Jennifer Sheridan’s short film Acoustic Kitty was selected as the People’s Choice winning film at ASFF 2015, as voted for by the public. Acoustic Kitty is inspired by the true story of the CIA’s bungled attempt to spy on the Russians by implanting cats with sound recording devices in their midst. We speak to Sheridan about the making of this film.
ASFF: How does it feel to know that Acoustic Kitty was voted for as the People’s Choice Winner by the guests of ASFF 2015?
JS: It’s an incredible feeling. I always hoped that this film would get a big reaction from audiences, so this kind of award is exactly what we’d dreamed of receiving. When in the cinema watching Acoustic Kitty, it is so much fun to turn around and see people’s reactions. The ending always gets an audible response and that’s absolutely the best part for me as a filmmaker. It also helps that the film is based on true events which adds to it’s impact.
ASFF: The film highlights the absurdity of the CIA’s measures of investigation during the Cold War. How did you find the process of transforming the serious subject matter of war into a comedic one?
JS: I wanted the film to take agent Cooper’s struggle seriously and contrast with the absurdity of what the CIA was attempting. My screenwriter Adam and I worked very carefully on the script for about a year; we wanted to make it a succinct and human version of the story and not a ‘gag fest’. Most of the humour is drawn out from the subject itself.
ASFF: How was the experience of working with successful comedians Katherine Ryan and Ben Willbond?
JS: They are both incredibly talented and lovely people, so it was an absolute joy to work with them. Katherine’s audition was hilarious; she has that wonderfully dry wit that I love and worked really well for the part. Ben is a director’s dream; he nails every performance perfectly and even remembers his own continuity! I hope to work with them both again very soon.
ASFF: They say that you should never work with animals, and the plot of Acoustic Kitty proves just that. But did this cliché of it being a difficult task prove to be true for you?
JS: I’m more used to working with dogs; my own dog is an actor and I trained him myself from puppyhood. Cats are a whole different ball game, but Felix our star was a sweet and talented little fella. I’ve learnt that filming with animals requires a slightly different way of working; as long as you don’t set unrealistic expectations and have a lot of patience, you’ll get there. You never know what you’re going to get from an animal, which is the exciting bit.
There was a part in the script which had Felix suspended on a winch in full scuba diving gear, but we cut it out on the assumption it might not be humane or practical to achieve. We told our cat wrangler about this during the shoot and she told us it would have been fine, so you live and learn.
ASFF: How did you find the experience of ASFF and did you have a chance to catch any screenings around the city?
JS: It was an incredible four days. We ran from screening to masterclass to networking event and then partied all night with some of the nicest and talented filmmakers you’re ever likely to meet. I enjoyed it so much and we were thrilled that most of our screenings were completely full. York is a beautiful place and winning the award there was just the icing on a film filled cake.
To see more about Acoustic Kitty visit www.acoustickitty.co.uk
ASFF 2016 is now open for entries. To submit, visit www.asff.co.uk/submit