In Conversation with ASFF 2013 Filmmaker Emily Greenwood

A celebration of short film, ASFF is an international festival that champions and supports rising talent. The call for entries for its fourth edition in 2014 is now open, and both established and emerging filmmakers are invited to enter short films in the following genres: advertising, animation, artists’ film, comedy, documentary, drama, experimental, fashion, music video and thriller. ASFF 2013 Official Selection filmmaker Emily Greenwood speaks to us about her film Cold Warrior (2012), screened in the Thriller category.

A: Where did the original inspiration for Cold Warrior come from?
EG:
I was talking to a colleague about Olga Korbut’s allegations that she was raped by her coach, which happened to be in the news at the time. That led onto the abortion-doping topic which I found shocking and intriguing. I did a lot of research and read a mixture of allegations on the subject: a Russian Olympian claimed her coach threatened she wouldn’t go to the Olympics if she didn’t get pregnant by her boyfriend and then have an abortion. An unnamed former Soviet coach said that girls who didn’t have boyfriends were forced to sleep with their coaches until they got pregnant.

There was also an Olympic sports shooter who explained that she was persuaded by a national chief physician that pregnancy would ensure a “150% guarantee of victory.” There are various stories surrounding the subject, but Ana and the characters around her are entirely fictitious. I’ve taken inspiration from various biographies that I’ve read about real life coaches and gymnasts and spoken to people who worked with Olympic gymnasts at the time, so Ana’s environment feels real.

A: What do you think the benefits of short film are over feature length?
EG:
A short film gives filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their talent for a lot less money than a feature film, which means many more people can actually make a film. Making shorts is a way of learning the filmmaking process. It’s like a practice run, which allows you to experiment, try new methods with cast and crew, test out different equipment and shooting styles. You can get away with more unconventional story lines that you wouldn’t see so much in features. I haven’t made a feature yet, but I imagine there’s something more free about making a short. Where a director, especially a first timer, can often be under the financier’s thumb, they are a lot more creatively in control of a short.

A: How was it to be involved in ASFF?
EG: It was great to have been selected and especially to have been part of the Opening Night line up at ASFF. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to the festival, as I had just given birth to my first child at the time! It was very frustrating. I felt like I was missing out on some really good networking opportunities, panels and parties. ASFF has got a lot going for it, so hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to take part another time.

A: For filmmakers starting out, what advice would you give?
EG: You have to be really driven, dedicated and thick skinned. You’ll get a lot of rejections. Reject rejections and move on. Listen to what other people have to say about your work, but keep hold of your vision and voice. Bear in mind that no-one’s right in art; one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Don’t give up. Believe in yourself.

You need to prove yourself in this industry, so it can take a long time to get somewhere. Be patient. Ask people for advice, but always be polite and considerate. Go to film events, even if you just meet one person, you might find yourself working with them years down the line. Be disciplined. The internet is my best friend and my worst enemy. Fight procrastination!

A: Which directors have inspired you?
EG: When I was a film student, I was inspired by David Lynch, which I think shows in my third short A Neutral Corner. I liked the disjointed awkwardness of his characters and the weird worlds he creates. Hitchcock has also been a huge inspiration. When I made Cold Warrior, which is set in the 70s, I found more inspiration in older films, such as East Of Eden, Night of the Hunter and Parallax View.

I deliberately went for a more classically edited, shot and scored style. My taste has become a lot more commercial since my student days. I like directors like Christopher Nolan, Paul Greengrass and Kathryn Bigalow, but generally I tend to be inspired by all sorts of different films rather than individual directors, as well as composers and cinematographers.

A: What do you have planned for the future?
EG: I’m planning to make the feature version of Cold Warrior, which I’ve already written. Miranda Fleming from Plastic Pictures, is attached to produce, but we recently came to realise that this will be more of a second or third feature for me, since it’s a co-production and demands a bigger budget than a first-time feature filmmaker can expect to achieve. So I’m now on the prowl for a micro-budget script for my first feature.

I find it hard to come up with low budget ideas, so I’m currently reading other writers’ work. Directing someone else’s writing will be a first for me, but I’m looking forward to a new collaboration. I’ve always found it much easier to write with someone else. I tend to lose focus without brainstorming or having another person’s input. I’d also like to co-write one of my own ideas with another writer, perhaps a high end TV mini-series. We shall see…

To find out more about Cold Warrior, visit www.emilygreenwood.co.uk. To enter ASFF 2014 visit www.asff.co.uk. Entries close 31 May 2014.

Credits
1. Cold Warrior, courtesy of Emily Greenwood and ASFF.