ve always struggled with plot. I learnt so much about each HOD and the work they put into realising a directors vision. Iria and Miriam as exec producers of Milkgum have been amazing cheerleaders for my project and have always been available and encouraging. They hooked me up with one of my favourite directors, Ruth Paxton, whose wise counsel and feedback I feel so lucky to have received.
What was your creative process? How did you get ready to make your film?
My idea for the film started with a vision of the titular creature and its context within the protagonists life. I started by writing a much too long, unplotted script and then deconstructed that endlessly with my producers Ciarán and Dermot, a brilliant script editor, Rachel Pronger, and the execs over the next year. I immersed myself in giallo, Catherine Breillat films, and transcendental horror especially with a girl-on-the-edge at its centre, such as Saint Maud. I made a moodboard and playlist (mostly consisting of SOPHIE).
Why do you feel stories like this are important?
It’s a realistic and nuanced depiction of a sex worker based on lived experience (apart from the creature), that hopefully also subverts what people expect from such tales.
What are you hoping for audiences to get out of your film?
A feeling of unease and nausea… something to think about and turn over in your head later that also has immediate impact.
What was the greatest hurdle you encountered whilst shooting, can you tell us how you overcame that?
Aside from climbing to the top floor of a tenement several times a day eight months pregnant… managing time and getting in the space where I felt comfortable to be assertive. We overran the first two days of shooting and part of this I think was down to my insecurity with leadership. While it’s true that directors shouldn’t be dictatorial, it probably would have saved time if I had spent less of it umming and aahing and been more decisive. I got into my stride calling the shots halfway through the second day which was less than ideal. I think a lot of this was down to impostor syndrome and not wanting to disappoint everyone contributing their hard work and ingenuity. I had to maintain confidence in what I was doing.
What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to apply for Sharp Shorts?
If you’re thinking you need to pick a ‘safe’, two people in a room short idea as they might tell you in film school for your debut, don’t, unless of course that’s the story you *need* to tell. Every aspect of Milkgum was a tall order for a first time director – a creature build, elaborate production design, and lots of intimacy and nudity to navigate and choreograph with an IC. On top of not quite fitting into one genre. But we made it work and that started because Short Circuit took a chance on it, and me. Don’t talk yourself out of it or think you need to be categorisable. If it’s true to you, it will happen.
Photo credit: Dermot O’Dempsey